“His name is Lance.”
Her older children coo, all of their light and deep brown eyes widening in awe at the small sleeping bundle in her arms as her husband and herself enter their house.
“He’s your new baby brother.” Her husband adds excited behind her, his hand wrapped behind her shoulder as he looks down at their youngest son and caresses his round cheek gently, a warm fond smile spreading through his lips when Lance yawns and snuggles deeper into his Mama’s embrace.
“So tiny.” Her eldest says quietly, a small smile in the teen’s lips before she yelps when her younger sister tries to climb up higher on her to get a better look, “Ay, Ara, stop moving .”
“But I wanna see!” The five years old whines frustrated, cheering happily when her sister sighs exasperated but compiles with a roll of eyes, letting her move as she likes in her arms. “Hi, Lance!”
“He’s like, super red,” Antonio mumbles next to them, deep brown eyes narrowed as he stares at the newborn in his Mama’s arms. The nine years old tilts his head as he looks up to catch his Mama’s eye. “Is that normal?”
She chuckles, warmth filling her heart with her family’s tactics before she nods. “Yes, yes, it’s normal, sweetheart.”
“Why his eyes blue?” Aracely says then, lips pursed in confusion as she leans down. The rest of family follows her gaze, soft gasps echoing around them when bright baby blue eyes stare right back at them curiously.
“Will you look at that?” Her husband breathes out under his breath, “Mi cielo, he has your eyes.”
Her own light blue eyes shine with unshed tears as she leans down and presses a kiss on her baby’s forehead, laughing quietly when Lance makes a content sound and a soft gurgle.
“Welcome to the world, sunshine.”
She watches from behind the window, taking in the sight before her. Their entire front yard had been recently cut, grass green as it could be with beach toys spread out around it and Lance doesn’t hesitate to make it his own, running from one end to the other and conquering everything in between.
“Lance!” Her own mother calls a few feet from where she stands, hands cupped on her mouth to catch her grandson’s attention, “Lance, watch where you’re going!”
“I am!” Lance laughs, rising higher his rocket toy in his right hand before he makes it dive and then back up, “Commander McClain has everything under control!”
The young mother laughs quietly under her breath, shaking her head in amusement at her youngest child’s tactics before she steps out and closes the door behind her, heading towards her parents.
Lance Alessandro McClain is often compared to the deepest part of the ocean, untamed and unknown, only for the mere fact to be sharing the eyes of the sea. But she’s his mother, the person who knows him inside and out. She knows what he is.
“Your son is a hurricane, Martha.” Her mother declares, leaning back in her beach chair with a huff.
Martha smiles, wide and proud. “Indeed he is.”
The sun is going down, merely a few minutes from setting completely and she nods to herself, taking note to start dinner soon before the entire family comes back from town.
“Lance!” Martha calls, “Five more minutes and then a shower!”
Lance whines, stopping his running for a second just to pout at his mama. “Ten more minutes!”
Martha arches an eyebrow at the challenge. “Five.”
Lance groans, lips going full pout before he grins mischievously and Martha barely has time to open her mouth in warning before he’s off.
“Lance Alessandro McClain, it wasn’t up for debate!” She shouts exasperated, watching her son run all over the patio, “Lance!”
“Space Commanders don’t take showers, Mama!” Lance says, whooping in excitement when his mama misses him by a hair, “Ha! Missed!”
“Lance, be careful! There’s a - !”
Martha winces as she sees her youngest fall, her feet already making their way towards him. “Lance, you okay, sunshine?”
“I’m fine.” Lance replies muffled, lip wobbling as he pushes his face off the ground, and wipes away the dirt in his face, “Blah.”
Martha sighs, rolling her eyes at her son’s bravado but, again, she knows him. She knows that there are unshed small tears at the edge of his eyes as he tries to hide his face away from her when she kneels next to him and that maybe, just maybe, his elbow hurts a little too much for his linking with the way he cradles it carefully.
“Uh-huh.” Martha hums half-amused, pushing his dirty short brown hair back before dropping a kiss on top of his head, “Okay, Commander Lance, how about this: we go back inside, let me heal that angry elbow followed by a shower and then you help me with dinner?”
