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Pidge and Hunk had been waiting weeks to make their grand announcement to the team, and from Lance’s reaction, it had clearly been worth it.

“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” he shouted, jumping out of his seat and sending a bowl of green goo flying to the ground.

Pidge smirked and nodded. They held out a small black device, this one completely black except for blue edges. “It took a lot of work,” they explained, “but it works similar to texting. You type a phone number and then write a message and it should go straight to that number.” They paused for a second before adding, “at least, it usually does.”

“It does take a long time to send,” Hunk said, apologetically, “like about a day to actually send and then over a week before the message reaches earth.”

“That’s incredible,” Shiro said, staring in awe at the small device Pidge handed him, this one edged with purple. “I can’t believe you two did this. I-I don’t even know what to say.”

Hunk shrugged while trying to hide his smile, while Pidge smirked.

“It wasn’t easy,” Pidge said, “it doesn’t use a network to send messages, but it uses a different form of energy so it can travel wherever. Coran said this sort of tech was pretty common back when he was on Altea. You can easily message someone else who has another one of these devices, but it’s harder when the person you are trying to contact only has a cell phone. The hard part was making them compatible.”

Finally, Lance couldn’t contain himself. “Well, give me one would you?” he exclaimed, reaching across the dining room table. Hunk tried to hide his amusement while handing Lance a device. Lance instantly turned it on, and started typing in all the numbers he could remember, while simultaneously beginning to walk back to his room. He only stopped to give both Pidge and Hunk a quick but tight hug, which Hunk returned happily while Pidge rolled their eyes but accepted.

Shiro left too, after thanking Pidge and Hunk about a thousand times. He seemed to have the same idea as Lance, which was to find a little privacy and start writing letters as soon as possible.

Keith shifted uncomfortably in his seat while staring at his unfinished bowl of green goo, trying desperately not to look at the device that had been placed next to him.

“We should probably go,” Pidge said, tugging on Hunk’s shirt. “We should work on those modifications for the castle’s defense system I told you about, I swear I can figure out a way to make-“

“Wait!” Keith said, a little louder than he had meant to. He finally looked down at his messaging device, and he picked it up carefully and held it out.

“This probably took a lot of work, and um, I don’t want to waste it, so, I, uh, think maybe you should take this one. That way you don’t have to make any more if you need another one.”

“Uh, you don’t want one?” Hunk asked, slightly hurt.

Keith’s cheeks flushed red. “I…do, it’s just, I don’t think, I mean I can’t use it.” He looked down in embarrassment. “I have no one on earth to message. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Pidge said quickly, “its not a big deal. But I think you should keep it. Just in case.”

Hunk nodded. “Yeah, no worries dude.” He smiled reassuringly.

“Um, thanks.” Keith said, slowly pocketing the device. 

Pidge had gotten impatient, was now pulling Hunk toward to door, with a surprising amount of strength. “See you later, Keith!” They said brightly, exiting the room, pulling Hunk behind them.

“Yeah, see you.” Keith said to an empty room.

 _________________________________________________

 

Lance was having a hard time remembering all the numbers he wanted to. He had almost everyone’s from his family memorized, but there was about a billion other people he wanted to brag about his space adventure to. Finally, he stopped trying to think, and simply typed in his mother’s number.

It was over an hour later that Lance finally emerged from his room. His message was now being sent, and he was glad neither Hunk or Pidge hadn’t mentioned a length limit. It had taken him a while to figure out how he should explain what had happened and apologize (even though it wasn’t really his fault, he still felt bad) that he hadn’t been in touch for so long. God, she must be so worried about me Lance had thought. Or maybe just sad. Everyone probably thinks I’m dead. That was a depressing thought, so Lance pushed it out of his mind. After that he tried to explain the whole Zarkon situation, but that was difficult too. He didn’t want his letter to fall into the depressing category, so he had quickly moved on. He figured before jumping into all his stories - which he definitely planned to do - he should introduce all of his team mates. Of course, his mom knew Hunk and he had mentioned Pidge in a letter he had sent while still at the Garrison. He rambled about Shiro for a bit (his mom already knew who he was since he had been Lance’s hero since before the Kerberos mission, but while he had been cool then, Lance felt he had become substantially more cool. Maybe it was the robotic arm or the streak of white hair, or maybe the fact that he was now the leader of a giant robot make up of lions that intended to save the universe, but whatever it was Lance figured his mom should hear about it). Explaining Allura and how she was a pretty pointed eared ailen who was technically 10,000 years old made Lance feel a little like he was writing a sci-fi, but he figured it didn’t matter because his life was now basically a sci-fi. Next was Keith.

Ah, how to describe Keith, his ultimate rival? Badass was the first thing that had popped into his head. Sarcastic, but with a smile that lit up the entire castle. Overprotective of his teammates, especially Shiro despite the fact that Shiro was several inches taller and weighed almost twice as much in pure muscle. Lance had to stop for a minute to think. What else about that odd mullet man? Keith was the only one who rivaled Pidge in saltiness, and that was an impressive feat. He went a bit crazy with the whole training thing, going longer and harder than anyone else. He also had really cool eyes, pretty eyes, Lance thought. Whoa nope, that sounds weird. Just cool. Mentioning his mullet seemed important as well, so Lance had jotted that down.

Picturing Keith’s mullet had led Lance to thinking about the way his raven locks brushed against his pale skin. The contrast was striking. Not as striking as that dude’s cheekbones, Lance thought, kid could probably cut metal with those things. Oh, and his lips- Lance stopped himself. He felt weird thinking about Keith like that. He wouldn’t ever admit to himself how often he found himself looking at Keith, because that would be weird. Nope, none of that.

Lance had ended up only mentioning Keith as briefly as he could, making sure to include his mullet and how stupid it was.

Now that his first message was being sent, Lance figured it was as good a time as in to get some training in. He strode casually to the training deck, coming to a halt when he saw Keith already inside.

The red paladin was vigorously defeating a training bot with a little more force than Lance thought necessary. Keith looked…pissed? No, that wasn’t the right word. Keith was always pissed at something. He looked more frustrated, bordering on upset.

Once the training bot collapsed Keith rolled his shoulders back in an attempt to relieve some tension.

“Nice,” Lance spoke suddenly, causing Keith to jump slightly, “but there are probably more humane ways to take out a bot.”

Keith swung around to glare at Lance. “So now you’re into criticizing my fighting style? Is there anything in this entire galaxy you don’t think you know more about?” He asked sharply.

