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Making the Most of the Night

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"But we saved your asses!"

"Lance!" Shiro snapped at him, but his carefully diplomatic posture was slipping as well. Through clenched teeth, he said, "Archchancellor, I must repeat: we are soldiers fighting against the Galra. We would like to form an alliance so that we may work together in this war."

Archchancellor Ler shook his head, or the part of his body Lance chose to think of as his head, though it wasn't exactly sitting on a neck and half the face was tentacles. Or maybe those were part of his elaborate archchancellor hat? Lance had given up on alien physiology outside of the obviously sexy shapes.

"Galra spies have been known to masquerade as freedom fighters!" Ler moaned in the sing-song rhythm the Dosians used when they spoke.

"Have been known~! Have been known~!" sang the other Dosians around him in chorus. Nevermind that 20 minutes ago they'd been fruitlessly fighting off a Galra scouting ship until the Paladins, with their excellent timing as always, likely to get them killed one day, swooped in and Voltroned right up and stuck a lion face right up Galra's ass. (Lance was trying to make "Voltron up!" their new catchphrase but no one was into it. Keith had just looked confused when he said it. "Voltron what up? Like it's a vacuum?" and Lance couldn't tell if he was making fun of him or just an idiot. Both probably.)

Shiro crossed his arms. "I know that trust is hard in times like these, but we are willing to offer whatever assurances you need to accept us as allies."

But what assurances could beat risking their lives to protect this stupid little city on this terrible little planet? Pidge and Hunk were sitting on the ground, exhausted from the fight, and Keith wasn't looking too steady on his feet either, not that Lance cared, obviously. Lance was about to suggest they bail and head back to the castle if they weren't going to get a hero's welcome (and accompanying feast) when the Archchancellor scratched his eyebrow with his third arm and his whole expression changed.

"Well, I suppose—if you are so determined—If you truly wish to demonstrate good will, I suppose you can participate in our traditional fertility ritual."

Shiro still looked wary but Lance couldn't see why; they'd been to dozens of "fertility festivals" since they'd all been reunited and started gathering supplies and allies for the fight against the Galra, festivals with penises and vaginas and even weirder alien sex organs on planets with considerably less shame around sex than any Earth culture Lance (being from a large family of Catholics) knew. How could this be worse?

Shiro must have come to a similar conclusion. "We would be happy to participate to the best of our abilities. Just give us instructions."

Ler puffed up a little. "Oh, I hope I won't have to give detailed instructions!" There was a little hum of laughter in the crowd. Lance felt an ominous shiver down his back.

"The basic instructions are, of course, that you—any number of you, but no less than two—must bring each other to orgasm through physical contact while staying in the Palace of Errkemhappinh for a night."

The Paladins stared. Lance caught Keith with his eyes widening and his mouth dropped in a little "oh" of surprise. The implication of Ler's ritual hit him all of a sudden: sweltering temple sex with Hunk (ew) or Pidge (no! just no) or Shiro (actually not that bad, but wow it would be awkward after) or, worst of all, Keith, his stupid hair slick with sweat as his mouth opens and moves over Lance's—his—he couldn't even contemplate it!

Lance spoke (really, screeched) first, because speechless wasn't a look he did well even when appalled by alien customs. "You want us to have sex?!"

Ler pursed his mouth-feelers. "Sex is a complicated concept with many definitions, varying by individual and by configuration of intimate partnerships. We request that new allies do just what I said: bring each other to orgasm through physical contact as an offering to the gods to ensure the integration of the new energy promised by the alliance into our continued social prosperity."

Pidge muttered something under her breath that sounded like "fucking anthropologists."

Shiro stepped forward boldly, though he was blushing slightly. "Archchancellor, I must beg your forgiveness. These fighters are very young, really closer to our species' childhood than they seem—"

"Old enough to fight in the monstrous animal machines but not to enjoy their own bodies as sexual beings?" Ler interjected with a sad note. "War has truly brought tragedy to your people." None of them knew what to say to that: the logic was sound, even if none of them had actually been raised in a society at war with the Galra.

"Perhaps this will be a healing event for your people as well," Ler continued. "I'll have the chefs prepare the traditional alliance feast!" He stomped on the ground and the Dosians jumped into a celebratory burst of activity.

Lance was so excited by the word feast that he almost forgot what they needed to do to get the feast. Shiro looked like he was about to object again but Hunk put a hand on his arm. "Princess Allura said we needed to ally with them to trade for their steel—"

"Starship-quality living steel, for castle renovations," Pidge added, "and I don't plan on giving that up because you're being a prude about some heavy petting in a castle."

Whether at the words heavy petting or at them coming out of Pidge's mouth, Shiro choked and sat on the nearest stool, which surged around him to form a comfy, if still metal, chair, a live demonstration of the steel's capabilities.

"Easy for you to say," Keith snapped, "because no way are you going to be the one doing it."

"Why not? Because I'm a girl? Keep your backwards military paternalism out of this—"

"It has nothing to do with paternalism, just that who knows if the nice aliens allow contraceptives during their fucked-up—"

"Language, Keith!" Shiro was regressing to full Mom form, especially with his hands pressed to his temples like he was getting a migraine; Lance's mom was a master of that particular gesture.

"The point is, it'll have to be two of us with the same parts, you know—" he gestured awkwardly and Lance had a moment of glee at seeing Keith obviously uncomfortable with the topic. Mr. Cool Stupid Hair Badboy not smooth with the sex talk? Lance wondered if the girls who'd thrown themselves at Keith had complained when he gestured to their "ah, you know"s during sex.

But then what Keith was suggesting hit Lance over the head like a pile of Balmera crystals: if they were going to do this, it was going to be gay. He let that sink in.

"He clearly said it doesn't have to be procreative sex," Pidge said with an eyeroll.

Whatever, it was fine. Lance was comfortable with the occasional gay thought or, more like, detour into gay fantasy world while jerking it, even if he'd never thought about acting on them. It was going to be weirder having sex with someone he knew and considered a friend—or at least, in Keith's case, reluctantly friendly teammate/rival/convenient bickering target.

"So we're really going to do this?" Hunk said.

They all looked at each other, glances darting away without ever making eye contact. It just made Lance all the more aware of his teammates' bodies: Hunk's broad shoulders, Pidge's boney wrists, Shiro's toned biceps. Somehow he settled on Keith's pale neck, lifting his eyes as far as his thin lips before he had to look away. He had to say something to break the tension; this collective freak out was just unnecessary.

"If it helps us against the Galra, is it that big of a deal?"

Keith looked at Lance like he'd grown a flop-do of flesh-hair to match the Archchancellor's. "Having sex with a teammate doesn't seem like a big deal to you?"

He shrugged. "We've done worse."

"We have, like, technically killed people. Probably. Galra at least," Hunk chimed in.

"Galra aren't people," Keith hissed.

Shiro frowned at that, but let it go. "Lance has a good point." Hunk and Pidge shot Lance some patronizing thumbs-ups and Keith snorted, though that could have been at this point in particular or at the idea of Lance ever making a good point in his life. Shiro continued. "I think we can all act like adults about this and treat it as an uncomfortable sacrifice for the mission."

A team-wide nod of determination.

"So who's it gonna be?" Hunk asked. "Because I have a girlfriend, kind of, and she could stone me to death in a pretty literal way."

"Lance practically volunteered," Keith said, folding his arms.

Once Lance committed to something, he stuck it through to the end; it was one of his best qualities, his dad said, except when it was one of worst. The disdain in Keith's posture—as though there was something wrong with Lance for being practical and chill with the bizarro alien mission specs, when really that just made Lance cool and heroic—made Lance's skin itch. He hadn't meant to volunteer earlier, but now he could hardly back down.

"Heck yeah, I'm volunteering. I don't see why some friendly mutual masturbation has to be the end of the world. Maybe if you didn't have such a stick up your ass—"

"Lance!" Shiro snapped. Lance had expected Keith to rise to that bait with some cranky comment that would just prove all the more that he was an uptight prick, but instead Keith flushed crimson and looked at the floor. Maybe he could have chosen his words better, because now he was thinking about Keith with something up his ass; he took a deep breath, willing his face to stay his normal brown, but he could feel a blush mirroring Keith's forming.

"Okay, so Lance is in—congrats, buddy!—and for the other slot, we can draw straws? Or, er, these reeds?" Hunk, helpful as always, grabbed a few stalks of the blue reed-fern-plants that hopefully weren't sentient from a planter next to them. He handed them to Lance. "You're the blushing bride, so you do the honors."

Lance took them in a huff. He turned around and split them into four, leaving one shorter and disguised in his fist. He spin around with a flourish. "Here we go, who's the lucky winner gonna be?"

"I can't believe we're drawing straws to see who gets to have sex with Lance," Keith muttered.

"I can't believe I didn't come up with this method to choose from my many suitors earlier. Much more fair and easier than my usual beating them back with a stick—"

"As if! And Hunk came up with it—"

"Can you two please save the foreplay for the secret sex temple?" Pidge was officially on Lance's shit list.

"On three, everyone," Shiro announced. "One, two, three." They all grabbed a reed.

Hunk had a long one. Lance mourned the lost potential of friendly bro jerk-offs followed by being cuddled all night against Hunk's manly chest, which, honestly, he had always enjoyed passing out on after drunk movie night at the Garrison.

Pidge had a long one and Lance breathed a sigh of relief at not having to get a girl orgasm right on the first attempt in his life under pressure of losing out on an important alien alliance. He had heard they can be tricky. Pidge looked pretty relieved too, despite her earlier arguments.