Lance sniffles wetly, wiping his nose non-subtly. “We can have garlic knots?” He asks quietly, blue eyes meeting hers, big and bright as always and Martha now understands why her mother would always complain about her daughter's puppy eyes back in her youth.
“Alright, alright, but only if you wash behind the ears.” She says, tickling her son’s ear and smiling when he laughs, small hiccups leaving his mouth.
“Okay, okay, mami.”
Martha tugs her jacket closer to her body as she looks around the beach, a bunch of towels hanging loosely on her arms.
Her husband and eldest children are taking their things back to the house, some of her brothers and sisters staying behind to pick the last of their things. She quickly notices the lack of the three youngest in the family. With a wave of a hand, she brushes her husband’s concerns off and quietly tells him to meet her back at their house.
Hector nods back at her, dropping a kiss on her cheek before he goes off, shouting something to one of her brothers about stealing is favorite chair.
Martha snorts before she turns and heads towards the small hiding place near the edge of the beach, just a few feet from where she stands and it’s not long before three small silhouettes start taking shape in front of her.
“And that one over there it’s aquarius.” She hears Lance say, arm raised and pointing at the open night sky above them, the grin on his lips almost outshining the stars themselves.
Both Clara and Charlie gasp in awe at the new information, their eyes following their older cousin’s instructions.
“Woah, cool.” Charlie says, a small smile tugging at his lips.
“Just imagine, there’s a whole new lot of stars out there, just waiting to be discovered.” Lance sighs, dropping his chin on Clara’s head, earning a giggle from the ten years old.
“Like Charlie’s missing socks on his room?” Clara giggles, yelping when her twin shoves her arm, “Ow! I’m telling mom!”
“You started it!”
“Guys, stargazing includes no fighting.” Lance cuts in firmly, putting his arm in between the twins to avoid any more confrontation.
With a huff and a stick out tongue, both kids settle down, letting Lance to continue to list off every constellation in their view. Martha listens quietly from where she stands, enjoying the happiness Lance speaks with.
“I’m going up there, someday.” Lance mumbles quietly then, awe and excitement dripping from his voice. Martha’s breath hitches, heart hammering against her chest as she recognizes the look on the blue eyes so familiar to her own.
It’s a look of longing, an ache that seems to be older than her own son. It’s a look that has always been inside him but has grown stronger over the recent years.
Space and stars. Stars and space. Those two were Lance’s conversation topics almost 98% of the time and it was clear from day one where his heart belonged.
Martha takes a deep breath, hand pressed against her chest as she closes her eyes and nods to herself. She clears her throat behind them, eyes turning playful and knowing as she stares down at the trio of cousins.
“Well, well, well, I found three lost children.” She says, grinning at the surprised look the three of them make as they throw their head back to meet her gaze upside down. “Sun’s down, kiddos. We can camp another day but tonight it’s family time.”
“Comin’, ma.” Lance says, letting Clara to stand up before him. He smiles innocently at his mama, kissing her cheek quickly before he takes the towels from her hands and turns to address his cousins, something about a race and a bet.
Her heart squeezes tightly at the act and she hopes her son knows that the stars it’s not the only place he belongs to.
“Hey, ma? Do you have a second?”
Martha is quick to put the book on her hand down, attention immediately on her youngest as Lance stands at the entrance of the living room, hand rubbing anxiously against his arm.
“I have three.” Martha jokes softly, smiling fondly when Lance snorts and steps forward. She stands up, walking towards her son and leaning down a little to catch his gaze.
Not that it was necessary from where she stands; he’s now taller than her, his growth spurt hitting out of nowhere just a few months ago.
Her baby boy.
“You okay, sunshine?”
Lance nods before he pauses and offers a small smile. “So, hear me out. There’s this school....”
Martha listens closely, eyes on her son at all times as he explains the school - space military school, he has been eyeing for a few years now. She listens and nods as Lance enlists the pros and cons of going, the financing and the offered internships of the likes.
She listens with a heavy heart as Lance’s excitement grows at every spoken word. His plan of going all mapped out and ready to be set into action.
“I have been getting my grades up,” Lance says shyly, eyes shining bright with hope, “I’m, I’m applying to the Galaxy Garrison next year.”
Her baby boy.