Lance took a step back in surprise. Keith didn’t have his usual slight smirk or his grumpy-but-secretly-amused pout, instead his retort had been stern, almost mean. Lance recovered quickly, trying not to let the sting of Keith’s words show. “First of all, I don’t think I know more than you. I do. Big difference there buddy. And I wasn’t criticizing; I was commenting.”

Keith rolled his eyes and shoved past Lance, making his way into the hallway. Lance watched him storm away, almost feeling bad. But then he remembered it was Keith’s moodiness that made things difficult in the first place, so he stopped thinking about him all together and instead started a new training session, determined to take out the bot faster than Keith had. It was harder than usual for him to focus, and eventually he shut down the training session prematurely, too preoccupied with thoughts of his family.

Chapter Text

Excitement about the messaging devices died down over the next two weeks as the team faced multiple encounters with Galra inhabiting planets and attempting to enslave entire civilizations. However, one-by-one the paladins started receiving responses from family members, and soon that was the focus of most conversations.

Currently, Hunk and Lance were sitting at the dining room table, ignoring their dinner and instead hunched over Lance’s device, reading the response Lance’s mom had sent. Pidge was explaining to Coran how they were working on making the devices work quicker, while Allura listened, only semi-interested. Shiro was watching Lance from across the table, smiling at his growing enthusiasm.

Keith was glad to see everyone in a good mood, he always wanted them to be happy, but something about the entire situation made him feel a little sick.

“Hey, Keith!” Keith snapped his head up to see everyone staring at him. It took him a second to realize Shiro had been trying to ask him something.

“Huh?”

“I said,” Shiro repeated gently, “are you okay? You look a little out of it.”

Keith shrugged. “I’m fine. Just tired. Sorry.”

Shiro nodded but still looked at him worriedly. Before Shiro could try to get any more out of him, Keith stood up. “I’m gonna lay down for a bit, I’ll be fine.” Shiro started to say something but Keith already had his back turned and out the door.

A slight feeling of guilt washed over him as he turned into the hallway. Everyone was happy, that was good, right? He cared about the other four paladins more than anything else, and more than he would ever admit. All he wanted was for them to be safe and happy. So why did their joy make him feel like he was suffocating?

Keith passed his room and kept walking. He didn’t really feel like laying down, he was too wound up to rest. Luckily the castle has enough hallways he could probably wander around forever.

After a few minutes of walking, Keith reached the end of the hallway. Instead of turning, he sunk down into the corner. Placing his hands on his head, he let out a sigh. He was being dramatic, he thought. All of this was good. Messages could be sent to earth, which meant it was only a matter of time before they ended up going there, at least for a visit.

The thought of going back to earth made Keith stiffen. He wasn’t like the others; he didn’t like earth. He certainly wasn’t like Lance who loved earth. Lance, who dreamt about the crashing waves of the ocean and the salty smell of the wind. Keith thought he might have missed the beach, but he had never even been. Probably not, he thought, it’s just a bunch of sand and water. More than the ocean, or even the rain, Lance missed the warm hugs from his parents and the chaotic but happy noise from his siblings. 

Keith had already come to terms with the fact that he would probably never get any of those things, no matter how bad he wanted them. He had been through too many foster families and youth homes to count, and the majority had treated him as nothing more than a nuisance. Not that he blamed them. He figured that’s all he really was - a nuisance who was never really part of the family, just a temporary outsider.

He felt unwanted his whole life, until he met Shiro. Keith hadn’t expected anything out of him, but for whatever reason Shiro latched onto Keith, giving him his first sense of family, without Keith ever having to ask. And then he met the other paladins. They were a family of their own, Keith included. For the first time Keith felt like he belonged. Despite occasional bickering and some misunderstandings, they all seemed to really want Keith. 

Keith had almost forgotten that the others had families back on earth, real families. They would all go back one day, and Keith would be alone again. The thought stung. They were all he had, but he wasn’t all they had. The family Keith considered to be his actual family was only a stand in for the other paladins. Keith sunk lower into the wall. He hated how he felt. Guilty, needy, and alone.

___________________________________________________________

 

Back in the dining room, everyone was nearly finished with dinner and starting to clean up. Lance was still in his chair, knees pressed to his chin, re-reading his multiple messages.

“Hey,” Hunk said, placing a hand on Lance’s shoulder, “Shiro found some old Altean movies, wanna come watch with us?”

“Yeah, yeah, in a sec,” Lance said, without looking up. He had gotten bunches of letters back - from both his parents, all of his siblings, several aunts and uncles and a handful of cousins. He hadn’t written to all of them, but news spread fast in the McClain family. Even just reading their names on a screen made Lance’s stomach bubble in excitement.

Hunk rolled his eyes, but smiled anyways. Lance was happy.

“Fine, just meet us in the lounge when you can, but you better not miss too much or you won’t have any idea what’s going on.” Hunk paused. “Though to be fair,” he continued, “you probably won’t have any idea what’s going on anyways”. With that, Hunk strode out of the dining room, leaving Lance alone.

Since Allura wasn’t around, Lance slid his chair back and kicked his feet up unto the table. He wanted to get a head start on writing back, since the messages took so long to be delivered. He figured he would at least write and start sending one, then maybe work on the rest after watching movies.

Most of the letters Lance received had a certain air of sadness. Not on purpose, but just from sentences like, I miss you so much, we thought you were dead or I’m so happy you are alive, none of us could stop crying when we found out. There was a lot of pain behind the words, and Lance hated thinking of people he loved hurting because of him. It wasn’t really his fault, he knew that, but for the time being he though he could start with less painful letters, just for tonight.

The happiest and most casually optimistic letter was from his little brother, Luke.

Lance, LANCE! You are alive! Mom told me so! And then I read your letter! That is great news. I bet you didn’t know, since you are in space and stuff, but I am 8 now. I think flying robots are the coolest ever, and I’m glad you got the blue one since blue is your favorite. Is hunk happy? He told me he would give you some cookies to bring for me when you came home for break but then he went with you and lions and stuff so … it’s okay but I still want the cookies. I don’t think it’s fair that you get to live in a castle with a princess while I am stuck here in the dumb third grade. I bet the castle is more fun. Pidge sounds like fun because they like robots, and I like robots too. It’s nice that Shiro has a metal arm now, I bet he can whack aliens like crazy, right in their faces. Nice. I tried whacking Maria like that because we were playing aliens but I got in trouble. I liked the story you wrote about the Keith guy, I think he’s my favorite. He almost DIED but then he didn’t and now everyone is okay. It’s cool because he flies super fast and did you know that red is my favorite color and he likes red too which is nice. I miss you Lance, you should come back, like just for a little break from alien fighting. Okay?

