Lance leaned against the wooden post lining the path leading to the ocean. They had come to the beach 3 times in the past few days. It had been, for lack of a better word, awesome. Twice had been at Keith’s insistence. Lance watched as further down Keith lay on his back in the wet sand, his feet close enough to feel the waves as they lapped upward.
“You really like him, huh?”
Lance swung around, startled at the sound. His papa was leaning on the post next to him, surveying the scene.
Lance opened his mouth, hoping for a witty retort to find its way out. When nothing came, he clamped it shut and opted for a quick nod.
Riel smiled, now watching the motion of the glittering waves. Lance liked his father like this. He remembered the first time they had come to the beach that week, he had overheard a conversation between his parents he wasn’t meant to hear.
“You haven’t been here for a long time,” Mama had said, slipping her hand into Riel’s.
“No,” Riel admitted, “I used to practically live here,” he took a sharp breath before continuing, “it’s the color, I think. It’s the exact same as his eyes. It used to be my favorite part, but once he left it hurt too much.”
Elisa let out an understanding hum, tightening her grip on her husband’s hand.
Riel had looked back at the water, leaning into Elisa. “This feels good,” he said softly.
Lance looked back at his dad, the conversation still ringing in his head.
“You said you won’t be on earth long,” his father began tentatively, with a hint of sadness he tried to push down.
“Um, yeah,” Lance said, staring back at the water, “there are still a lot of things to do. But I’ll come back, I promise!”
“I know,” Riel said with a smile, “it’s just, I was talking with your mom and, we both were curious, about Keith.”
Lance raised his eyebrows, not sure where the conversation was headed.
“It was so nice of him to come,” Riel continued, “everyone was so excited. He’s done so much, for everyone. I loved writing to him, because it made me feel like you weren’t alone, like you were safe.”
Lance nodded, as his dad continued, “but I feel like I’ve been a bit selfish about the whole thing. I want him here, but I’m sure his family wants him too. Shouldn’t he go see them?”
Lance looked at his father with surprise, realizing for the first time he didn’t know. None of his family knew. It had never come up.
“He, um, he doesn’t have a family.” Lance stuttered out, not liking talking about it while Keith wasn’t there. Keith always shrugged it off when it came up, but Lance could see how much it hurt.
“Oh,” his dad said quietly, before a smile lit up his face, “well, he does now!”
Keith had been waiting for it, and he was sure Lance had as well. They both knew it was coming, that it was bound to happen eventually. It was just the timing. It wasn’t bad timing, it was just painful. It had been days since they first landed on the rocks near the beach, both Lance and Keith’s stomachs in knots. Lance’s from the sheer excitement of it all, and Keith’s from nervousness. He knew he wasn’t good with people, but it had never really mattered to him before. It had been lonely and frustrating, but Keith had accepted that a long time ago. This, this was different. He didn’t know this people, but he wanted desperately to be liked. More than he ever had in his life. Through the anxiousness, he had tried to talk himself through it. Told himself it would be fine. That he would have a nice week, have a place to stay, be polite with Lance’s family and maybe they would think of him fondly after he left, if he was lucky. Nothing had prepared him for the reality of the situation.
“I’ll be back soon,” Mama had instructed, “it shouldn’t take long. I just have to pick up milk, and eggs, oh and chicken I almost forgot…” she continued to ramble.
“You look tired,” Lance interjected, “I can always go and pick things up.”
“I can help,” Keith added from the side, trying to sound useful.
Mama smiled but shook her head. “I need you two to keep an eye on the kids. I told Luke he could have a movie night.”
“Yes!” Lance said, fist pumping the air, “Movie night!”
Mama smiled and wrapped her arms around Lance. “I’ll be back soon. Love you.” She stood on her toes and pecked his forehead quickly, making Keith smile. She was running an errand, but still felt the need for a heartfelt goodbye and a show of affection. No wonder Lance was so into hugs.
Mama turned to Keith, and he smiled, opening his mouth the say goodbye. Before any words came out, her arms were wrapped around him and her hands pressed on his cheeks, pulling him down slightly so she could kiss his forehead. “Love you,” she said.
The door swung closed, and Keith was completely frozen.
“We have to find a good movie,” Lance mused, “Alex isn’t picking this time.” He turned to Keith, who was trying and failing to not look as shellshocked as he felt.