Shiro's was one of the longer ones as well and Lance was, again, a little disappointed, though he didn't examine too closely what exactly he wanted Shiro to do to him, except that it would be drawing on too many awful fantasies he'd developed under the auspices of military training.

And that left—of course. Keith with the short straw. Lance restrained himself from making a dick size joke. He'd soon be up close and personal with Keith's dick, whatever the size, so no need to give him an opportunity to show off about it. He swallowed. Keith was just staring at the reed and then looking back and forth from the reed to Lance.

"You don't have to, of course," Shiro said. "You two already have some personal issues, we'd understand if you..."

Keith looked like he was about to take the out. Yes, exactly, he didn't have to, Keith could excuse himself for reasons of intense personal dislike and Lance could comfortably grope Hunk (increasingly looking like the best option) for a while and they could forget all about this.

Lance opened his mouth to say as much, let's skip the combine-intense-dislike-with-sex-under-pressure thing, but what came out was, "If you're going to be a little chickenshit about it, of course, you can back out—"

Keith threw his reed on the ground. "I'm not going to back out, so you can shut the fuck up. If you want to back out, you should say so now."

"I'm not backing out! I'm the one who volunteered, I'm happy to be—"

"Having sex with me? Aw, thanks, Lance, I had no idea—"

"Happy to be helpful to the mission, even though it's personally distasteful—"

"I'm going to go tell the Archchancellor we're ready," Hunk said a little too loudly.

"Honestly, you two. If you let it all out now, how are you going to get fired up before your big debut," Pidge muttered.

Shiro just looked like he wished he'd never escaped from the Galra prison camp.

Keith was still glaring at Lance, cheeks pink with anger. Lance suddenly felt like a total asshole; this was clearly bothering Keith for real and that was not going to be helpful for either alliance-forming orgasms or continuing almost-friendship. He strode over and dropped an arm over Keith's shoulder, pulling him closer when Keith's first impulse was obviously to pull away.

"Buddy. Bro. My friend," he said, more into Keith's halo of hair than to his face at this angle. "I'm sorry. I have been mega-uncool—"

"You're always 'mega-uncool'—"

"And disrespectful! I have been so disrespectful of the seriousness of this situation and I apologize sincerely. Let's just do it, some friendly stroking between man-bro-types, get Allura's magic metal, and forget it ever happened. Okay?"

"Fine," Keith muttered. He was leaning into Lance a little now; Lance could feel him relaxing, warm against his side. It was always like this: they might fight but when the chips were down, they had each other's backs. They were a team.

He couldn't resist: he dropped a kiss on Keith's head and inhaled a nosefull of mullet. "I'll make it good for you, baby."

"Ugh!" Keith pulled away from him and rolled his eyes. "Let's get this over with."

"Aww, such a romantic."

"Ugh!"

---

The Palace of Whatever-the-Fuck, emphasis on the "fuck", was a tribute to the long and gloriously pornographic history of the Dosians. The place looked like the nicest hotel Lance had ever seen on television, except the fancy paintings and sculptures all seemed to be Dosians and other species in various states of orgasmic ecstasy. Maybe the reason the Dosians had never been conquered by the Galra was just that they were so open about sex it was kind of awkward. The Galra didn't seem particularly in touch with their bodies.

"In fact, the Galra procreate through artificial means," one of the Dosian hand...maidens? explained as they showed Keith and Lance to their ritual suite. "It is one of the reasons why we perform this ritual to show true allegiance."

They had said good-bye to the others in the midst of a truly majestic feast that almost had Lance begging for someone to switch with him. They'd been promised they would have more suitable food in the ritual suite but Lance was already starting to feel like eating anything, alone in the sex chamber with Keith, would be impossible.

The room was well-equipped, to say the least: a low spacious bed that looked like it was made out of a cloud, an ensuite bathing room with a hot tub almost as large as the bed ("For our aquatically-oriented guests!" said the Dosian), and a wardrobe of towels and robes, designed for all shapes and sizes. The worst part was the chest, open at the side of the bed, full of various artificial appendages and supplies. Lance took one look at them and turned immediately to the tray of food: light fruits and salads, of course, and he groaned.

"Man, everyone downstairs is eating roast beast and we're here with the rabbit food? This sucks," he said, stuffing some suspiciously square grapes into his mouth.

"Probably don't want to give the, uh, guests anything too heavy," Keith said. "It'll slow them down."

Lance paused before biting into a prickly tomato. "Good point. Maybe we should get this over with?" He waved one hand in the general direction of Keith's dick; great, now he was the awkward sex talker.

"What happened to being romantic?"

"Let's get this over with, sweetie? And then sneak out to find real food?" Lance grinned his most charming grin but Keith was clearly immune; he dropped on the bed in a huff. "Aw, honey, what's wrong?" Lance said, still teasing, but he went over to the bed to sit next to the obviously-sulking Keith. Can't have your bride sulking on the big night, after all, so Lance was ready to hear Keith out on his issues—maybe he would decide he didn't want to do this, after all, and they could just bail to grab food and run.

"You're being so whatever about this, like it's not a big deal." Keith covered his face with his arm, so Lance couldn't see his eyes, but that just meant he could take an eyeful of the rest of Keith and, as nuts as Keith's personality drove him, physically speaking there were worse people to have first-time handjobs or whatever with. Not that Lance would admit Keith was hot, of course, but just that he didn't think he'd have trouble getting it up for him. It didn't seem like a big deal, just awkward.

Lance shrugged. "I knew I'd have sex someday and I figured it'd be awkward, because, you might have noticed, I talk a good game but I know I'm a goof. Might as well have awkward sex for a good cause?"

Keith threw his arm on the bed. "You're a virgin too?"

"We can't all have half the girls at the garrison throwing themselves at us," he said, even though he knew Keith had had more like two thirds of the girls at the garrison in his fan club. Okay, more like three fourths. Whatever. Then he replayed Keith's last sentence. "Wait, a virgin too? Are you a—but—how?"

"Hard to enjoy half the girls at the garrison when you're gay."

"What! You're—what!"

"You are so clueless—is that why you don't give a shit about this? You're one of those straight assholes who think jerking off your friend doesn't count as sex so it can't be gay, because if you think that—"

"I don't think that. I'm bi! Or something. Bi-curious!"

"That's convincing."

"Whatever, shut up. We live on a spaceship and fight aliens in a giant robot made of cats! So sue me if I haven't thought about my sexual orientation in a while."

They were both breathing hard, sitting facing each other on the bed. Lance looked at Keith's flushed, angry face and knew suddenly: he had to get his clothes off immediately.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"What does it look like, I'm stripping!" His voice was half-smothered by his shirt but at this point, they were at a place beyond dignity. "I'm going to show you—you can't out gay me!" He dropped the shirt to the ground with a flourish.

Keith gaped for a second and then glared. "Are you kidding me?"

"Get stripping, pretty boy, we're solidifying an alliance here! Last one with his dick still in his pants is a Galra spy!"

"You're ridiculous," Keith said but he was pulling off his shirt too and Lance could finally just look at him, all that skin pale from indoor training which had also made his lean body broader and more muscular than Lance's—usually he hated it, but right now, it was a bonus, like Lance had endured years of feeling inadequate to Keith only to now reap the rewards of Keith's discipline and genetic gifts.

He pulled his pants, soft sweats the Dosians had given them, off while Keith was still tugging his arms out of his shirt. He pounced on him, pushing him back on the bed, savoring the brief shock on Keith's face before kissing him.

It was a bad angle and kissing someone unprepared never turned out well, but Lance had had worse kisses. Then Keith opened his mouth and shifted his body so they were lined up and it was perfect—a messy clash of teeth and tongue, so overwhelming Lance forgot to breathe through it and pulled back sooner than he was ready, to see Keith gaping up at him with his mouth hanging open.

Lance couldn't help himself. "Was that your first kiss?"

"Fuck off," Keith said but he was blushing, god damn, a proper embarrassment red on Keith's perfect cheekbones. Lance kissed him again.

"Your second?"

"Just shut up and—" but the last part was muffled under Lance's mouth. He put his mouth to the task of distraction—its primary use, though usually it was more of the "keep talking so they don't notice you're clueless" distraction, this was much more fun—while his hand slipped into Keith's pants to clasp his dick. Keith moaned and Lance leaned back to watch his face, his eyes slipping closed.

"Aw yeah, here we go." Lance licked his hand and began to stroke Keith's cock.

"There's lube, you gross idiot," Keith groaned as his hand fumbled in the sex toy box for a tube. Lance held out his hand for it, but instead of handing it to him, Keith opened it to apply it to his own hand and then made a grab for Lance's own dick. Lance instinctively tried to dodge but Keith had always been faster than him in hand-to-hand (now hand-to-dick?) combat. He didn't really want to get away from him anyway.

Keith's hand on his dick was like a whole new world, distant and awkward, like an out-of-body experience that somehow felt great. Keith was watching him react too, and, wow, that was a rush—Keith studying his hand on Lance's dick, Keith looking at his body, Keith not reacting with any obvious distaste even though Lance definitely would have buffed up a bit if he'd known he'd be having sex some time this century, especially with Keith of all people.

"Like what you see?" Lance quipped and Keith, in retribution, twisted his hand lightly over the head of his cock.

"Give me that lube, can't let you have all the fun," he said with a grin.

"Fun? I'm doing all the work while you lie there. Just like training." But his voice had a smirk to it that didn't quite show on his face. See, this might have been awkward, but even stick-up-his-ass Keith was enjoying himself and Lance hadn't even gotten started.