Love, Luke

P.S. write me back and write more stories

P.P.S. can you please tell Keith to write me a letter too? Tell him to write me about cool space stuff.

Lance realized he may have gone a little overboard when describing his teammates to Luke. He had only briefly mentioned Keith in his other letters, on purpose. But he hadn't quite been thinking straight when he wrote to Luke. He was too excited to share with him all his adventures. He knew the kid well enough to know he would like space stories with epic alien battles. From Lance’s point of view, Keith did the coolest things which made for the best stories. Lance could think of a dozen other stories Luke would love, but he wasn’t sure telling Luke more about Keith was a good idea. He knew how it worked in his family, letters from friends or relatives were often shared over dinner. Too much writing about Keith might make someone get the wrong idea …

Lance blushed and set his messenger down. He needed to stop this gushing over Keith, it was unproductive and embarrassing. He had a much bigger problem. Lance would do absolutely anything his baby brother wanted, and that now apparently included asking Keith to write him a letter. Keith, who was cool and aloof. Keith, who was stronger than feelings of missing earth, and who was able to focus obsessively on a goal. Keith, who slept with a goddamn knife under his pillow in all his clothes so he would be ready for a fight at any moment. That was the person Lance was going to ask to write a letter to an overexcited 8 year old. This was going to go over well.

Chapter Text

 

“I feel like we all need to address the fact that I killed it out there,” Pidge said, after they returned to the castle from their latest mission. An entire planet was now free, though not without a few close calls.

“If by ‘it’ you mean yourself,” Shiro added, “then yes, you just about did.”

“Hey!” Pidge retorted, “I will have you know I was doing fine and could have taken out everyone in that control room without you interjecting.”

“Sure,” said Shiro, with an exaggerated eye roll. “I swear you guys are giving me even more white hair.”

Lance opened his mouth, presumably to make a smart remark, but Shiro shushed him. “Uh-uh,” he said, sounding exasperated. “I’m going to go have a snack, with Coran, and none of you are invited. I’m too old for this nonsense.”

“You’re only a few years older than me!” Lance started to say, but Shiro had already turned around and was walking away.

“Snack sounds like a good idea,” Pidge said, knowing full well Shiro wouldn’t mind if they joined.

“Yeah!” Hunk agreed. “I’ll meet you in there, I have to finish a letter to my mom first. She’s really worried about the whole ‘nothing but green space goo to eat’ situation we’ve got going on here.”

Keith raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Why?”

“You know,” Hunk explained, waving his hands around vaguely, “proper nutrition and stuff. I forgot to mention it has everything we need in it, so I get why she’s worried.”

“Yeah,” Lance said, “it has everything we need except A TOLERABLE TASTE!”

Keith shrugged at Lance’s dramatics. Space goo wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t anything worse he had experienced at the Garrison. Hunk, however, seemed to agree with Lance.

“True, my man, true. Well, I’ll probably see you guys later then. Oh and Keith? Maybe try getting something to eat with Shiro and Pidge before you go all crazy on the training deck.” Keith opened his mouth to object (though he had been planning on training for the rest of the evening), but Hunk had already disappeared down the hallway.

Lance stifled a giggle in Keith’s direction, not even attempting to hide his smirk. With an indigent huff, Keith turned to leave. Before he could, Lance grabbed his shoulder, forcing him to turn back around.

“What?” Keith asked, the question coming out more snappily than he had intended. He didn’t want Lance making fun of him for his obsessive training routine - it had only gotten worse as he was now using it as a distraction more than anything else. An escape from all the talk of earth and families and future plans he wasn’t a part of.

Lance loosened his grip, his broad grin shrinking slightly. “I uh, I was wondering, if uh,” he stammered, uncharacteristically speechless. “I just wanted to know if, uh, you could help me out with something? Like, um, only if you have time or whatever.”

Keith paused before answering. Was this one of Lance’s jokes? Surely Lance wouldn’t be asking him for help? But he did look genuinely anxious, the smile that usually made Keith’s insides warm was gone and he was instead biting his lip while rocking back and forth on his feet.

“Obviously,” Keith said, without thinking.

Lance’s face turned from anxious to confused. “Obviously what?”

“Obviously I’ll help you. Um, I mean, like if you need help. Because we’re like, on a team. And that’s what teammates do. Or whatever.”

Lance’s face brightened. “Sweet!”

Both Keith and Lance stood awkwardly in silence until Keith narrowed his eyes. “What?” he asked.

“What what?”

Keith sighed. “You said you wanted a favor. But it might help if you told me what the favor was.”

“Ohhhhhh,” said Lance slowly, “yeah.” He took a deep breath. “This is going to sound like, super weird, but you just gotta go with me on this one, okay?”

Keith gave a small nod for Lance to continue, but he was already worried.

“So backstory,” Lance began, “I was writing home, and I mentioned you in a letter-“

“You wrote home about me?” Keith interrupted, a self-satisfied smirk growing on his face.

“No!” Lance exclaimed. “Well, I mean, I did, but I did that for everyone on the team. I thought is was important my family know things, like how cool Shiro is and how dumb you and your mullet are.”

“Riiiiight,” Keith said, his smile growing wider. “Go on.”

Lance huffed. “So I was wrote home and I VERY BRIEFLY mentioned you and that one time you took out half a Galra fleet by yourself because you were too impatient to freaking wait for backup.”

“I didn’t need ba-“

“Not the point. Anyways, while any rational human being would see that was stupid, I guess kids are different. And now my little brother thinks you are, like, cool or something.”

The idea of some random kid thinking he was cool was almost too much for Keith. His smile was so big it looked like it might split his face. “Really?”

Lance’s first instinct was to say something back about how he was still the cooler one, but the bigger Keith’s smile grew the more Lance realized he would do just about anything to keep it there. Keith had been even more moody than usual lately, so his response was unexpected.

“Yeah, he does.” Lance spoke softer, somewhat surprised at how happy this whole thing made Keith. Keith was now staring eagerly at Lance, hanging onto his every word. “Anyways,” Lance said, “he asked me if maybe you would write to him?”

Keith’s smile dropped briefly as whipped his head around, like he was expecting Lance to be talking to someone behind him. Finally he turned back to Lance, a stunned look on his face.

“Me?” Keith asked, raising a finger to point at himself. “As in, me me?”

Lance rolled his eyes. “No, asshole,” he said, “the other Keith with a mullet who pilots the other red lion. Yes you.”