She can only beam and smile softly at her boy, hand reaching out to cup his cheek. “I’m so proud of you, sunshine.”
Lance beams right back, his smile almost as blinding as the sun and she’s unable to get another world out before two small bodies surrounds them.
“Uncle Lance is going to space?” One of her grandchildren shouts, her small hands trying to reach Lance’s shoulder to hang from them, “I wanna go!”
“That’s so cool!” Her oldest grandchild shouts, “Can I go? I can fit in the suitcase! I promise, Uncle Lance!”
Both kids makes Lance laugh and then he’s kneeling, catching Danielle with a huff as the five years old slams her body against his own and then ruffles Christian brown hair with his free hand.
“That’s the plan, kiddos.” Lance grins, laughing when his seven years old nephew throws himself on his back and hangs from his neck, “Ack, but not if you kill me first! Angie, your kids are killing me!”
Martha watches the scene with a beating heart, proud and yet scared for the young boy before her eyes.
That’s her baby boy.
“Keep in touch!”
“Don’t let being a space explorer get in your head!”
“We will miss you.”
Martha sighs quietly, hand playing anxiously with the necklace that lies in her chest as she watches the scene in front of her. Brothers, sisters and cousins alike surround her son, words of encouragement and good will flying over their heads as they play and wrestle with each other.
Lance’s smile is as blinding as always but there’s a new edge on it. It’s an edge of adventure and seeking the unknown.
Hector huffs next to her, placing down the last of Lance’s suitcases next to him before he grunts, straightening his back.
“I’m getting old.” Her husband complains grumpily and Martha laughs weakly. She feels like a fool at thinking that the laugh might have fooled her husband. It doesn't.
“You okay, mi cielo ?” He asks under his breath, arm wrapping itself around her waist and pulling her closer. Martha hums, shrugging halfheartedly, eyes never leaving Lance , who stands a few feet away from them.
Hector quickly catches up. “He’ll be fine, Martha.”
Martha hums again as she leans closer to her husband’s embrace. “I know, I know. I just...it feels like...”
“Like he was a baby just yesterday?” Hector says playfully and Martha snorts.
Not exactly but “Yeah,” She agrees anyways.
“He’s going to one of the most secure schools in the state, honey.” Hector reminds, dropping a kiss against her temple, “Besides, what could happen in the middle of the desert?” He jokes before pulling away and walking towards the youngsters.
“Alright, alright, make room for the old man! Where’s my boy!”
“Ack! Papa, hah , put me down!”
Martha laughs fondly, heart feeling lighter at the sight of her husband and youngest hugging. It’s her stomach that twists uneasy when Lance’s eyes meet her eyes behind his papa’s shoulder.
She smiles, trying to match his happiness. It’s hard.
Their family timing is not always the great, especially for scheduled dates or events. They are honestly known to have an low-key fame of being late most of the times for almost everything.
Except when it comes to Lance.
The entire living room is filled with every single family member that was able to make it; Hector’s and her siblings alike coming to see their youngest nephew through a computer screen along with their kids is an event Martha never knew she will witness and yet here she stands in the middle of it.
“Yeah, his name is Hunk! He’s a great roommate.” Lance continues, bringing her back to the present. Her son’s grin is as big as she remembers and it almost feels surreal that it was only three weeks ago since she has seen it. Lance’s daily selfies doesn’t make it justice.
“We’re glad you’re making friends, son.” Hector says on the chair next to hers, elbows on his knees as he leans closer to the screen, “He’s going to be part of your team?”
Lance purses his lips in deep thought before he shrugs. “Not sure; Commander Iverson said all of that it’s determined by a simulation during freshman year.”
“It would be so cool if he ended up being your engineer!” Charlie shouts, bouncing on his spot behind Martha, “And you being the fighter pilot! You would only need a techno guy and then you can finally go to space!”
“I’m not a fighter pilot yet .” Lance smirks, eyebrow wiggling playfully at his family and they share a laugh. “But just you wait, I’m going to be the best fighter pilot this school has seen after Takashi Shirogane.”
“Calm your horses, son.” Hector chuckles warmly, “Even Takashi had to work hard to get there; life can take many routes and still end up on the same destination, so just do your best like always and you will be fine.”