Lance slicked up his hand and began to stroke Keith's cock again. "Let me get to work then," Keith's eyes fell shut with a moan as he lost the rhythm of his strokes. Lance manhandled Keith a little, enjoying him being pliant for once, so that they were both lying on the bed properly, turned to face each other and barely inches apart. The only points of contact were one hand each on the other's cock, wrists knocking together at odd angles, but Lance could feel the heat of Keith's body inches away and that was almost better than if they'd been wrapped around each other—this way they could still get closer, there was still potential to close that gap.

Lance did, a little, leaning forward to kiss Keith, mouth closed—as chaste as a kiss could be when it's accompanying a mutual handjob—and then again and again, in time with his strokes. Soon Keith was meeting him halfway for each one but the rhythm was all off, increasingly messy the closer they got to orgasm. Lance knew he wasn't going to last long and a part of him was already regretting not taking their time, though he'd been the one to say let's get this over with and didn't that seem like a thousand years and a thousand touches of Keith's hand ago.

"First one to come wins," Lance said, holding back a moan.

"Shouldn't it be the other way around," Keith muttered, but he was obviously close too, Lance could feel him thrusting into Lance's hand, desperate for any little touch.

One of them, Lance didn't know who, gasped and shuddered and then Lance was coming all over Keith's hand and the elegant alien bedspread and Keith was coming in his hand too, the jerkiness of a dick not his own orgasming in his hand suddenly more alien than anything he'd seen in space so far.

He breathed deep. The air smelled of sweat and arousal. It was over.

"I guess that's it," Keith said. Lance couldn't tell if that was disappointment in his voice or if he was reading his own feelings in the moment into Keith's tone. He felt a bit like he often did after getting off to porn: happy to have orgasmed, but a little confused about how it happened. Shouldn't there have been something more to it?

Lance glanced at the assorted "fertility ritual aids" and down at his come-covered hand. Keith waved a towel from the wardrobe in his face and he wiped his hand on it. This was a pretty swanky sex chamber, he had to admit.

"What are you thinking," Keith asked with an edge in his voice.

"Nothing!" Lance tossed the towel towards possibly-a-hamper-possibly-a-sex-cage in the corner. It landed on the floor. "Just that it seems like a shame that we're not going to be using any of this stuff."

Keith picked up a five-appendage device that seemed to operate by crank, a lurid lime green. "You want to use this?"

"No! No, but like... that didn't feel very ritual-y? Maybe we should do more, to honor the occasion?"

Keith looked at him like he was Coran trying to convince them that a pile of goo is going to taste just like mama's home cooking and, ew, Lance couldn't believe he thought about Coran at a time like this.

"What more can we do? We already had sex."

"Pfft. That, my friend, was hardly sex. That was barely a bro helping out another bro on the scale of sex experiences."

Keith raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? You seemed pretty into it."

"Of course I was into it! Duh, hello, hand on my dick, not my own! Even if it were my own, I'd be into it."

"That into it?"

Lance flushed, remembering how Keith's hand had felt. Awkward and different and oh so good. "Fine, not that into it. But, you know, we're already never going to speak of this again, so maybe it'd be a good time for experimentation? Being stuck in that castle with the same group of people, all of whom are pretty off-limits, has got to be stunting our sexual growth..."

"Hmm," was all Keith said but Lance knew he'd caught him. Everyone in the castle was sexually frustrated as quiznak and everyone else could tell. He slid next to Keith on the bed and put his arm over his shoulder, deeply aware they were both buck-naked.

"Isn't there something you want to try?" he said into Keith's ear. "Something that just isn't the same on your own?"

Keith stared at him. "Yes," he said flatly, "but you can't make fun of me."

"I would never!" A sharp jab from Keith's elbow hit him in the side. "Ow! Fine, I would but not this time! I want to get off again too, you know."

He seemed to be considering and then finally said, "I want to be fucked."

Lance choked. That was not what he'd expected. Doing some fucking, maybe, and Lance had been prepared to compromise with an exchange of blowjobs, but being fucked?

"Like, in the ass?" The image was already forming in his mind: Keith, blushing as red as he was now, taking Lance's cock up his ass. (Lance's cock in his imagination was much bigger than it was in actuality, so it was a thoroughly pornographic image.) He was getting hard at the thought.

Real Keith wasn't quite so eager. "No, in the ear, you numbskull."

"I don't think ear-fucking is a real thing, dude."

"Ugh! Forget I said anything!" He moved to stand up, to get away from Lance presumably and Lance put his hand on his thigh to hold him down. Then realized his thigh was bare, of course, and so was his dick, right there like an inch from Lance's fingers. Keith stared down at the hand holding him and Lance desperately willed his own erection to vanish completely—and then Keith saw it and stilled, leaning back on the bed.

"You really want that?" Lance said, not moving his hand.

"Yes," and then as though totally unaware of the effect he was having on Lance, added, "It feels good with fingers."

Lance's grip on Keith's thigh tightened. "Have you—you've tried it on yourself?"

"Yes," he replied as though daring Lance to say one more goddamn word about it.

Lance did say one more goddamn word about it. "Wow, that's hot." Keith's eyes widened. "But you've never done it with, you know, a real dick?" Keith's eyes narrowed.

"No, I've never done it with a real dick," he said, making clear who he thought the real dick here was. Which, hey, that's fine, since his dick was the real dick in question anyway, potentially the real dick about to be up Keith's ass.

"Let's do it!" Lance leaped up from bed and started stretching. He'd have to be at full athletic capacity to rock Keith's butt sex world.

"Seriously?" Keith looked at him like he was crazy.

"Heck yeah! You know what to do, right? I mean I've watched gay porn before but not exactly for instructions, you feel me?"

Keith stood to dig through the treasure chest of alien sex devices. "I know what I do. For this I guess we'd just do more?"

"Cool, cool. You can teach me!" Lance did a lunge, which was deeply awkward naked and with a hard-on, so he pulled back immediately. "Do you want to be on your back or me to do you from the back?"

"You have such a gift with speech, Lance, it's a wonder all those girls don't fall all over you."

"Be careful with that sarcasm, pretty boy, or you won't be swiping your anal v-card tonight."

"Anal v-card isn't a thing and you want it as much as I do, you're practically drooling." Lance squawked in outrage, then he realized Keith had admitted he wanted this too, and, wow, it was really happening, wasn't it?

Keith tossed him another tube of Mystery Lube from the basket o' sex toys and laid down on his front. "From the back, sweet talker."

"Cool. Better angle to pound you hard." Lance wiggled his eyebrows and thrust his hips a little.

"Better angle to pretend you're someone less embarrassing."

"Oh, wow, I'm so wounded. Fine, pretend my dick is all those other dicks you haven't had up your ass." Lance fumbled with the cap of the lube until it popped off. "Okay, so what? I slick up and slide in?"

"Fingers first or I'll probably die."

"Have a little faith, sugar cheeks," Lance said, warming up some of the lube in his palms. He spread Keith open to look at his hole, a ring of wrinkled skin that was utterly unimpressive to look at except that, when he stroked one finger around the rim, Keith's whole body shuddered.

"Okay?" Lance asked. "I'm going to put one in."

"Come on," Keith mumbled into the pillows.

"What's that? Didn't hear you."

"I said just do it—oh."

Lance slid his first slick finger in mid-sentence, slowly, trying to feel every bit of Keith opening up. He rubbed against Keith's inner walls and could feel him relaxing—he was almost humming with it. He used his other hand to stroke Keith's lower back and could feel every deep breath Keith took until his finger was all the way inside. He could wiggle it a little and wasn't that weird.

"You still good?" He pulled the finger out and pushed in again a few times, testing the sensation and spreading more lube inside. He couldn't imagine how it would feel on his dick, which was rapidly demanding attention.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I can do this much myself, you know," said Keith but his voice was already a little ragged.

"Okay, maybe two fingers?"

"Some time this century."

Keith's pushiness was just what Lance would have expected of him and it made him enjoy going slow all the more. Pushing in two fingers slowly enough to make sure Keith felt every inch of them was delightful given how impatient Keith clearly was for it, pushing back on Lance's digits like he couldn't get enough. Lance kept them back, teasing lightly, before sliding them in deep.

With two fingers inside, Lance focused entirely on where he was moving. A slight twist and Keith was gasping; a crick of his fingers and there was a moan. When he started to spread his fingers more, Keith's muscles met him with resistance that faded as he massaged inside. Once Keith made a hissing noise more like pain than pleasure, but even though he mumbled, "It's fine, keep going," Lance pulled out carefully to recalibrate and get more lube. When he finally pushed the third finger in, it was with a careful reverence and a burning desire to file away every one of Keith’s reactions into his memory.

Maybe he was getting more into this than ritual sex required, but was it his fault Keith was so responsive? He stroked inside him again and Keith's breath hitched, a delightful break in the perfect pilot's usual composure. His hole was open and slick and while he'd seen gay porn stars go wider, he thought this was probably enough for his cock without hurting Keith. Amazing how he spent so much time wanting to punch the guy but, at that moment, he would have rather died than hurt Keith and betray his prickly trust.

He pulled his fingers out and wiped them on a towel nearby, admiring his handiwork: Keith looking strung out and open, his head tilted sideways on the pillow. Lance could see him watching him out of the corner of his eye. His cock was hard and weeping, untouched between his legs.

"Look at you. You're all ready for me, aren't you?" Lance said almost to himself, surprised.