Keith lower his hand and gazed down at the ground. He ran a hand absent-mindedly through his hair. “Um, yeah,” he said, hoping Lance wouldn’t notice how shaky he voice had just gotten. “I guess I could.”

“Cool, cool.” Lance said, suddenly relieved that Keith had said yes. “Just like, remember the kid is only 8. So don’t go crazy on your war stories.”

Keith sighed. He started to think of something smart to say back, then realized he had a problem. He had no idea what 8 year olds were like. He hadn’t seen a kid in what seemed like forever.

“So…he’s in like…Kindergarten?” Keith asked, trying and failing to remember how old he had been when he started school. Everything from his past was blurry, this detail included.

“No, dumb-dumb, he’s in 3rd grade. He’s 8.”

“Oh,” said Keith.

The conversation seemingly over, Keith turned again to walk away. Before he could, Lance blurted out “Luke".

Keith stopped in confusion. “What?” He asked, turning back around.

“My brother,” Lance clarified. “His name is Luke.”

“Luke.” Keith repeated. “Okay.”

 

___________________________________________________

 

Most of the team was enjoying their free time around the castle, but Keith was not. He was sitting cross-legged on his bed, busy banging his head into the wall in front of him.

Three days! He thought. I’ve had three days and I still can’t think of ANYTHING. Letter writing was harder than he had imagined. Why am I even doing this? Keith wondered, right before remembering how Lance had asked him, stutteringly nervous and anxiously waiting for Keith’s answer.

Keith honestly would have done anything Lance needed, though not without a fair bit of sarcasm. If this was important to Lance, Keith would do it. Besides, wasn’t that what friends did? They helped each other with things? Keith desperately wanted Lance to think of him as a friend - Keith considered Lance a friend. But he caught himself wondering why Lance didn’t think of his as a friend friend. He knew Lance at least tolerated him, but if he was honest he wanted Lance to treat him like he did Pidge or Hunk. Making inside jokes or casually giving encouragement or sometimes fist-bumping or hugging … definitely hugging. Not that he wanted to be hugged all the time, but just like, a friend hug. From Lance. A hug from Lance but just as a friend.

Keith shook his head, bringing himself back to reality. No matter what he did, he wasn’t Hunk. He couldn’t just smile all the time or be endlessly patient or radiate warmth. Those were the kind of people Lance liked. They were rare, and Keith simply wasn’t one of them. But writing a letter to Luke was a nice thing to do, a favor even, maybe enough to make Lance think he was something besides bitter. Of course, there was the possibility that Keith would mess everything up and Lance and his little brother would hate him…

Frustrated, Keith threw the device to the other end of his bed and stormed out of his room. This wasn’t working. Maybe if he was a nicer person, he would know what to say. Or if he was funny like Lance. He bet anyone else on the team would know what to say to make a kid happy. Anyone else but him.

He walked into the lounge room and slammed himself onto on of the soft chairs. Across from him Shiro was sprawled out over a long couch, flipping through an Altean book.

“You okay there?” Shiro asked, without looking up.

“Shiro,” Keith asked slowly, avoiding eye contact, “do you think I am a good person?”

Shiro glanced up worriedly. “Keith, you’re one of my favorite people ever.” He set his book on the ground and sat up.

“I know,” Keith sighed, “you tell me that all the time. But am I … good?”

Keith raised his eyes to see Shiro gazing thoughtfully at the ceiling, head crooked. “Well, let me think,” he said, after a brief pause. “You were the only person who kept looking for me after Iverson announced I was dead. You got kicked out the Garrison because you cared more about finding me than following the rules. You heard the blue lion and are the reason we found her and formed Voltron. You run headfirst into trouble if it means you can help any creature in the galaxy - despite the fact that for the majority of your life no one was there to help you. During the trials you were willing to give up finding out who you were, the only thing you have wanted since I met you, in order to protect me. When Allura rejected you, after everything you had done and sacrificed, instead of being angry you understood and forgave her.” Shiro took a deep breath. “I could go on, Keith,” he continued, “but yeah, I’d say you’re a pretty good person.”

Keith bit his lip. If it was anyone else besides Shiro, he wouldn’t have believed them. But Shiro was nothing if not sincere, and Keith knew he meant every word.

“What is this about, really?” Shiro asked, leaning towards Keith. This seemed like an unusual topic for conversation, but it had clearly been bothering Keith for a while.

Keith shrugged. “Nothing.” After a brief moment of Shiro’s silent but intense staring, he reconsidered. Lying clearly wasn’t going to work in this situation. “I just … want to get better. At, you know, people stuff.” He shrugged again, this time softer. “But I don’t know if I can. Some people are just better people I guess and make more people happy. It doesn’t matter. Forget I said anything.”

“True,” Shiro said, ignoring Keith's request, “there are people who are just really good people. Everyone can be one of these people. You already are.”

Keith shook his head. “No, that’s not what I mean-“

“I know what you mean,” Shiro said, “but you’re confusing loudness with goodness.” He leaned back into the couch, eyes fixed on Keith. “Some people are louder about the good they do. And that’s okay, it comes naturally to them. They make loud jokes or smile really big. Other people do just as much good, sometimes it's just a little quieter. So sometimes the good the quiet ones do isn’t heard by everyone. But that doesn’t mean they don’t make a difference.”

“What if,” Keith asked, “I really need to do something just a little louder. I just have to, well, uh, talk to someone. But I don’t know if I can. What am I supposed to say if I’m not good at talking?”

Shiro smiled. “Just say whatever you would want someone to say to you.”

Instantly Keith thought of himself as a kid. He hardly remembered anything from his childhood, but what he did remember wasn’t entirely pleasant. He remembered feeling alone. He was too quiet to make friends, but too impulsive for adults to think he was a good kid. He spent a lot of time thinking about what would make him matter to other people. The one thing he would have wanted someone to do, was make him feel important.

“Thanks, Shiro,” Keith said, heading out of the room before he got a reply. He started straight for his room, feeling much more relaxed. Whatever he wrote to Luke didn’t really matter, as long as the kid felt important after reading it.

 

Chapter Text

Lance had been training for what felt like hours, but was probably only minutes. It was just one of those days; he couldn’t focus but also couldn’t relax. There wasn’t a real reason he felt like this, it just happened. It seemed like lately it was happening more and more often. His anxiety was overwhelming and he knew if he didn’t get it under control, he would probably end up getting himself killed in battle … or getting one of his teammates killed.

The thought was too much. Lance ended the training session and plopped himself on the ground, in the middle of the room. He was covered in sweat and the room felt hot, making it difficult to breathe easily. Suddenly the door whipped open and cool air came rushing in. Startled, Lance turned to see Keith leisurely striding in, casually gazing in his direction.