Lance snorts. “Psh, come on , Papa! What else can I be? A cargo pilot?”
“ Psh , that’s way too high for you, maybe you can be the janitor, if you’re lucky.” Tony jokes next to his father as he grins up at his youngest brother on the screen. Lance gasps dramatically at the comment, glaring up at his brother without heat.
“Don’t be mean, Tony.” Aracely says, slapping him on the arm before she grins, “The mail room needs staff, ya know? Lance fits right in!”
“You guys are the worst .” Lance whines, crossing his arms over his chest as he glares at his siblings but his eyes shine with playfulness, giving the entire family the signal to laugh with him.
Martha herself limits to smile, shaking softly her head as her own brother teases his nephew next and Hector’s older sister slaps the back of his head, defending Lance. The show goes on for a few more minutes before she finally decides to step in.
“No matter what you end up being,” Martha cuts in calmly, catching the attention of the entire family but her own being only on Lance, “We’re proud of you, sunshine.”
Lance’s grin softens, easily turning into a sheepish happy smile as he rubs the back of his head bashfully.
“Thank you, ma.”
“Have you been to space yet?” Christian asks excitedly as he climbs over her lap and sits comfortably. Martha laughs and wraps her arms around her oldest grandson.
Lance opens his mouth to answer when a second young teen with dark skin shoves himself into the screen, a nervous edge on his eyes as he grabs Lance’s arm.
“Lance, Lance , I think I just heard Officer Mustache patrolling down the hall!” The teen whispers, blinking surprised when he turns to the camera and sees numerous pair of eyes and smiles, “Oh, hi! Lance’s family? I’m Hunk, it's a pleasure!”
“Hunk, not the time!” Lance hisses, pushing Hunk’s face away from him before he turns to his family, “Hah, yeah, I might have called after curfew, ups?”
“Just go.” Martha says, rolling her eyes fondly at her youngest and her lips twitch upward when Lance smiles sheepishly at her.
“But Uncle Lance! Space!” Christian whines, pout on its way to his lips before Lance hushes him quietly and winks.
“Don’t worry buddy,” Lance mumbles under his breath as he leans closer to the screen and starts turning off the lights, “I will be there in no time, just you wait.”
The sky should’ve been her first warning.
But it wasn’t.
Martha hums quietly to herself as she paints, her brush old and worn out but still proving the best swing and shapes to her paintings. The entire household is silent, something unusual on its own as the storm brewing outside her window.
The ocean rages uneasily, waves crashing against each other almost restlessly as the water takes in a dark somber shade of blue. A shade that her limited arsenal of colorful paint isn’t able to provide at the moment.
That should’ve been her second warning.
The knock on the door should’ve been the last warning. It should have been left at that, a faint echoey knock from outside their house. But it wasn’t and that costs her to face a young man, close to her second oldest son’s age, an unwrinkle uniform with a familiar insignia hugging his frame and sad gray eyes staring at her in shame.
“Mr. and Mrs. McClain,” He greets softly, pulling down his hat as he addresses them respectfully and something cold settles down on her stomach, “I’m Officer Mylin, I come on behalf of the Garrison Council.”
“Is something the matter?” Hector says carefully next to her, his arm sneaking up behind her to wrap it around her shoulders in support and she wonders what he knows that she doesn’t.
The Garrison Officer hesitates half a second before he speaks. “There was an accident.”
The rain that pours down on them shouldn’t be loud enough for her to tune out the Officer’s words and yet it’s all she hears. Heavy wet drops of water crashing against the ground merciless that every single one of them feels like a spear through her heart.
“We were unable to recover the body.”
He calls him a body.
Her baby boy is called a body .
“His, his name’s Lance.” Martha sobs out loudly then, hand clutching her blouse as she bends over, trying to mute the world and its lies, “His name, his name is -”
“We’re sorry, ma’am.”
Lance had always been the hurricane in the middle of the sea, but she’s the storm that was left behind.
She slams the phone down against the kitchen counter, the grip she has on it tighing to the point her knuckles turn white and she shoves Hector back when he tries to step in.