"Yeah, now can you hurry up?"

"Eager for my dick?"

"I'll go to town on one of these alien vibrators if you don't shut up and fuck me," Keith snapped but there was no heat behind it.

Lance wouldn't have minded seeing Keith fuck himself on plastic alien cocks, but his own flesh-and-blood cock protested. He took Keith's hips in hand. "Can you lift yourself up a bit for me, honey? There you go," he said as Keith lifted himself half on his knees. He lined his erection up at Keith's entrance and began to slip himself in as slowly and gently as he could.

"Finally," Keith moaned in relief and Lance had to admit he agreed.

He'd thought it would be nice to have his dick in someone, anyone, but he hadn't realized how undeniably Keith that someone would be. He'd seen those back muscles flexing under black t-shirts during Keith's long hours of training; now they were bare under a thin sheen of sweat beneath him. His fingers could search out each indent, each hard muscle; he could kiss as far along Keith's backbone as he could reach. The sounds Keith was making reminded him of Keith's ragged breathing during a fight or a long battle, nothing he hadn't already heard over the Lions' comm system or when they were arguing, but now they were laced through with little gasps timed with each of Lance's movements.

He was never going to be able to fight with Keith again without hearing those gasps too. He was screwed.

He pushed into him a little further and could feel Keith's gasp in his cock. "Is that good," he whispered, "Do you like that?" He meant to sound cocky, like dirty talk, but it came out shaky.

"Lance," Keith moaned.

His hand froze on Keith's back. "What happened to pretending I was someone else?"

"Maybe I could if you—" a sharp gasp as Lance sunk into him, "—would shut up for once."

"Man, have you even met me?" He was balls deep in Keith now and honestly was finding it a little hard to talk, but he wasn't going to admit defeat. "I never shut up."

"No kidding—" Lance pulled out a little and thrust back in, changing the angle and turning Keith's smart ass remark into a moan.

Lance moaned too as he continued moving in Keith. "God, you feel good—so hot—" He picked up the speed. Thank god he'd come earlier, because otherwise he would have come already, probably as soon as he was inside Keith.

"Yeah—you too—" but whatever Keith was trying to say came out as a moan. Lance felt a swell of pride at having brought Keith to this point: riling Keith up was fun when it was just arguing, but this was a whole new level of seeing Keith undone.

He watched as his own cock disappeared inside Keith over and over again, the sight adding to the sensation. "You take it so well, my whole cock, can't believe—" Lance knew he was babbling over into porno talk but it was true, he couldn't believe. "Want to touch you all the time," he sighed more than spoke.

"Lance—" Keith said but the shock in his voice faded into a moan. After his name on Keith's lips, Lance was barely holding on, doubled over Keith and trying to touch him everywhere he could.

"It's hard to kiss you like this." He was trying but he couldn't get the angle right, lips landing on Keith's chin and neck and back. Keith was slipping through his fingers, writhing beneath him, and all he could do to keep him there was fuck him hard, long slow strokes slipping into fast shallow ones. Keith was almost flat on the bed, rubbing his erection against the sheets. Lance took him in hand and began to stroke him. "Want to kiss you so bad, Keith."

"What," Keith gasped, "are you even saying?"

Lance didn't know, his mouth was on autopilot. "Want to kiss your stupid mouth. Face to face next time, so I can—" and then Keith was coming in his hand, for the second time that night, body pressed against Lance's in every place it could be. He was shaking through the orgasm and Lance could feel every inch of him tightening around his cock.

He kept thrusting, feeling his own orgasm building. It was close and Keith was recovering now, pushing back on Lance, meeting him halfway. It was teamwork, not unlike their better training days, except now the goal was less "kill training dummies" and more "make Lance come," all in all a more admirable aim in Lance's mind.

"Come on, Lance, come inside me," Keith moaned.

"Fuck, you can't just say shit like that—" Lance grunted.

"You've been mouthing off this whole time, and now I can't?" he said in a low voice that Lance could feel pulling at his insides. "When all I want is to feel you coming inside me—"

"Seriously?" Lance breathed and then he was coming too, spilling himself inside Keith with his face pressed against the back of his neck. Keith smelled good, he noticed through the haze of his orgasm, and he pressed a kiss to his shoulder.

He slipped out of Keith, briefly admiring the view of Keith's ass open beneath him, before dampening one of the official alien sex towels to clean them both up. Keith let himself be turned over, wiped down, and dried, as docile as a kitten under Lance's ministrations, and that was more stunning to Lance than anything that had come before—that Keith, who snapped and swiped at him over every little thing, who never backed down from a fight and never let any of them take care of him, not even Shiro, was quiet and letting him touch, looking at Lance with those steady dark eyes.

Lance didn't know what to do with that look, which made him blush and want to run away and never leave, all at the same time, so he focused on Keith's body. When he was sufficiently un-stickified, Lance kissed him on the temple and said, "I gotta pee, be right back."

Keith scrunched up his face. "Such a romantic."

"Don't get sassy! I'm coming right back to cuddle your scrawny ass."

"You weren't calling it scrawny a minute ago," came the grumbled response.

In front of the bathroom mirror, Lance breathed heavily. "Just bros helping bros for the sake of galactic peace and prosperity," he muttered to himself. It was just Keith. Keith was always making Lance feel out of sorts—not good enough, angry, agitated, competitive, better than he was the day before. Maybe this had been a terrible idea, galactic peace or no galactic peace, since they were already so damn weird with each other, but Lance couldn't bring himself to regret it, not now that he'd have the memory of Keith opening up for him for the rest of his life. That would be more than enough to carry him through any weirdness.

With that determination, he tangled Keith up in his long limbs back in bed and settled in for sleep, but Keith was obviously attempting to have a coherent thought, out loud, in Lance's general direction.

"That was so—" Keith stopped.

Spit it out, my friend, Lance thought, dying to hear Keith's impressions. "Amazing? Fabulous? Earth-shattering?"

Keith frowned but Lance could see his face was still relaxed, content. "It was good. Thanks for, uh. Making it good."

"Thanks?," Lance beamed, "Keith, the great fearsome Red Lion, super talented pilot, thanking me for pounding him into the mattress and rocking his world? What a day this is—" before he caught a pillow with his face.

"Shut up and go to sleep," Keith grumbled, but Lance noticed he curled in closer to him before closing his eyes.

---
Lance woke twice that night.

The first time, he was suddenly chilly and found Keith had rolled away from him with the blankets. "Hunk would never do me like this," he muttered. He scooted over and pulled him close, wrapping the blankets around both of them. Keith's head dropped on his shoulder. Lance told himself he could look forward to making fun of Keith for drooling on him all night, but knew he would never mention it.

The second time, he saw light slanting through the windows and realized their handlers would be back soon to take them to breakfast and the alliance ceremony. Keith was sleeping, still in their shared blanket burrito, and, in the early morning light, he looked younger than Lance had ever seen him. After an internal war—let him continue sleeping or take advantage of their last opportunity for sex before morning broke the ritual open to the real world?—he shook Keith gently.

"It's morning?" Keith blinked sleepily.

"No, it's not."

It clearly was. "The sun is up."

"You're imagining things," Lance said and crawled on top of him.

"It is," Keith mumbled, "but you're blocking the light."

"It's not," Lance said and pulled the blankets over both their heads. "I'm not." No windows, no sun, no problem, he thought as he squirmed down Keith's body.

"Lance. What are you—oh," Keith said as Lance put his mouth over the head of his cock. It was still soft, but hardening fast. He moved his mouth off and started stroking it, trying to memorize the feel of it growing hard under his touch.

"See? It's not morning yet." Please let me, he tried to say with his eyes.

"It's not." Keith was looking down at him and Lance wondered if he was thinking the same thing he was. Lance lowered his mouth over Keith's cock again.

He didn't take his eyes away from Keith's face for a second, not until Keith was coming and he was swallowing, as best he could, before they dozed off in the early morning sun.

----

Two hours or however these particular alien perverts counted time later, Lance squinted at the sun while the Archchancellor babbled on about the alliance in the city square. Maybe if the sun blinded him, he'd never have to make eye contact with Keith again. That would be a welcome reprieve from the awkwardness of the morning: Lance had watched as Keith pulled on a set of trousers and a tunic the Dosian handlers had dropped off for them.

"You checking me out?" Keith said sharply.

"Of course not. I've already seen everything you got to show anyway," Lance snapped.

They looked at each other for a long moment until Lance turned away to grab his own Ceremony Chic outfit.

Lance spent the walk down to the city square two steps behind Keith, not speaking to him and absolutely not checking out his ass, which was covered up in several layers of alien cloth anyway, the color of which definitely did not suit Keith's skin tone.

Now everything about the night before seemed surreal as the sun beat down on them—had they really done all that? What had they been thinking? They had to work together. They lived together. They only knew like five other people! You can't casually have sex with someone if your social circle consists entirely of them, your mutual friends, and some psychic mice.

The sex had been unexpectedly good though, given the circumstances; it seemed crazy that they'd done all that when they could have just stopped, but at the time—well, continuing had made sense and it had been fun, right? Lance considered that maybe he was a natural sex prodigy, born to give pleasure to men and women and alien alike. Except Keith had also definitely contributed—

"You all right, buddy?" Hunk asked as Shiro and Archchancellor exchanged some sort of gesture that Lance assumed was a handshake with alien twists. Keith was on the other side of Shiro, as far as he could get from Lance on the platform, and he looked even further away, his eyes steady ahead on the crowd. That prick probably wasn't even bothered by this, Lance thought: he looked every bit like the cool and collected professional Lance remembered from the garrison—Lance had hated how untouchable he was, unflappable even while pulling near perfect flight simulation scores, when Lance had been jumping for joy at every bit of praise from the teachers.