Of all the people to find him randomly sitting in the middle of the training deck, it had to be Keith. Keith who probably already thought he was lazy and didn’t try hard enough. Lance figured he had probably come to add more hours to his already overflowing log of practice time.

“I’ll get up in a second,” Lance said, trying to avoid eye contact, “I was just leaving.”

Instead of saying anything, Keith just sat down, directly across from Lance. He wore a crooked smile and was looking at Lance sheepishly.

“You know there are rooms with couches,” Keith said, after a moment of silence.

“Don’t judge my resting habits,” Lance replied, somewhat confused at Keith’s attitude.

“Not judging,” Keith said, still smiling.

“I was just about to go anyways, so you can train if you want,” Lance said, beginning to stand.

“Actually,” Keith said, reaching up and pulling Lance back down, “I was looking for you.”

“Ohhhh really?” Lance asked, not failing to drag his words out suggestively.

“Why do you have to make everything weird?” Keith asked, stretching his arms out behind him. “I just have to ask you something, it’s uh, about the thing you asked me to do the other day.”

“You didn’t do it already?” Lance’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “It’s not that hard. Just write hi and say something about cool space lions.”

“I just think its weird,” Keith said, “writing to a person I’ve never even seen before.”

Ah, thought Lance. Here it was. Keith was about to tell him how dumb this whole letter writing thing was. That maybe Lance should focus on their missions, instead of distracting himself and other teammates with him homesickness.

Lance tried to seem uncaring as he shrugged his shoulders like it wasn’t a big deal to him. “You don’t have to -“ he started to say, but Keith wasn’t finished.

“Do you have a picture?” Keith asked, breaking eye contact to look at the ground. He sat up straight and folded his arms. He looked … almost embarrassed? Was it possible? The impenetrable Keith Kogagne, embarrassed?

Lance didn’t realize he still hadn’t responded to the question, when Keith quickly tried to fill the awkward silence.

“I mean, um,” he stuttered, “you don’t have, I uh, don’t what you think I’m like invading your personal life, it’s fine, I get it -“

“Yes!” Lance just about screeched, snapping out of his stupor. He scooted around until he could reach into his back pocket and pull out a faded wallet, the one he had used since his first day at the Garrison.

“I used to have a TON of pictures hanging on my dorm room wall, but I’m glad I kept a couple in here,” Lance rambled, pulling out a few well-worn pictures. He shifted through them until he found what he was looking for.

“Here,” he said, shoving it into Keith’s hand.

It was a small sized photo, but it had an incredible amount of people in it.

“These are all your family?” Keith asked, shocked.

“Yup!” Lance said proudly. He started rattling off names, pointing out each sibling, aunt, uncle, and grandparent. “And there,” he said finally, pointing to a small boy who was standing, with his arm’s wrapped around Lance’s legs, “is Luke”.

Keith smiled. Lance looked so happy in the picture, surrounded by so many people he almost looked like he was being squished. Keith couldn’t imagine having a family like this and then being forced millions of miles away. The thought hurt, and he understood how homesick Lance must be.

“Wait,” Lance said, swiping the picture out of Keith’s hand, “I have a better one of him!”

He again shuffled through the small photos in his hands, before finding what he was looking for.

The minute Keith saw the picture he broke out in laughter. Real, genuine laughter that made it impossible for Lance not to laugh as well. The picture featured Lance, draped dramatically on a couch, his mouth open and face twisted in mock pain. Over him, stood a small boy with wild hair that Keith recognized as Luke. Luke wore a red towel tied around his neck as a cape, and held a lightsaber with both hands, pointing it right at Lance’s heart.

When Keith finally calmed his laughter, he smirked up at Lance. “Defeated by a 8 year old, huh?”

“Uh, he was actually 6 in that picture,” Lance said, before quickly adding “but he’s more dangerous than he looks!”

Keith raised and eyebrow.

“It’s true!” Lance exclaimed, “he never even follows the ‘no hitting in the face’ rule!”

“Ah,” Keith said with a nod, “he sounds like quite the threat.”

“Yup!” Lance said, now smiling wider than Keith had even seen him before. “But he’s just so cute. He doesn’t like brushing his hair, so it sticks up everywhere. And he is really so sweet, he says he doesn’t like Maria but he plays with her all the time and gets angry if anyone else is ever mean to her.”

“Who’s Maria?”

“Oh,” Lance said, pulling back out the first picture he had shown Keith. “She’s my youngest sister.” He pointed to a small girl with big eyes who was being held by the woman Lance’s had pointed out as his mother.

Keith couldn’t help but notice how much Lance’s demeanor had changed. Lance always seemed so confidant and sure, it just now hit Keith that all of the jokes and bravado might just be a wall. Now, the wall had started to come down. There was no competitiveness in him as he continued describing his littlest sister to Keith, just excitement flashing through his eyes. 

Keith had only meant to ask Lance what Luke looked like, so he could picture him while he wrote (he figured it would make things easier). Lance seemed like the kind of person to keep pictures with him, so it should have only taken a minute to show a quick photograph.

Instead, Keith found himself still on the training deck floor almost an hour later. Sometime during the conversation, Keith had shifted onto his stomach, propped up by his arms, next to Lance who was doing the same. The pictures from Lance’s wallet were now spread out in front of them, and Keith now knew the people in each one.

“…but then,” Lance was saying, “I tripped and the whole thing went flying and shattered everywhere. She was sooooooo mad! But I mean, it awful looking anyways. I thought it looked better in the trash.”

Keith let out a laugh. Lance had been telling stories from before the Garrison, and Keith loved it. He had never noticed just how funny Lance was. Lance’s jokes were usually directed at other people like Hunk, while his insults usually hurled right at Keith, making him find them more annoying than anything. But this was different. This time Lance was so real. He was so happy.

Suddenly, Lance stopped. His voice had been getting louder and louder as he got more into each story he told, but he quickly softened it. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I got kind of carried away. I didn’t mean to bore you or anything.”

Keith set down one of the pictures he had been looking at and glanced at Lance. “No,” he said, “you weren’t boring me. I … I like it. I mean them. Your family. I like them.”

Lance smiled. “Yeah,” he said, “I like them too.” He starting picking of the pictures and stacking them neatly in his hands. “You know, when we get back to earth, you can come meet them. It would be fun.”

Of all the things Lance could have said, Keith wasn’t expecting that. He couldn’t help but think maybe Lance was just saying it to be nice. But Lance was looking at him with such eagerness, a huge grin plastered on his face.