After a moment, Lance grabbed Keith’s hand, and pulled him into his chest. “She means it, you know.”
Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s waist, pressing himself into the warmth. He loved how everything was here. Warm. “Yeah,” Keith said, his response slightly muffled into Lance’s shoulder. “I know.”
“You’re doing it wrong!” Luke screeched, pulling the pillow from Lance’s hands.
“Am not!” Lance argued, snatching it back. “I am the fort master, you should show me some respect.”
“Nah,” Keith agreed from his spot on the couch, “it looks completely wrong to me.” It didn’t, actually. Keith had no idea what the structure of the pillow fort Lance and the younger kids were building was supposed to look like, to him it just looked like a half-hazard mess of pillows and blankets.
Lance chucked the pillow he was holding towards Keith, who batted it away before it made contact.
“It’s awful,” Alex piped in.
“Completly,” Keith agreed, sending her a smirk she immediately returned.
“That’s fine,” Lance said, “You guys don’t have to use it. It’s just gonna be stocked with popcorn and Twizzlers. Standard movie night stuff, but I wouldn’t want to force you into an ‘awful’ fort or anything.”
“Actually it’s okay,” Keith said quickly.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Alex nodded.
Lance rolled his eyes and left the kitchen, coming back with an armful of popcorn bowls and more candy than was necessary. He tossed it into the fort, managing to spill a good fourth of the popcorn onto the ground. Keith pushed himself off the couch and into the mess of blankets, stopping to pick up a piece of popcorn from the ground and pop it in his mouth.
“Keith!” Lance protested, “that’s gross! It’s probably covered in bacteria and whatever!” Keith shrugged, “good for my immune system,” he argued, “toughens it up.”
“That makes no sense,” Lance said as he pressed play on the TV. He sat back down in the fort, pulling Keith closer to where he was was. Without hesitation, Keith curled into Lance, letting his head fall onto Lance’s chest.
It was then they heard the beep. Lance felt Keith immediately tense. He took a slow breath out of his nose, trying to ignore the pain that had sprung in his chest. Keith reached into his back pocket, pulling out the small communicator device he kept on him 24/7, just in case.
Hey guys, I hope everyone is having a great time. I know this wasn’t long enough, but the castle is finished. I’ve received another distress beacon, it seems like its more urgent than we thought. Sorry for the late notice, but everyone should plan to leave tomorrow morning. I’ll send you the coordinates.
“Oh,” Lance said softly, reading the message over Keith’s shoulder.
Keith shoved the communicator back into his pocket, trying not to notice the sick feeling growing in his stomach. Lance stood up, pushing the pillows to the side.
“I’ve uh, gotta go do some stuff. You guys enjoy the movie.” With that he left the fort, ignoring Alex’s confused look.
Keith stood up and took a deep breath. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Alex, before following where Lance had disappeared to.
He found him in his room, wrapped up in so many blankets his face was hardly visible.
“Hey, can I come in?” Keith asked softly, as he stood awkwardly in the doorway.
“Oh,” Lance said, his voice weak, “yeah. I mean I was just uh, going to start packing, but um, I got cold.” He maneuvered one of his hands from under the blankets up to face and wiped his red, tear filled eyes.
“I’m cold too,” Keith said suddenly.
Lance looked up in surprise, but didn’t say anything as Keith snuggled in next to him, pulling the largest blanket to cover both of them.
They sat like that for a while, Lance’s hitched breathing echoing through the room. Finally, he spoke. “I don’t want to go,” he muttered.
“Me either,” Keith said, the reality of the situation finally hitting him. “I know you missed them a lot.”
“Yeah,” Lance said, “I do.”
“I know this doesn’t help,” Keith said, looking away, “but it’s good you got to come back for a little while.”
Lance sighed. “I know, and I should be grateful for the time I got to spend here-“
“No,” Keith said, cutting him off. “Well, I mean yeah. But I just meant its good that you came, because now when you are in space, at least your family knows where you are. And no matter what happens, no one can take this home from you. It’s here, with people who know you are alive and are waiting for you to come back. This is your home, and always will be, no matter where you go or how long you are gone.”
Lance’s eyes got wide before a gentle smile spread across his face. “Yeah, I never thought of it like that.”
Keith nodded, happy to see Lance looking at least a little better.