"You're not looking too good," Hunk continued in a undertone.

"I'm cool," he whispered to Hunk. "I lost my virginity, man, I'm great."

"Er, that's one way of putting it?" Hunk, consummate romantic, was never going to applaud virginity loss by way of alien ritual.

"Yep, all is well here in Lance Land." Lance smiled and hoped it didn't come off as forced. From Hunk's eyebrows, he suspected he'd failed but Hunk let the topic drop.

As they were hustled off the stage, Ler waddled over to them.

"Congratulations, my friends!" The Archchancellor flapped his hand-feelers at Lance and Keith. "Certainly one of the best performances of the alliance ritual we've seen—"

"Seen!" Keith and Lance both cried simultaneously.

"Not literally seen, of course!" Ler made a laughing noise Lance didn't trust. "But all evidence~ suggests you performed quite satisfactorily!"

"Ew," Lance said.

"Gross," Keith said. They glanced at each other quickly and, for the first time since they'd gotten out of bed this morning, Lance felt like maybe this wasn't going to be too weird after all

"Do you think they made a sex tape of us," Lance hissed.

"Can we please get off this terrible planet," Keith said to Shiro.

"I'm not ready to be a Kardashian!" Lance cried as they started heading towards the lions. "Though I think I could totally pull it off, she's a media genius, I'm a strategy genius—"

Lance could still hear Pidge laughing at that over the lions comm systems on the way back to the castle.

---

A quick lion ride back and they were away from the planet of the weirdo sex hippies, with a first batch of information and supplies for castle repairs. The Paladins regrouped in the conference room attached to central command, where they usually briefed Allura and Coran on the mission events in full. This time no one knew where to start.

"I'm going to do some routine but immediately pressing lion maintenance," said Pidge, fooling no one but vanishing out the door with no regrets.

"I'll take a look at the data from the Dosian engineers," said Hunk as he scuttled out the door behind her.

"I'll brief the Princess in private," Shiro said with a look of steely resolve on his face. Lance silently thanked every alien god in the cruel universe for Shiro's unfailing military professionalism in the face of mortifying mission developments.

"What in the universe happened down there?" Allura said as Shiro gestured her and Coran into the attached office.

Lance breathed a sigh of relief when they were gone—he couldn't imagine having to tell Allura, in front of everyone, about sex with Keith, especially if they'd demanded details for, who knows, mission security reasons and he'd have to make clear they had done considerably more than the Archchancellor had required. But then he looked around and realized he was now alone in the room with Keith.

He was standing awkwardly, leaning a little against the wall, but his arms were folded across his chest as cool and detached as ever. He was clearly off balance though, and, fuck, was he sore? Was that what that posture was? Lance was mortified and intrigued and trying desperately to swallow the question does your ass hurt? do you think of me when it does? when Keith cleared his throat in a fake little cough. Lance's own throat, actually, was a little sore from sucking Keith's dick, not twelve hours earlier, he realized.

"Is it hot in here? Is there something wrong with my suit?" Lance always found solace in babbling. "Are you hot? I mean, temperature-wise, not—" he waved a hand at Keith's body, but that made him sweat even more.

Keith just shook his head. "About last night—" he started to say. His mouth was scrunched into an unpleasant line as though about to say something that tasted bad. Lance's heart was racing; he didn't want to hear this, whatever it was, and he needed it to stop.

"It's cool, we did what we had to do, let's never talk about it again." His mouth, always his savior, ran on its own.

"I—Huh?" Keith's lips were open and round and Lance didn't want to look at them, possibly ever again.

"Let's never talk about it?" Lance pleaded. "Let's continue being rivals and teammates or whatever, you know, we don't have to be weird—"

Keith slammed his helmet down on the table. "Don't have to be weird?!"

Lance felt vaguely dizzy but the path to normal relations was clear to him now. "Right! We'll just pretend nothing happened."

"Nothing—what are you even—" Whatever was going on in Keith's brain, something had short circuited and he couldn't finish a sentence. "You know what? Fine, if you want to play it like that, we'll play it like that."

He turned and stomped out the door without looking back.

"You forgot your helmet!" Lance called, but there was no answer.

---

A new day would refresh them both, Lance figured, and headed down to breakfast the next day with that thought in mind.

"Good morning, my fellow Paladins!" he sing-songed before noticing the Alteans were there as well, "—and lovely princess, wise councilor, and adorable mouse friends!" Lance still didn't get the deal with the mice, to be honest, but it would be rude to leave them out.

Allura beamed and Lance took a moment to bask in her glow. "Good morning, Lance. The mice say good morning as well."

He set about making himself a plate of breakfast-ish goop. "Can you pass that spice thing? The one that's a little like pepper but not really?" he asked Keith, who was standing at the counter, right next to the collection of alien condiments Hunk had been carefully collecting.

No response.

"Hello, Keith? Big Red? Come on, help a teammate out."

Keith just sipped his Altean tea. Lance took two steps over to stand in front of him.

"Is this the silent treatment? What the fuck," Lance said, putting his face directly in Keith's face. Keith's body felt warm and almost familiar, only a few inches from him, and, unbidden, came a mental image of leaning down to kiss him. It would be so easy—but so insane, Lance reminded himself, since this wasn't an emergency ritual situation and they were just teammates, friends, rivals, not—people who kissed each other.

Plus Keith wasn't looking at him, had in fact carefully raised his eyes to look over Lance's shoulder.

"Nice job with the goop today, Hunk," Keith said, before body checking Lance out of the way and leaving the kitchen.

"What the hell was that? You all saw that, right?" Lance asked the assembled party.

"Er, here's the not-pepper if you still want it?" Hunk handed him a shaker. Lance proceeded to dump too much not-pepper on his purple goop while contemplating what the hell Keith thought he was doing.

---

The next day, at Dubiously Useful Strategy Time, as Hunk had dubbed the weekly meetings where they fruitlessly discuss anti-Galra strategy beyond "keep trying real hard (while also being a magic robot)", Lance had offered a brilliant plan that was just this shade of unfeasible for moving on one of the Galra supply lines they had identified. As he said it, he looked to Keith across the table for his traditional "This is overly complicated/completely impossible/you are an idiot" response.

But no answering comments came.

"I said, let's go in disguise to MX-1703 as a Galra-allied species and then blow up the command center from the inside," Lance repeated, trying his best to make it sound extra stupid even though they could totally pull it off.

Keith just studied his tablet, though Lance swore he saw his mouth twitch.

Shiro looked at a loss for how to continue without the usual argument to derail all productive discussion. "Does anyone have anything to add to that? Keith?"

Keith shrugged. "I'm not sure it's practical."

"Not sure it's practical—" Lance yelled, inwardly triumphant.

"Are we done here? I have things to do," Keith said directly to Shiro, not looking at Lance. His hand had tightened around his tablet's stylus even though Coran had scolded them all about destroying Altrea computer equipment, which was semi-sentient and always complained about the damages.

"Things to do?! You're not more busy than the rest of us and we all have basically nothing to do! You're not too good to sit here and—"

"That's enough, Lance. You're all dismissed." Shiro waved them off with a disappointed frown.

Lance watched as Keith slipped quickly out of the room and then stomped pointedly in the opposite direction, hoping Keith would hear his loud footsteps moving as far away from him as possible.

---

As it turned out, nothing drove Lance crazier than being ignored. Probably predictable, as a middle child in a family of six, that he'd be particularly weak to people not paying attention to him, but it didn't usually sting this bad. Partly it was that Keith was a hot head who had always been so ready to respond to all of Lance's attention-grabbing insults, ready to respond to whatever Lance did to him, as he remembered all too well. This new Keith was like a pod person. (Did pod people aliens exist? He made a mental note to ask Allura.)

"Does Keith hate me now?" he whined to Hunk and Pidge during poker night, a.k.a. cards drawn on random pieces of scrap with rules they mostly made up night. "Why does Keith hate me now?"

Hunk made a politely noncommittal comforting sound, because he was a true brother amongst brothers, but Pidge was a heinous chaos demon and said, "You probably sucked in bed."

Lance upset his collected pile of the screws they used as chips. "I did not! Excuse me!"

"You didn't suck? Then maybe you should have sucked more," she said with a leer.

"I did that—it's none of your business!"

"You did?!"

"Wow, you did?" Even Hunk was betraying him now.

"I might have! It's all blurred together! I don't remember!" In fact, he remembered sucking Keith's dick quite clearly, had been thinking about it as recently as last night when he had spied Keith in tight sweatpants moving through martial arts forms in the training room. It wasn't his fault—you were supposed to wear loose clothes for training for a reason and Lance was now sure that reason was "so innocent passerby aren't reminded of the exact shape of your dick while you do tae kwon do at midnight."

It's possible the pants hadn't been particularly tight and Lance had just spent more time watching than was strictly proper; the point was he remembered but that was strictly need-to-know information.

"Dude," Pidge said.

"Bro," Hunk said.

"What," Lance said as they stared at him.

"You had sex with him but you don't even remember what happened?"

"That's cold, man, that's real cold."

"He doesn't even want me to remember! He's perfectly happy not speaking to me!"

"Do you really think that?" Hunk's voice was quiet.