“Okay,” Keith said softly. He tried not to seem too excited at the thought, after all, they probably wouldn’t be stopping by earth anytime soon. But even the suggestion meant that Lance wanted Keith with him, even when he didn’t need Keith as a fellow member of Voltron. Not as a teammate, but as a friend.

Keith glanced over at Lance, who had started shoving the pictures back into his wallet. He looked immensely focused as he jammed them in, sticking his tongue out slightly as he tried to push them in without wrinkling any.

“I should go,” Keith said, standing quickly. Being so close to Lance was making him feel funny. He could feel the blood rush to his face as he started to blush, so he turned and hastily began walking out of room.

“Where you goin’?” Lance asked, twisting around with a disappointed look on his face.

“I have a letter to write,” Keith said simply, and although he didn’t turn around, Lance could hear the smile in his voice.

 

_____________________________________________________

 

Dear Luke,

Lance told me all about you. He says you are the best at lightsaber fights. That means you would probably be the best paladin ever. I’m the Red Paladin, so I fly the red lion. She goes super fast and can breathe fire. She’s the best lion ever (don’t tell Lance I said that, he thinks Blue is better…he’s wrong). When I come back to earth I can fly you around in her, if you want. I go on lots of space adventures, I get to visit tons of different planets and fight all sorts of bad guys. Do you go on any adventures on earth? Third grade is probably a really great adventure, I bet you meet lots of cool people in your class. And there are always kids that need help. Make sure you invite kids who sit alone to sit with you, or ask them if they want to play with you at recess. Doing that makes you a paladin of third grade. I bet you’re the best paladin in your whole school! Well, I better get going. Shiro promised he would teach me some cool combat moves before dinner. I’m trying to get as good at fighting as him, but it’s hard because he has a robot arm that glows purple and can hit really hard. It’s pretty cool. Later we are going to do some space exploring, I will tell you all about it when we are done. Take good care of Maria, okay? She’s lucky to have such a good big brother like you.

Talk to you later buddy,

Keith

Chapter Text

“GUESS WHAT?!” Keith announced in an unusually loud voice, striding into the dining hall for breakfast.

“What?” Shiro asked, too tired to feign interest. The team had spent the past few days dismantling Galra colonies on a series of small nearby planets. It was supposed to be an easy mission, but the Galra presence had been larger than anticipated. No one had gotten more than a few hours of sleep in the past few days, and although he was trying to keep it together, Shiro could swear the room was slightly spinning.

“Not you,” Keith said, dismissing Shiro with a wave of his hand. Seeming almost relieved, Shiro turned back to staring absentmindedly staring at his space goo. “Him,” Keith clarified, pointing at Lance before sitting down next to him.

“First of all,” Lance said, waving a spoon in Keith’s face, “you’re way too chipper for this time in the morning. It’s freaking me out. Second of all…” Lance trailed off, staring behind Keith as his eyes slowly began to close.

“Hey!” Keith snapped, clapping his hands in front of Lance’s face to get his attention. “You can go to sleep in a minute. I just came here to let you know that I am officially the best paladin in Voltron. Okay, now you can go to sleep.”

“That’s nice,” Hunk said from across the table, leaning his head into his arms sleepily.

“Oh, okay,” said Lance. Then, after a moment, he jerked his head to look at Keith.

“Wait a minute! Says who? We’ve already been over this, I’M THE BEST PALADIN. You can’t get away with saying stuff like this just because I’m tired and probably going to die from sleep deprivation. You don’t even have proof.”

With a smirk Keith reached into his pocket and flung his messaging device at Lance, who barley managed to catch it.

Lance scanned the message the screen was already on, his jaw dropping further with every sentence. Luke had written Keith back, and Keith had specifically zoomed into the part that said, “You’re the best paladin. Don’t tell Lance.” Keith specifically neglected to tell Lance that the next few sentences had been about how Lance was still his favorite person ever. Keith figured it was irrelevant.

“He’s a liar!” Lance screeched, flinging the device back at Keith.

“You’re brother?” Keith gasped, putting his hand over his chest in mock horror. “Your sweet, innocent brother? Doubt it.”

Lance rolled his eyes. “You have NO idea. Also, since when does he get the ultimate say in whose the best?”

“Maria agrees. Sorry, you’re outnumbered.”

“MARIA WROTE TO YOU TOO??” Lance sprung out of his chair, now fully awake.

“Sort of,” Keith admitted, “it was more like half formed sentences that Alex wrote and sent for her.”

“Oh, so you think you can also get Alex on your side?”

“Maybe,” Keith said thoughtfully. “Though it doesn’t sound like she really cares about picking sides. Mostly she wanted to know if Shiro is still as good looking as his old Garrison pictures.”

“I am,” Shiro said tiredly, making a vague effort to wave in Keith’s direction.

“Whatever,” Lance said. “We need a neutral judge. Not some kids who can be easily persuaded.” Lance grabbed Keith by his jacket collar, and began dragging him out of the room.

“Stop it,” Keith said grumpily, though made no effort to break away from Lance’s grip. “Where are we even going?”

“We are going to write to someone who knows what’s really up. My abuela.”

Lance and Keith disappeared down the hall, sounds of muffled bickering still echoing through the dining room.

After a short second of quiet, Pidge piped up from the end of the table. “Aren’t you glad we spent so long on those messaging systems,” they asked Hunk, “so Lance and Keith have even more things to argue about?”

Hunk sighed. “We probably should have expected it, it is sort of their thing.”

“Yeah,” Shiro said slowly, eyeing the doorways with a small, sleepy grin “I guess it is.”

 

_______________________________________

 

Later that day, after everyone had gotten in a few hours of sleep, the team stood on the observation deck, staring at the virtual map of planets Allura was motioning to.

“It will be easy,” she said, pointing to a planet fairly close to the castle’s current location.

“I don’t get it,” Hunk said, “if the Galra base is abandoned, what’s the point?” 

“We are ending the Galra empire once and for all,” Allura clarified, her tone becoming more authoritative. “While reports show it is abandoned, we need to be absolutely certain. Besides, any information we can gather from the data center may end up being useful. All I need is for someone to fly in, confirm its abandoned, and gather any information that was left behind.” Allura stood with her hands on her hips. “It’s not difficult, and it is our responsibility to make sure every planet previous under Zarkon’s control is freed.”