“Martha, this is not helping anyone.” Hector says quietly, hands raised up to his chest in a calming manner as his wife starts to pace around the kitchen, “They don’t have the answers -”
“Then who does? The stars?” Martha scoffs, rolling her eyes as she runs her hand through her disheveled hair, “No, no! Our son is gone and all we get is ‘it’s classified’? They give us a check and think that we’ll let it go? No!”
“I’m with you, amor.” Hector says softly, eyes shining with unshed tears as he takes a step forward, “But anger will not solve anything. It will not bring our baby back, you know this.”
“I just can’t sit still, Hector!” Martha shouts, her shout cutting abruptly in the middle by a sudden sob, “I can’t, they took him away from me and I just - Our baby, Hector. Our baby is gone and they just - !”
“I know.” Her husband whispers softly, reaching out slowly and sighing in relief when she doesn’t pull away the moment his hand wraps itself around hers. “I know, but you don’t need to fight this alone. None of us do, Lance wouldn’t want that.”
“But Lance’s dead.” She whispers bronekly, lip tightly caught between her teeth as her husband pulls her closer, “He’s - “
“We don’t know that.” Hector whispers against her head, voice just as wet as the tears she feels dropping down her cheek from above, “We don’t know that for sure.”
The hard slam of the back door makes them both look up and her heart aches when her oldest son comes running down the stairs, eyes wide when he meet his parents’.
“Christian...wasn’t in bed.” Tony says quietly, picking up his jacket from behind the wall before he nods, “I’m...going to get him, it’s okay.”
Hector nods back at his son before Tony is off and then he sighs, pulling Martha back into a tight embrace.
“Do you think he heard us?” She asks under her breath and Hector only hums, hand around her back rubbing small circles.
Martha stays silent after that, eyes looking just outside the kitchen’s window and heart easing up when she catch the familiar shape of her oldest son and her grandson at the edge of the beach, both of them looking up at the night above them.
She follows their gaze and her breathe hitches when billions of stars stare right back at her, brightness twinkling almost playfully, a hidden message behind them she can’t understand but yet feels familiar enough for her to sigh shudderingly.
The stars may not have the answer neither, but they bring an odd comfort she welcomes with open arms.
“What are you gonna do with so many seashells, sunshine?” She remembers asking, once upon a time, back when her arms were filled with a happy bright four years old.
Her four years old son had just shrugs innocently, toothy smile as big as they come. “They’re pretty!”
“How about it, sunshine?” Martha whispers back in the present, hand running through her youngest granddaughter's strawberry hair and smiles when the toddler coos, “Wanna give Uncle Lance a present?”
Aracely’s daughter claps her hands excitedly before she picks up the two small sea shells on her feet and raises her arms towards her grandmother. Martha laughs fondly before leaning down and picking her up, comfortably placing her above her hip as they make their way back home.
Her family stays behind at the beach, asking her to bring back a few more towels and snacks to which she rolls her eyes but agrees with a nonchalant wave of her hand.
The house is silent when she walks in, unsurprising when all its inhabitants are at the beach, but it still feels odd. Martha hums to fill in, making her way towards the kitchen before pausing at the entrance.
“Say ‘Hi, Uncle Lance’.” She says softly, brushing the toddler’s bangs away from her face before her eyes turn to look at the framed picture in the middle of the high up shelve.
“Hi, Unca Lans!” The toddler exclaims happily, shifting on her grandmother’s hold as she leans forward and clumsily drops the two sea shells near Lance’s picture, “Sea shells!”
Martha hums as she nods proudly. “Yeah, Leah and I found these at the beach today. We thought you might like them.”
The photo is seven years old, almost eight in a few months. It was the first photo Lance had taken wearing his new Garrison Uniform back in the day, hands behind his back, standing straight and tall like a soldier but his boyish wide grin gives him away.
It’s the grin that sneaks to her a small glimpse of her son and his vivid vibe, even after all these years. A picture is not enough to capture Lance’s smile in all its glory but it’s enough to reminder her how warm and happy it used to make her feel.
Martha blinks, head turning to meet her second youngest’s eye and Aracely smiles back gently at her.
“I came to see if you needed any help.” She says quietly, walking up until she’s standing next to pair, eyes lingering a second too long on her baby brother’s picture before she crouches and meets her own daughter's eyes. “Come on, you lil devil, let’s go help grandma with the snacks.”