"Yeah, Lance, he's definitely partying it up every night without you, woo," Pidge said. "But back to the matter at hand—read 'em and weep! Voltron Flush!" She laid out her hand and Hunk and Lance groaned.

"Again?! You're cheating!"

Hunk just sighed and added it to the hundreds of fake dollars they owed Pidge, to be paid in real dollars if they ever made it back to Earth.

---

They were right though and Lance knew it or at least, he put it together once they said it and he stopped moping and paid attention: Keith wasn't perfectly happy ignoring him.

He noticed it with a flash of triumph and then a sick feeling of guilt one morning when they were practicing an obstacle course Coran and Shiro had set up in the training room. It wasn't anything harder than what they used to do in the garrison, except that the lasers were real and there was a section where they were chased by a hologram of an Altean bear-dog-lion, but still, it should have been a piece of cake for former top-of-the-class Keith.

Yet he stumbled in the sand trap and slipped on the rock wall and the Beardoglion almost ate him—though Lance was pretty sure holograms couldn't literally eat someone, the castle had tried to murder them once so he didn't trust it one bit—and he'd finished last.

When they lined up for comments from Shiro (who had also completed the obstacle course, perfectly, of course, as a demonstration), Keith studied his feet.

"Keith," Shiro started. "Are you feeling all right?"

Keith clenched his hands into fists at his side and Lance thought for second he was going to punch Shiro in the face, which was definitely a fight Lance would love to see some time, but not under circumstances where Keith was actually upset. But Keith held himself back and said, "Yes. Just tired."

"Get some rest," said Shiro before dismissing them.

Lance couldn't let this slide: Keith being tired and messing up in training demanded he say something.

"Does golden boy need a nap?" he quipped to Keith as they walked out.

Now he thought Keith was going to hit him and honestly he was hoping for it. A rousing fistfight that Lance would probably lose horrifically was exactly what they needed to dispel this lingering completely-not-sexual tension. Lance was great at getting people to punch him, even if he was less great at actually taking a punch. But Keith just narrowed his eyes slightly—Lance could feel the downward tilt of his dark eyelashes in his gut—and stomped out.

"At least that was a reaction?" Hunk said.

"What the hell crawled up his ass and died?" Lance muttered.

"Wouldn't you be the one who'd know—?" Pidge said before Hunk clamped a hand over her mouth.

After that, it became all the more obvious: Keith wasn't sleeping, was training instead, but the lack of sleep was catching up with him. Lance saw him running laps through the castle hallways one night while he was getting a drink of water—or not quite: Lance had noticed Keith sneaking off after dinner (which he'd barely eaten) to the training room and then, instead of to the showers and to bed like a normal Keith, he'd gone on a little jog for fun because, what the heck, it was only half past ass o'clock at night and it's not like space wasn't already messing up their circadian rhythms, might as well keep things interesting with some midnight jogs.

Lance had followed as stealthily as he could but the "getting a glass of water" excuse didn't extend as far as an impromptu cross-country competition. He didn't know what time Keith had made it back to his room, but he'd stumbled into the mess hall late and drowsy for breakfast the next morning.

Before Keith had been moderately passable as human, even if he never got Lance's pop culture references and had only a basic grip on social niceties, but now he was giving Lance the cold shoulder and everyone else the cranky baby treatment.

"If people you have sex with always end up like this," Pidge said, "You should seriously consider the priesthood."

Lance shook his head. It couldn't have been the sex. The sex had been good, Lance had been on his best behavior, everyone had had a good time (three good times for Keith, in fact!)—nothing whatsoever to throw a hissy fit about. There must have been something Lance had missed, but he'd been keeping a close eye on Keith for the past week and had found no clues besides that he wouldn't react to any of Lance's typical provocations.

"You've been following him, right?" Hunk asked. "Is there anything you've noticed—"

"I have not been following him!" Lance hissed. He looked around to make sure Keith wasn't in earshot, but he knew he wasn't: he had just seen him running through practice routine 46 with a droid before Keith had unexpectedly glanced at his hiding spot and Lance had been forced to flee.

Hunk and Pidge just looked at each other. "We're so screwed if we have to form Voltron," Hunk said.

"Can't believe the universe is going to be conquered because of some gay teen drama," Pidge said.

Lance was too distracted to protest that completely false and offensive mischaracterization of their serious interpersonal conflict.

---

"Communication between the Paladins is of utmost importance," Shiro told them in the ready room while going over the training parameters: lion flight formation practice on an abandoned planet. He had a cadence that made him sound like he was quoting Coran but a look that made Lance feel like he was being scolded like a little kid.

"He's talking about you," whispered Pidge, but when Lance turned to snap at her, he realized she was talking to Keith.

Keith was studying the floor but said out of the corner of his mouth, "No, he isn't."

Pidge shrugged. "Of course, he probably means the other paladin sulking like a baby because god forbid he talk about his feelings."

Keith stepped on Pidge's foot and she yelped.

"Any questions?" Shiro looked at them specifically and they straightened. "If not, then let's go, Paladins."

As they all moved to split up, Lance grabbed Keith's elbow. "You can't keep this up."

Keith stared at the hand on his elbow like it was on fire or diseased or smelly, which was absurd since everyone knew Lance was very clean and washed frequently. Plus, the hand in question had been inside Keith less than a week before, so there was no reason for him to be horrified by its touch now—but that thought made Lance pull his hand away fast.

"You heard Shiro! We have to communicate, so just tell me what bee's in your bonnet and we can go back to the friendly disagreements of yesteryear."

Keith leaned to step around him and Lance dodged back into his path.

"If we can't communicate like Paladins, how are we supposed to fight the Galra—"

"I'll be able to fight them just fine," snapped Keith, his voice smug and angry and everything Lance had missed. One of the world's top three voices, in Lance's opinion, when ranked by how much he wanted to punch the person using it.

"Ha! Got you to talk to me!" Lance crowed. "Now you have to admit this is just pointless—"

Keith shoved him, hard. Lance staggered backwards as Keith pushed past him. For a second, Keith looked at him as though he was about to say something—continue their old pattern of bickering and shoving, as Lance understood it—but then his lips thinned and he kept walking away, to his lion port.

Lance practically stomped to his, insofar as that was possible to do. At least, he flew down the chute in as angry a posture as he could manage.

He was going to kick Keith's ass in this lion flight, he thought, before he remembered it was a cooperation exercise.

"You better cooperate, jerk!" he yelled over the comms. No one had to guess who he meant.

Several passes over and around the castle with Shiro calling out the flight patterns went fine. Honestly, Lance thought he was doing his best flying: probably he was focusing more than ever without the distraction of Keith speaking to him. He should thank him later, he thought as he made a particularly sharp turn.

"Did you see that? Can you move like that, Keith?" he called out.

"Blue, this is not the time for showing off," Shiro said.

"Green, please tell Blue to watch where the fuck he's going," Keith snapped.

"Nope, as if, tell him yourself," said Pidge.

Lance saw red. "Listen, asshole, if you won't even speak to me in practice—"

Suddenly Blue was thrown sideways with a jolt, her alarms screaming and flashing. Lance yelped and looked up to his view screen: he had hit, of all things, one of castle ship's towers.

"Oops," Lance said, in the understatement of the year.

"Get back into the castle right this minute, all of you," came Allura's voice over the comm, alarms blaring from the control room around her.

"Uh oh," Lance said, beating the previous understatement of the year in less than a minute.

---

"Are you seriously still not going to going to speak to me? Even though we're being punished for that exact stupidity?"

Keith opened his mouth, furious—aha! Lance thought—but instead of saying anything he just hacked viciously at a stray vine blocking his path.

Allura had sent him and Keith on a ridiculous mission to harvest a blue pineapple she liked after Keith's refusal to speak to him had caused Lance to gently bump into one of the castle parapets. It was no big deal! Good thing they'd gotten that living steel from the Dosians, right, thanks, Lance and Keith, for sacrificing your virginity and apparently any chance of ever being friends, said no one; instead there had been yelling and "If you're going to endanger the whole universe because of this pettiness, I don't want to speak to either of you!" Allura was very sensitive about her castle, which, fine, it was the only thing left of her entire civilization, but that wasn't Lance's fault! Just like it wasn't his fault Keith wasn't speaking to him!

Lance tried to get Keith to talk as they stalked miles through thick rainforest but all he got in response were grunts of exertion and heavy breathing, which made him a little dizzy. Must have been the heat. He felt weirder and more miserable the more determined Keith's silence got; had any asshole in history ever been as stubborn as Keith?

"Has any asshole in history ever been as stubborn as you?" he yelled to that jackass behind him, when suddenly he felt a jolt and a whoosh of air and the whole world was upside down. In the confusion, he let out a completely manly whelp and imagined he heard an answering cry of Lance! followed by rapid footsteps. Then Keith was there, a few feet away from him and the living tree monster dangling him six feet off the ground.

"Why is it always me," he whined, trying to pull the vines off his legs. The vines were massive and multiplying; one on his left thigh was particularly aggressive and seemed to be trying to get to third base.

"Because you won't shut up and watch where you're going!" Keith snapped.

Lance stopped grasping at Lefty McGropey and gaped at Keith below him. "Did you just speak to me?" Lance wasn't sure if he was lightheaded from relief or from the vines cutting off his circulation.

"It's an emergency! I'm still pissed!" Keith pulled out his sword and started slashing.

"Whoa! My limbs are down there!"