“I agreed,” said Shiro, stepping forward. He turned to face the rest of the team. “Pidge and Hunk,” he said, “you’ll stay in the castle. If any information is found I want you to be ready to decode it.” Both Pidge and Hunk nodded. “Keith,” Shiro continued, “you and Lance take your lions and do a sweep of the base before looking for intel. I’ll stay here with Allura and we’ll continue mapping out a route of planets to visit in the future. You shouldn’t have any problems, but we will all be close in case you need backup.”

“Sure,” said Keith, nodding his head. “But doesn’t this sort of seem like a one person job?”

“Yeah,” Lance filled in, “only one of us needs to go down there, pop in, pop out, boom! Another planet rescued.”

“Well, yeah,” Shrio said slowly, “but I would rather two of you go, just to be safe.” He raised an eyebrow, “Besides, its not like either of you have anything better to do.”

Lance couldn’t argue with that. He had been planning on spending the rest of the day playing frisbee with Hunk’s cookies. Keith however, looked slightly offended.

“I was going to train. This is going to be a waste of time.”

“Maybe,” Shiro said, before adding with a smile, “but you should still try and enjoy yourself.”

 

_____________________________________

 

A few short hours later, Lance and Keith were in their lions making their way to the surface of an unknown planet. The bickering had already begun.

“I know you’re all pissy-poo because you didn’t get to spend the whole day in the training deck. But this is real life, try and enjoy it, Keith.” Lance didn’t have to see Keith’s face to know he was rolling his eyes. “Besides,” Lance continued, “aren’t you the one who likes any adventure that’s even possibly dangerous? This should be fun for you.”

“Well, it’s not,” Keith huffed. “I need to train. I can’t fall behind.”

Now it was Lance’s turn to roll his eyes. “You realize we have basically defeat the Galra empire, right? All we have left are some wimpy colonies to take out. Besides, you’re already the best combat fighter besides Shiro. Why miss out on all the cool stuff just to train at this point?”

Keith tensed. “I just need to, okay? There are still planets out there that need Voltron. I should be training, this is just stupid.” Keith pulled back on his controls as Red landed, Lance following suit.

“Whatever, Mullet.” Lance had been trying to figure out Keith’s aversion to doing anything remotely fun, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. Apparently spending an afternoon alone with Lance was torture to Keith, who would rather spend his life alone with only a training bot for company.

The planet they had just landed on looked abandoned from an intelligible species standpoint. There were several large Galra structures, all nearly completely covered with thick green vines and bright orange leaves. Neon blue and pink flowers stuck out of the grass covered ground, gently blowing in the wind.

“Dude, this place is awesome!” Lance exclaimed as he climbed out of Blue. The minute he was on the ground he bent down to pick a handful of flowers.

“I guess,” Keith said, appearing next to him.

Lance sighed. “You know, its okay to enjoy things sometimes. Here.” Lance bent to the ground and picked a tiny purple flower. He held it out to Keith with a flourish. Keith took it, careful not to crush the petals. He waited for Lance to make a joke or explain why he was handing him random plants, but Lance simply went back to examining the rest of the forest.

“It’s kinda cool,” Lance said, “like a neon jungle. You know, we should put some plants in the castle. Spruce it up a little.”

He started wandering to the first Galra building, not noticing Keith beside him, quietly examining the flower in his hand.

The base was clearly deserted, Lance and Keith didn’t even bother trying to find the front entrance. They simply walked through a large hole in the side, kicking pieces of rubble out of their way.

Lance couldn’t help but think how odd it was, walking through a Glara structure that wasn’t kept perfectly in shape. The floors were cracked and hard to walk on, and the walls either dirty or half torn down. Although a mess, the building structure was familiar, and it made Lance tense up. He almost expected to run into patrolling centuries every time they turned a corner.

“Dude, what was that?” Lance swore he heard something behind him, or maybe it was in front. Every sound seemed to echo before being lost in the rubble.

“The luxurious sounds of nature, which you so clearly enjoy. Come on, the center is up ahead,” Keith said, not even trying to conceal his sarcasm.

“No serious,” Lance replied, “I think there’s something in here with us.”

“Yeah, probably bugs,” Keith retorted. He pushed his way ahead, ignoring Lance’s worry.

“How many bugs do you know that have white, glowing eyes?”

Keith turned around sharply, to see Lance pointing to a distant, dark corner. Squinting his eyes he walked forward, trying to get a better look. Sure enough, there was set of large, pure white eyes staring in their direction.

Pulling out his bayard, just in case, Keith started to creep closer.

“Dude!” Lance whispered urgently, pulling Keith backwards by the armor. “You can’t just approach random wild things with weapons drawn!”

Keith sighed, “Then how would you prefer we go about this?”

Lance shrugged, lowering his voice even further, “Maybe we don’t have to do anything. Maybe it just likes to watch us. That’s fine. Let’s just go.”

A low growl emerged from the corner, and the white started to move closer.

“Um, don’t think that’s an option.” Keith said. He held his sword in front of him, but stayed close to Lance’s side. Slowly, the creature crept forward out of the shadows, revealing itself in the light. The moment it did, Lance erupted laughter.

“Ha ha ha!” Lance laughed. “It’s a pig!”

Suddenly, the creature stood on its hind legs, becoming twice the height of the paladins. With a snarl it reached its arms out, and Keith noticed it didn’t have hooves.

“It’s a pig with claws! It’s a pig with claws!” Lance screeched, his laughter fading as the situation became much less funny than it had been only moments ago.

Keith eyed the odd boar-like creature, taking in its multiple horns and enormous stature. “I think we can handle a weird ass pig,” he said dryly.

“Um question,” Lance replied, “how many do you think we can handle?”

Keith furrowed his brow and noticed Lance had turned was looking behind him. He flung around to see multiple sets of glowing white eyes shining in the darkness. Without warning, one of them lunged forward at Lance, who barely had enough time to dive out of the way. It turned furiously towards Keith, who was only now beginning to admit this could be a problem. Just before the creature swiped at Keith, Lance had his weapon out and was firing. While his multiple shots elicited a few howls, it did nothing more.

Keith clung tightly to his sword and slashed at the monster, but the blade simply glistened off its skin. “Shit.”

“These things are like, indestructible!” Lance panted, now shooting randomly in all directions as the hoard of creatures formed a small circle, leaving the paladins standing back-to-back, completely surrounded.

Suddenly, in between the sound of Lance’s fervent blasts, one of the creatures let out a high pitched wail and fell to the ground. It writhed in pain, not dead but clearly immobilized.

“HA!” Lance exclaimed, “gottcha!” He steadied his shooting and two beasts fell down. “Get their eyes Keith! It takes them out!”