“And I’m sure we’ll come back to earth,” Lance continued, “you know, for visits and stuff! Since we’ve already come once we’ll probably be back a lot more. And we can chill here and you and me can go to the beach all the freaking time. ALL the time, Keith!”
Keith stiffened under the blankets in surprise. Lance stopped to glance at him. “You okay?” He asked, tentatively.
“Oh,” Keith said quietly, “um yeah, I just, I didn’t know if I could keep coming back here. I mean, if you wanted me to.” His voice tapered off and he began fumbling with a seam on the edge of the blanket.
Lance looked at him in confusion. “Of course your coming here whenever we come back. My parents, well, they kinda decided you’re their kid? So I’m not sure they would really give you a choice.”
“Oh,” Keith breathed out, “OH”.
“Yeah,” Lance said with a smirk. “Hate to break it to you mullet man, but you now have a huge obnoxious family you can’t get rid of.” He puffed out his chest in pride, “and that includes me!”
“Oh,” Keith said again, unable to think of anything else to say.
Lance sunk slightly, Keith’s reactions slightly worrying him. “Is that okay?” He asked.
“Oh,” Keith said, for what felt like the thousandth time, as hot tears began to slide down his face. “Yeah, I guess it’s okay.”
Lance let out a relieved sigh before pulling Keith into him. Keith pushed the tears off his face hurriedly, before wrapping his arms around Lance’s neck. “I’m so happy,” he said softly, “I like…being with you.”
Lance laughed, before pulling Keith in even closer. “I would hope so,” he breathed into his neck, “or that would make this next part really awkward.”
Keith started to open his mouth to ask what he meant, but before he could Lance’s mouth was pressed against his, his tongue sliding across his bottom lip. Keith cupped his hands around Lance’s face and pushed himself further into him.
Lance worked his tongue deeper into Keith’s mouth, until Keith let out the small moan he had been trying to keep in.
“Wow,” Lance said, pulling away, “you really do like me.”
“Shut up!” Keith shoved Lance backwards, unable to keep the smile off his face.
Lance sat back up, looking at Keith happily. There was still a small pain in his chest, a lingering fear nestled next to all the happiness of the week. But it wasn’t as overwhelming as it had been only minutes ago.
“Come on,” Keith said, pushing himself off the bed and holding a hand out for Lance. “I promised Alex we would come right back. We’re missing the movie.”
Lance took his hand without hesitation and followed him back to the hastily made pillow fort.
“Finally,” Alex huffed once they reappeared.
“Aw don’t be like that,” Lance said, shoving himself on top of his sister and wrapping her in a hug, “you’re only pissy cause you missed me.”
“I know.” Alex said, more seriously than Lance was expecting. She followed it up with an indigent “ugh, get off!” before shoving him in Keith’s direction.
“Don’t give him to me!” Keith exclaimed, a sleepy Maria already curled up in his lap.
“Rude!” Lance practically screeched. “Luke, buddy,” he said quickly, “come cuddle with me. You’re the only one who appreciates me.”
“Okay!” Luke said happily, jumping into Lance’s lap.
“See, at least someone lo-“ before Lance could finish his sentence, Luke snatched a pillow from the side and whacked it into Lance’s face.
“Gottcha!” The younger boy exclaimed, face filled with mischief.
“No fair!” Lance cried, picking the pillow up and shoving it into Luke’s face, before catapulting it at Alex.
Alex immediately picked it back up and attempted to hit Lance, though she narrowly missed and ended up hitting Keith directly in the face.
“Hey!” Keith carefully maneuvered the now fast asleep Maria into one of his arms, and managed to pick a pillow up with his other. He turned back at Lance and started hitting him as hard as he could, “Your. Going. To. Wake. Her. Up. You. Jerkhead.”
“Jerkhead?” Lance asked, trying to wrestle the pillow out of Keith’s hand, “really?”
By the time Mama returned, the movie had been completely forgotten and the entire living room had been turned into a war zone.
“How was the movie?” Mama began, before turning the corner completely and seeing the mess. Keith now stood over a screeching Lance, who was holding tight to Alex’s ankles, who was trying to pull Luke out from where he was hiding under a pile of blankets.
“What is going on?” She demanded, and Keith instantly straightened up.