Keith rolled his eyes and kept slashing, focused, mechanical, at the tightening tangle of vines. For a second, Lance felt how those training droids must feel when Keith was on a roll—so terrifying to be the center of such complete skilled attention that he swallowed hard. The training droids probably don't feel like this at all, actually, he thought, studying Keith's eyes, and then with one delicate stab, the entire knot fell apart, freeing Lance's right side. He felt his stomach drop as he watched Keith slash quickly to the left.

Then his whole body dropped, directly on top of Keith, who managed to retract his sword before Lance was accidentally impaled. They both sprawled on the ground, limbs tangled almost as much as the vines were. Keith's face was scarily close and Lance worried he was about to explode at him, but when he looked, Keith just seemed surprised and breathless. A little like he had, Lance's scumbag brain reminded him, when Lance had first circled his hand around his cock.

"Hey." Lance tried to ignore Keith's hand clasping at his waist.

"Get off," said Keith but he wasn't moving.

"Okay," said Lance but he wasn't moving either.

"Roar," said the tree monster, which Lance had forgotten despite being almost torn in two by it quite recently.

Lance and Keith looked at each other and, in sync, scrambled up and off each other, taking half-leaps, half-rolls into the underbrush out of the tree's range. Once they were out of Dodge, Lance tried to stand and found his left leg a mess of bruised muscles and thorn scratches.

Keith looked at him sideways. "Do you need help?"

"No! Nope," Lance said and, on cue, his leg gave out beneath him. "It's okay! Just a little bruised!" He struggled to his feet and limped forward.

"Honestly," Keith muttered. Suddenly Lance's left arm was lifted and Keith was underneath it, with one arm wrapping around Lance's waist. It did make it easier to steady himself with Keith supporting him and he was so shocked at Keith willingly helping him that he forgot to protest that he didn't need the help.

"Is this—is this okay?" he sputtered.

"Seeing how pathetic you are makes it easy to take pity on you," Keith grumbled, which, coming from him, was practically a declaration of undying love. Not that Lance wanted to hear a declaration of undying love from Keith, but it still warmed his heart enough to let the insult slide.

"Really? So we can be friends again? Or at least almost-friends or whatever we were before?"

Keith looked at him oddly, considering, and seemed to come to a decision. "We're friends," and Lance felt like he could leap tall buildings in a single bound until he put weight on his left leg and his muscles screamed in protest.

"Come on," Keith said, face close to Lance's hair as Lance leaned against him, "We can take it slow back to castle."

Not only was Keith helping him, he was being nice! "Do you think Allura knew this would happen? Was me getting injured so you'd have to be nice to me her plan?"

"Probably," said Keith grimly. "She's next level."

"True."

Allura did chide them for not getting the blue pineapples later, but Lance felt like the mission was a success, though he spent a week of nights in the infirmary as Coran's localized healing pod worked on his leg. Keith even came to visit him, not saying much but just sitting there as Lance babbled and drifted off to sleep. He was gone by the time Lance woke up, which stung a little, but he was happy all the same.

---

“Movie” Night, everyone agreed, was the worst idea they couldn't stop having: since there was no television, no DVDs, and no internet in space—what a let down—they were stuck watching incomprehensible Altean dramas while Allura and Coran cried or (this was Lance's brilliant idea) they could reenact the best of the best of human culture (to the best of their abilities and memories) live for the rest of the group.

"And then Ross has sex with some other random girl—"

The group gasped in shock. Lance's reenactments always got the best reviews, so they'd let him continue through Friends: The Complete Series (As Lance Remembers It From His Second Oldest Sister Watching It All On Netflix That One Time), of which they were now on installment three of unknown, depending on how much Lance remembered of later seasons.

"—but the next day Rachel wants to get back together! When he tells Rachel he had sex with someone, he says it was because they were on a break, but she is still mad—"

"Well, she's right."

Keith looked up from his tablet; he always pretended not to listen to Lance's movie nights, but Lance knew he was paying attention and now he had proof and also, he was wrong.

"What! You haven't even seen the show!"

"So? I can tell that he was being an ass."

"He was upset! And they were on a break!"

"He's creepily crushed on this girl since high school but they have one fight and he's off to have sex with someone else?!"

Keith was standing now, getting in Lance's face and Lance could feel his blood humming. It was so much like how they always argued, something dumb, just bickering to get that feeling of being alive. Keith arguing with him wasn't pissing him off, Lance realized; it was making him happy.

Lance threw his arms around Keith's neck and pulled him into a hug.

"What are you doing?" Keith squawked.

Lance hugged him harder and said into his hair, "Sorry, this is weird, right?"

"Yes," Keith said but his hands settled on Lance's back.

"I'm just so happy you're arguing with me."

"You're so weird," Keith muttered. "Are you crying?"

Lance pulled back and wiped his eyes quickly. "Of course not." He looked at Keith to check that he hadn't noticed. Keith was staring at him and his face was flushed bright red.

"What's that face? A bro can't hug a bro?"

Keith rolled his eyes. "Are we done here?"

"No! We're going to have a serious conversation about how you act like you don't listen to my Friends summaries but clearly you have been! What are your thoughts? Who is your favorite Friend?"

"Er, I like Chandler? He's... funny?" Keith offered.

"Big surprise there," Pidge huffed from the couch. Lance had forgotten they had an audience, to be honest, and shifted on his feet.

"Okay! Back to the show!" Lance said, pushing Keith back into his chair. He continued the story, extra aware that Keith was watching him and even reacting—snorting, scoffing, and, once, actually laughing at Lance's description. Lance preened.

Afterwards, Lance declared it the best Movie Night of the month, even though Hunk told him not to praise his own performances or people would think he had a big head.

"It was okay," Keith said as they all shuffled off to bed. "You're still wrong." Lance could have skipped back to his room.

---

The Alteans had a festival—not a fertility festival, Lance confirmed several times—that happened in the dead of winter, which on Altea had been, apparently, like actual death. So they had had a festival, a little like Christmas or New Years on Earth, a celebration of light in the darkness. Their soldiers had found ways to approximate it even when stuck on ships in the middle of space, where it was always the dead of winter.

"This is lovely, Princess," Shiro said, sipping his drink.

Everyone else just watched in awe. The light show seemed to come from inside the walls, iridescent blues and greens shot through with the reds and golds of sunset and fire. Little jewels of purples moved within the seas of white clouds and yellow beams.

Pidge stared intently at one section of the wall. "Is it telling a story?"

Allura clapped. "Very good, Pidge! It is meant to depict the great story of Altea's creation, though it is, ahem, rather symbolically rendered." That was saying something—Lance couldn't make heads or tails of which parts were supposed to be a narrative. "If you walk through with us, I can explain. It will perhaps not be as entertaining as your movie nights, Lance."

Lance blushed. "No, no, I'm sure it will be very exciting—"

"Yeah, the history of your civilization's formation will definitely be more exciting than Lance badly remembering nineties sitcoms," Pidge said and smiled at Allura.

"Hey!" Lance protested. Everyone laughed as Allura began to guide them through the tower.

Each chamber was a new moment: the universe's birth in light and sound, Altea's earliest inhabitants discovering fire, then advancing forward much as humanity had, and then falling into endless war throughout the galaxy. Allura explained what each pattern of light meant, but it seemed to shift so quickly based on context Lance didn't know that he couldn't keep them straight. Eventually he focused instead on just watching without trying to understand and he found that, even in the moments Allura said depicted the war and its devastating losses, at the heart of the story was a ferocious joy in life itself, a burning need to keep going on despite the darkness. He grinned and let the lights wash over him.

The others were moving ahead but Keith was studying a section of lights in blue and purple, a streak of black moving amidst them, completely incomprehensible to Lance but Keith seemed to find something worth watching there. Lance stopped and stood beside him.

"Whatcha looking at?"

Keith shrugged. "I don't know, I just liked this part." One of the purple swatches swelled and swirled as a pattern of golden light rained down the wall into the fray.

It was pretty, but Lance found his eyes darting to Keith instead of watching. The flickering lights danced on Keith's profile like he was as much a part of the castle as the walls themselves, turning his pale skin into a new canvas for the history of the galaxy. Lance supposed they were that: a new chapter of a history the universe had been writing since Voltron had first formed. Lance could read it easier on Keith's face than he could on the walls of the castle in Allura's dazzling lights.

Keith had always been handsome, and that had been irritating, but now Lance could see him as more than that: the marks of tiredness under his eyes, the occasional blemish on his skin, the awkwardness of his gestures when doing anything besides fighting, all signs of Keith's focus, at the expense of all else, on a battle that needed all the focus they had. He could see all of Keith's stubbornness and bad-temperedness and he saw, underneath the competitiveness he always felt towards Keith, that Keith wasn't better than him at everything, like he used to think. Lance could see now that Keith needed him, in more ways than he knew, and he wanted suddenly, desperately to be there for him.

All of that knowledge made Keith all the more devastating to look at: the well-formed body Lance had held, the lips Lance had kissed, and those eyes looking at him that Lance had missed so much. He needed Keith too and the knowledge was so sharp Lance felt it like a bee sting on his heart.

He reached forward, not sure what he was about to do, and tucked a chunk of Keith's hair behind his ear.

"What was that for?" Keith said, quietly.

"What was what for?" Lance said, hoping Keith would just drop it.

"You touched my hair," Keith insisted.

"Oh, that. I wanted to see if there was any helping that mullet, but alas, it's a lost cause."

Keith swatted at his arm and Lance dodged smoothly out of the way. He looped his arm in Keith's and grinned as Keith yelped in surprise.

"Let's catch up with the others," he said, not letting go of Keith's arm.