“Cookies!” Leah shouts happily throwing her arms in the air as both adults laugh.
“No, Leah, no cookies before dinner.” Aracely shakes her head, already making her way to the kitchen and leaving the pair behind. The toddler frowns before she shifts on Martha’s hold.
“Cookies?” The toddler whimpers, lower lip quivering as she turns to face her grandmother.
Bright blue familiar pair of eyes settle down on her own and Martha swallows the small lump in her throat when those very same blue eyes had belonged to a darker skinned boy with disheveled brown hair.
Martha laughs softly, kissing her granddaughter's forehead tenderly as she answers. “We can sneak a few under your mama’s nose.”
“I heard that!”
“No, you didn’t!”
Martha laughs warmly, her heart slowly making up for the hollow space her youngest left behind. She sneaks one last glance towards Lance’s picture, a soft sigh leaving her lips before she bounces Leah in her arms and gently caress the wooden frame with her free hand.
“Tell the stars I say hi.”
Lance blinks, eyes looking away from his bayard to look at Keith at the room’s entrance. His boyfriend waves at him, a small smile in his lips as he crosses the room and sits next to the brunet.
“Is that payback for calling you Mullet all those years ago?” Lance teases, eyebrow arched as he lets Keith take the bayard from his hands. “I was cleaning that.”
“Tch, no, because I don’t sink so low ,” Keith teases playfully, pinching Lance’s side and chuckling when Lance yelps, “and you are being twitchy ; you know your bayard doesn't need cleaning, dork.”
“Blasphemy.” Lance sticks his tongue out, laughing quietly when Keith does the same. The brunet nudges him with the shoulder, “I have a right to be twitchy.”
“I’m not saying you don't but you really need to take it easy before you pop a vessel.” Keith snorts, taking Lance’s now free hand into his own. “So, yes, please be careful, nae ha-neul. ”
“What happened to ‘ ae-in ’, though?” Lance asks, tilting his head to the side in curiosity. He blinks surprised when Keith’s ears turn red. “Oh, I know that face, that’s your ‘I’m being mushy but you don’t need to know that’ face. Now you’ve done it, spill the beans; what does the new pet name means?”
“Uh, excuse you, how do you even know it’s a pet name?”
“Because you had that fond warm edge on your eyes when you said it, the very same one that melts my heart every time without fail.” Lance answers knowingly, arching an playful eyebrow at the man but his eyes are warm and fond when Keith blushes and chokes. “Now, come on, share the meaning, babe.”
Keith laughs, pushing away Lance’s poking on his stomach with his free hand before he sighs resigned.
“My sky.” Keith answers softly, nuzzling his nose against Lance’s temple. “It means ‘my sky ’.”
“Space doesn’t have a sky.” Lance replies quietly, closing his eyes to enjoy his boyfriend’s touch. “We’re not in Earth yet.”
“I don’t need Earth.” Keith declares firmly. “I got my sky right here in my arms.”
Eight years are not enough to get used to the untaming feeling Keith causes inside his chest, but Lance welcomes it without hesitation. He sighs contently, enjoying the small moment of silence between them before he speaks up.
“Mi cielo. ” Lance says, a soft surprised hum leaving his lips before he lifts his head and meets Keith’s confused gaze. “That’s what it means in spanish; it’s what, what my dad used to call my mom.”
Keith blinks before he smiles, free hands stroking Lance’s hair. “Damn it, he’s gonna think I copied him.”
Lance snorts, body shaking with laughter as Keith grins wide and pleased.
He did that.
“Are you ready?” Keith asks then while bringing Lance’s hand to his lips and dropping a kiss on the clean bandages surrounding it. Lance sighs, leaning closer to his boyfriend’s embrace before nuzzling their noses together.
“As ready as I will ever be, to be honest.”
Keith hums, eyes shifting towards the big window in front of them. “Well, that’s good because we’re here.”
Lance follows his gaze, eyes widening at the familiar sight of their old home planet and feels the way Keith squeezes their hands together.
“Come on, nae ha-neul. ” Keith says, “Your family is waiting.”
God, Lance surely hopes so.