“Oh, um, sorry, we will clean all the up,” he started, looking back at the mess they had made. Suddenly, a flying pillow hit him right in the side of the face, and he glanced around confused trying to discern were it came from. Finally, his eyes got wide as he glance back at Mama, who was standing with a smirk on her face. “Yeah you will.” She said.
“Ha ha! You get him ma!” Lance laughed from the ground gleefully, until another pillow went flying from his mother’s directions and onto his face.
He muffled something angrily in Spanish before shoving the pillow off and springing up.
“Attacked in my own home,” he muttered, “despicable.”
Eventually the pillow fight ended, and Lance carried a passed-out Luke to bed. Keith did the same with Maria, then immediately fell asleep. Alex disappeared somewhere in the middle, and Lance tiredly helped his mom carry in groceries and tidy up, until she gently told him to get some sleep.
“Actually, Mama,” Lance said, grabbing her sleeve, “I wanted to tell you something.” He led her back into the living room, where they sat on the couch in between piles of pillows and folded blankets leftover from the movie night.
“What is it darling? You’re worrying me?” Mama asked, raising her hand and running it through Lance’s short hair.
“Keith and I…” Lance paused, not wanting to say the words out loud. “Remember how when we first came, I told you we wouldn’t be able to stay for long? There is still a lot of things to do, lots of life out there to help save, stuff like that. We, uh…”
Lance trailed off, watching the way his mother’s face fell.
“You and Keith are leaving, aren’t you?” She asked, hoping her son wouldn’t notice the tears pooling at the sides of her eyes.
“Tomorrow morning.” Lance said without making eye contact.
Mama nodded, unsuccessfully trying to stop the tears sliding down her face.
“Oh, Mama!” Lance pushed his face into her shoulder, wrapping his long arms around her body. “Lo siento,” he whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, mi hijo,” she whispered back, pulling her son tighter and tighter into her arms. “I should not wish to be so selfish. The universe needs you.”
She pulled back, holding a now-crying Lance at arm’s length. Looking him square in the eye, she continued, “I’m so, so proud of you. You are so giving, there is not a heart like yours in all the universe. I am so proud to call myself your mother.”
Lance fell back into her arms, hot tears falling onto her shirt. “I’ll come back, Mama,” he said horsely, “I promise I will.”
“I know,” Mama said, her voice brightening a little. “I know you will. This is your home, and it always will be.”
Lance stayed in his mothers arms for what seemed like hours, until both of them had finished crying. Mama wiped the drying tears from Lance’s face, smiling sadly. “Now I have two boys saving the universe. What more could a mother ask for?” After a moment her face grew serious, and she pulled Lance down to meet her eye level. “You make sure Keith comes back too, alright? I want both of you back her, safe and sound, with no crazy space wounds, you understand?”
Lance let out a surprised laughed. “He loves you a lot, you know?” He asked.
Mama stood up, her face now composed, hands resting on her hips. “As he should,” she declared, “I am his mother.” Lance couldn’t help but smile at that. He knew his mother would like Keith, but he hadn’t quite expected him to fit in as quickly and perfectly as he had.
“Though,” Mama continued thoughtfully, “not quite as much as he seems to love you.” She tilted an eyebrow suggestively at her son.
“Yeah, he’s pretty great- wait! No, how do you, I mean, I, what are saying-“
Mama laughed pulling Lance to his feet and wrapping him in yet another hug. “I approve.” She said lightly, her voice still teasing. “Though no going off and getting married in space. You’re getting married here, on earth, understand? I bet Keith would like a beach wedding.”
Lance’s face grew redder and redder, as he tried and failed to form words.
“I do like the beach,” a voice said, and a sleepy, disheveled looking Keith appeared from the doorway.
“Wh- how long- why are yo-“ Lance stuttered, clearly more tired then he looked.
Keith smirked. “I just came down to see where you were, you never came up.” He paused and his amused look faded. “I’m guessing Lance told you?” He asked, turning to Mama.
She didn’t answer, and instead pulled Keith into a tight hug. She released him after a moment, breathing in sharply. “You two need to get some sleep, I won’t have either one of you driving, or flying, or whatever it is you do with those robots, tired. Off to bed.” She ushered them through the doorway and up the stairs, after one last hug and a kiss goodnight.