--

It was a bright and beautiful day in the darkness of space and Lance was ready for some green glop breakfast of champions. The kitchen area was already full when he came in—Pidge and Hunk were going over some data with Shiro listening in, nodding occasionally, and Allura asking questions while Coran looked increasingly apoplectic. Of course: Pidge's plan to upgrade the additional exploratory pods.

"Where's Keith?" Lance asked as he filled up his plate with yellow balls Coran said were nutritionally equivalent to high-protein food sources. Space egg, Hunk called them, but the texture was more like space tofu. Delicious.

"Good morning to you too, Lance," Shiro said pointedly. Pidge chuckled.

"Yeah, yeah, good morning." Lance sipped his Space Coffee which tasted more like death than any coffee on earth. "Are you having a secret meeting without Keith or something?"

Pidge laughed outright. "Worried about Keith, aren't you—ow! Hey!" Hunk looked guilty but mouthed words furiously at Pidge. Lance narrowed his eyes, but before he could ask what was up, Keith came in.

"Look, there he is!" Hunk said and pointed to the door.

"Thanks, man, I wouldn't have noticed," Lance deadpanned.

Hunk very seriously said, "I'm always here to help a buddy out."

Keith looked increasingly uncomfortable. And, actually, he looked terrible—dark circles and pallid skin, his hair a mess. He'd looked like this back when they weren't speaking, too, and Lance had been miserable knowing that Keith would reject any attempt he made to be nice.

Now Lance could do something. He poured him a cup of Space Coffee and said, "You look like shit." Keith looked at the cup like it was going to bite him but took it, muttering thanks into the rim. Lance beamed. "What's up? Back to late night training?"

Keith choked on his first sip of the coffee. "No—nothing like that."

"He hasn't been sleeping well," Allura whispered except she'd never actually learned to speak in a whisper and they were about three feet apart so Keith heard and glared at her. She glared back. "It's true."

"I never sleep well," Keith offered as an explanation.

A vague memory tickled at the back of Lance's mind—okay, it was more like an extremely well-worn and specific memory shouting at the top of Lance's mind—Keith so deeply asleep he didn't wake up even as Lance wrapped blankets around them, looking younger and more relaxed than Lance had ever seen him. It was a happy memory for Lance, even though the circumstances had caused so many problems, a memory of a different Keith, one that maybe only a few people had ever seen.

Without thinking, he said, "You slept fine that night we—" and froze. Keith glared at him and Lance felt about three feet tall under that gaze. If he'd continued, made up some other night when he'd noticed Keith dozing off happily and peacefully, probably no one would have noticed. But when he stopped and didn't continue, everyone knew exactly what night he was talking about.

"What happened to never talking about it?" Keith snapped, the last part as though parroting someone, as though parroting him, even though he was sure Keith had been a willing party in that agreement.

"Just remembered I have to finish reprogramming the rear port-side escape hatch," Pidge said.

"I have a sudden stomach ache and need to lie down for one hundred years," Hunk declared, abandoning his breakfast of slop.

"I must consult some ancient Altean texts which no one else in the whole universe can read," Allura called as she followed them out.

"Except me! I must assist!" Coran said and skittered out the door behind her.

Shiro looked at Keith and at Lance steadily. "I'll just go. You two work this out."

"Why do they always do that?" Lance squawked as the kitchen door slid closed behind Shiro.

"I'm going too," Keith huffed.

"Wait! Shiro just told us to work it out!"

"There's nothing to work out! You don't want to talk about it and we're already friends again," Keith spit out the word like it had personally murdered his family, which, Lance actually had no clue, maybe it had.

"Do you," Lance looked down at his feet, not wanting to see Keith's expression, "do you not want to be friends?" His voice pitched high at the end, sounding smaller than he would have liked.

"We were friends before," Keith said and Lance took a second to swallow the implications of that, "and then you were all—" Keith threw his hands up in the air as though that communicated jack shit "and I couldn't—you were so—" and groaned in frustration.

"I was what?"

"You're really gonna make me say it?" Keith huffed.

"Yes, because I have no idea what you're trying to say!" Lance was about to scream. "I thought everything with the—the you know! the doing it! went fine but then you won't talk to me and now you're talking to me but you're still mad!"

"I'm not mad!"

"Oh, really? I couldn't tell since you've spent the past two weeks sulking and yelling!"

"I'm not mad at you—I just needed some space."

"Yeah, space away from me, because you're mad about what? Was the sex bad? Did I hurt you? Because it was my first time and I really tried—"

"The sex was great!" Keith yelled, loud enough it was probably audible throughout the castle.

Lance stared. Keith was breathing heavily and his cheeks were pink and it occurred to Lance that maybe, just maybe, they weren't having the conversation he thought they were having.

"The sex was great and I can't stop thinking about it," Keith said, quieter.

Lance took a step forward, closer to Keith. "You can't stop thinking about sex?"

"With you!" Keith gave him a withering look, like he was the biggest idiot in the world, but Lance could only feel a warmth opening in his chest. He'd bathe in Keith's withering looks if he could, as long as he kept talking. "I can't stop thinking about sex with you, but you didn't even want to talk about it so I needed some space, all right? But you're so you, it was almost impossible to ignore you and now I guess I'm screwed, right?"

He sounded so miserable that Lance realized he'd fucked up big time; he was going to have to be the bigger man and rectify this right now. He moved closer.

"I was stupid, I take it back."

"What?"

"I said I was stupid—"

"No kidding you're stupid and I heard you, I meant the other type of what—"

"I want to talk about it." Lance had Keith backed up against the counter—not blocking his escape, but trying to use the slight height difference to his advantage in getting Keith's attention.

"Huh?" It worked: Keith was looking up at him and Lance could savor that shocked tilt to his head. Surely, once a guy admitted to thinking about having sex with you, you were allowed to spend a second too long looking at his ridiculously symmetrical face, so Lance let himself get an eyeful.

"I've been thinking about it a lot too. You were so—man, you were like a porn star—"

"Seriously? Fuck you, if you're just making fun of me—"

"Wait, no! I mean—you were hot, okay, and I want to do it again. I want to do more."

"Really?" Keith sounded skeptical as though he hadn't looked at himself in the mirror recently and couldn't imagine anyone wanting to fuck him, which was absurd, since Lance was sure, if a sex tape of Keith leaked, the entire universe would be knocking down their door for a chance at him. Lance made a mental note to make sure the Dosians hadn't made a recording; this was enough trouble without also fighting alien hordes for Keith's ass.

"Yes, really, but—" Next was the part Lance was less sure about, but he steeled himself: his mama had always taught him that communication was central to relationships, even if she hadn't predicted the parts with outer space and the aliens and the super pre-marital gay sex. He took a deep breath. "But when you weren't talking to me, I was messed up about it."

Keith furrowed his brow.

"I was going out of my mind, I missed arguing with you and your smart-ass comments and your stupid unasked-for opinions about my always excellent plans. I didn't just miss the chance at truly excellent sex, which was awesome, don't get me wrong, I think we might be sex prodigies—"

"That's the dumbest thing anyone has ever spoken out loud," Keith said, but Lance knew he agreed, who was he trying to kid here? Lance had been there.

"I also missed you. I want to argue with you and hang around doing nothing with you and figure out what you like—"

"Stop! Stop it, you don't have say all this romantic shit—"

"But I want to, I messed up before so now I want you to know—"

Keith kissed him. Lance shut up with a gasp against Keith's lips. As far as strategies for avoiding open communication went, kissing was becoming by far Lance's favorite: he let everything he wanted to say fade into the pressure of his mouth against Keith's.

"Me too," Keith said as he pulled his mouth away. "All those things—"

"Hell yeah, you too," Lance said as he pushed Keith back against the counter, slipping one knee between Keith's thighs.

They were still kissing when the door opened.

"Is it safe to finish breakfast," Hunk called from the doorway.

Pidge followed him in. "Oh, ew, no one needs to see this."

Lance stuck his tongue out at them. "Get used to it, you're going to be seeing a lot of it in the future," he said and started kissing Keith's face, his cheeks, his nose, with exaggerated lip smacking noises.

"You're so embarrassing," Keith said with a huff of air against Lance's jawline.

"You can get used to that too," Lance said and stuck his tongue down Keith's throat.

"Ew! Seriously!"

"We have to eat in here!"

"We're happy for you guys, but get a room!"

Lance pulled back to waggle his eyebrows at Keith. "What'd'ya think? Should we get a room?"

"It's morning, we have training." Keith's tone allowed no debate.

Lance sighed dramatically. "The romance is already gone."

"We could, ah—" Keith muttered so only Lance could hear. "we could spar. If you wanted."

"Hell yes," Lance threw his arms in the air. "I'm going to own you now that I know your weakness!" He put an arm over Keith's shoulders and started walking them both towards the training room.

Keith squinted at him. "What, exactly, is my weakness?"

"My raw sexuality, of course! I'll distract you with my body!"

"Aren't you going to be just as distracted by my body?"

"Definitely, but you're not as used to it as I am."

"So you've been distracted by my body for a while? That explains why you suck at hand to hand. Except, no, you'd have to be distracted by Galra's bodies too—"

"Ew! Just because my skills are more in strategy—"

They kept up the argument all the way down to the training room, an easy rhythm of bickering that Lance had missed, and a new sharp hint of flirtation that made Lance's whole body warm in every place it touched against Keith's.

When it came time to spar and prove just who would be more distracted by the other's body, Lance was happy to find: it was about equal.