Back in his own room, Lance collapsed on his bed. Keith immediately curled into him, the way he had for the past few nights. After a few moments, he hesitantly tapped Keith’s head.
“What?” Keith mumbled, not even bothering to open his eyes.
“I was thinking,” Lance started hesitantly, “and I realized, the castle has a lot more rooms than this house.”
“Duh,” Keith said, his words slurred with sleep, “why does that matter?”
“It doesn’t,” Lance admitted, “it just means, I mean, I guess,” he stopped to breathe in heavily, feeling the weight of Keith on his chest. “It just means,” he continued, “there won’t really be a reason for us to do…this.” He motioned vaguely between the two of them, wondering if Keith was catching his drift. Judging by his scrunched up confused face, he wasn’t.
“I mean,” Lance said quickly, “like being so close and whatever. Cause the castle is big. Like no more, um, sleepovers. Unless you want to. I guess I’m just asking if you want to. Maybe sometimes. If it’s okay.”
Keith’s confused look faded, and he looked almost relieved. “Are you asking if we can still cuddle in space?”
Lance’s face grew hot. “What, no! I mean, yes, but you don’t have to say it weird like that.”
Keith laughed into Lance’s neck. “I think we should do this all the time.” He stopped and quickly added, “I mean, if you want to, or whatever.”
Lance laughed, and flung his arms around Keith. “You like me!” He sang, shaking Keith back and forth.
“Obviously,” Keith groaned, trying to pull Lance’s arms off of him. “Will you let me go to sleep?”
“Fine, fine,” Lance grumbled, stopping his shaking but keeping his arms wrapped around Keith, who fell asleep tucking into Lance’s arms, smile on his face.
When he first left for the Garrison, Lance remembered the pain. It had been exciting, sure, but also painful. His entire family had been so proud-he had been somewhat disappointed, having only made cargo pilot class and not fighter. Still, only a very small number of people were admitted into the Garrison at all, and Lance’s family couldn’t have been more excited for him. It was an odd mixture of feelings; sadness, pride, anxiety, and deep affection.
The morning Lance and Keith left to join the rest of the team, all those feelings and more were felt again.
Lance stood on a large rock, close to where Blue and Red had been hidden. He could feel the warmth of his lion in the back of his mind, gently but excitedly urging him to come. Keith stood next to him, turned the other way. He was standing on his tip-toes, just barely able to make out the thin blue of the ocean.
It had been a hectic morning. His mom was known for over-feeding, and today had been no different. She had insisted on a large breakfast, and wasn’t satisfied until both Lance and Keith had gotten seconds and thirds. Luke had taken turns clinging to Lance and then Keith, always hanging on one of the boys’ arms or legs. Danny spent most of the morning pouting, though occasionally wrestling Luke for a leg to hold onto.
By the time they made their way out the door, Keith was certain he had never been hugged so much in his life. Clea had held onto him for a solid two minutes, only letting go so Terry and Hannah could have a turn. Riel had spent most of the morning crying, pretending he hadn’t cried, and then crying some more. He wrapped Lance and Keith up into a double hug, lifting them both off the ground. Maria clearly didn’t understand what was going on, but wanting to be a part she placed two chubby hands on Keiths face and planted a kiss on his nose, giggling before turning and doing the same to Lance.
The last thing Lance remembered before they left, was his Mama. She had pulled him into a tight hug, one that Lance had been reluctant to let go. He had buried his head in her hair, feeling her warmth. She had released him, only to place her hands on his cheeks. “I love you,” she had said, looking into his eyes. “Te amo,” Lance had whispered back. Then Mama had turned to Keith, and after placing her hands on his face said the same thing. Lance watched as Keith’s eyes grew wet and he said it back to her.
Lance pulled himself out of his thoughts, and back to the present. Keith had come to stand closer to him, and Lance wrapped his arm around the shorter boy.
“Ready to go?” Lance asked.
“Yeah,” Keith said. He paused for a moment before adding, “I uh, wanted to say thank you. I’ve never felt like I had a place to go. But this whole week, it was…it was almost like…”
“You always have a place to go,” Lance said, cutting him off, “this is your home now.”
Keith swallowed. “Thank you,” he managed to push out. After a second of silence he added, “We’ll come back soon, right?”
“Yeah,” Lance said, pressing a kiss to Keith’s lips, “we’ll be back soon.”