Keith nodded, ignoring the fact Lance wasn’t even looking in his direction. With a heavy pant he focused his energy on the set of eyes in front of him, running a few short steps before attempting to leap and thrust his sword. He had, however, overestimated his own height. He didn’t reach as far as he thought he would, having to shove his weapon upward to make up the difference. The blade reached the creatures eye, but not before it swept Keith out of the air with a massive claw. The creature went down; so did Keith.

“Got them all!” Lance cried happily over the noise, turning proudly to find Keith. “I mean, I got most but I guess you kinda helpe-“ he stopped mid sentence when he saw Keith. Laying on the ground, the red paladin was now significantly more red. The front of his armor had been broken open, and deep claw marks covered his bloody chest. His breathing was hitched and all he could see was streaks of blurry white and blue hovering over him, before he heard a familiar voice scream, “Shiro! Backup! Backup now!”

Chapter Text

Back at the castle, the team stood in the medical bay. Allura stood in front of Keith’s healing pod, facing the paladins. There was an eerie silence as everyone waited to hear the verdict. Lance hated it, wishing someone would just tell him. Maybe if he knew, he could do something to fix it. There had to be something, they were on a freaking flying castle in the middle of space.

“His injuries aren’t too severe,” Allura explained. “He’s had much, much worse.”

“That’s not saying much,” Lance practically shouted, “it is KEITH we’re talking about here.”

Allura fixed him with a stern glare. “He’ll be fine, is what I’m saying. Two days in a healing pod will be more than sufficient.

“That seems like a long time, if his injuries aren’t really that bad,” Pidge countered.

Lance nodded in agreement.

“It is,” Allura clarified, “but given that it was an unknown wild animal that attacked him, the pod will need extra time to not only heal his wounds but also make sure he doesn’t have any sort of infection and clear and foreign bacteria from his system.”

“Whatever,” Lance grumbled. The rest of the team seemed to be taking Keith’s injury well. It made sense, given that out of all of them Keith seemed to get hurt the most. Allura was confidant it wasn’t anything serious, and Coran agreed. Shiro seemed slightly on edge, but he always was whenever anyone of the team needed a healing pod. He was continually tapping his left hand against his right metal arm, making a slight ping sound that was driving Lance insane. But other than that he was he usual, composed self. Pidge and Hunk had both been worried, but visibly relaxed at Allura’s reassurance.   

Maybe it was because none of them had seen Keith go down. After Lance had called for backup, he had pulled Keith into his arms and carried him as far as he could, out of the crumbling building and back through what seemed like acres of long grass and flowers until the Black Lion came flying into sight. Shiro had grabbed Keith out of Lance’s arm and flew him hastily back to the castle, leaving Lance standing alone, covered in Keith’s blood. The bright flowers had stopped looking so incredible, instead they seemed to lose all beauty and began remind Lance of neon-signs hung outside sketchy establishments. Though meant to be welcoming they felt more unsettling than anything.

He had stayed standing in the middle of the field for longer than necessary. His entire body felt weak and his stomach felt sick, like a snake curling around his insides. The planet was an unexplored wonder, and yet he hadn’t been able to get himself to see anything besides Keith’s limp body, face twisted in pain, letting go of consciousness. It was all he could see no matter where he looked. Hunk eventually came to find Lance, helping him back to Blue while unsuccessfully trying to distract him with conversation.

Maybe that was why none of the other paladins seemed as panicked. Concerned, yes. They all cared about Keith. But everyone seemed to be more relieved than anything - relieved that Keith would be fine in a few days and that nothing worse had happened. Except for Lance.

“Maybe you should do another check,” he said, turning to Coran, “just to make sure you didn’t miss anything”.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to stop the healing process now, besides, if I did underestimate his injuries, the healing pods will still pick up whatever I missed.” Coran said, in a gentle tone.

“How do we even know the healing pods will work right? The castle is, like, a billion years old. What if it makes things worse?” Lance asked, voice raised.

“Lance,” Shiro said slowly, folding his arms, “we use the pods all the time. We haven’t ever had problems with them. Why is this a concern now?”

Lance shrugged. “I dunno…I was just…checking.”

Shiro sighed, uncrossing his arms and stepping closer to Lance. “I’m worried too. I hate seeing him hurt. But I promise, if there was anything else I could do for him, I would.”

Lance nodded. “I know. Sorry.”

“It will be okay, just give it some time,” Shiro said. “How about we all go get some food? It’s been a long day.”

Hunk nodded in agreement, before leading the way out of the medical bay. Allura, Coran, and Shiro followed closely.

“You coming?” Pidge asked Lance, lingering behind.

“Not hungry,” Lance said. “Maybe in a little bit. I just want to stay here, for like a couple minutes.” Pidge gave him a small, sympathetic smile before darting out to catch up with everyone else.

  Despite having just gotten back from a mission, Lance wasn’t lying when he said he wasn’t hungry. He still felt sick. He plopped himself down in front of Keith’s pod, purposely avoiding looking at the boy inside.

“This is stupid,” he muttered to himself. “Keith’s fine. I should go.” He stayed sitting, realizing he didn’t have it in him to even try and leave. “I’ll stay for 2 more minutes. To make sure nothing is wrong with the pod. Just in case.”

 

______________________________________________

 

3 hours later, Coran passed by the medical bay, stopping in surprise when he saw Lance lying of the floor.

“My boy!” He exclaimed, causing Lance to jump up in surprise.

“I was just…” Lance started, before realizing he was out of excuses. He had been sitting in front of Keith’s pod because he was terrified. It wasn’t productive, but he didn’t want to leave Keith alone. He quickly changed the subject. “What are you doing here?”

“Just routine castle maintenance,” Coran said cheerily.

Lance straightened. “Something wrong with the pod?” He asked, trying to calm his quickening heartbeat.

“You don’t know what routine means, do you?” A voice piped up from behind Coran, who moved slightly to reveal Pidge standing behind him, not even bothering to look up from the tablet they were holding.

“I do to,” said Lance indignantly, “I was just asking if there was something routinely wrong with the pod.”

“That’s not - you know what, never mind,” Pidge said. After a moment of silently tapping on their screen, they added, “you know Hunk’s been looking everywhere for you.”

Lance shrugged. He usually hated nothing more than being alone, as it tended to make him bored and anxious, but right now he just wanted everyone to leave. He turned his back to both of them and continued looking aimlessly at the base of the pod.

“You and Keith are so weird about the pods. Try trusting science.” Pidge said, while showing Coran something on their tablet.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lance asked. He realized he was being weird, but that was because … reasons. No, he thought quickly, it’s just because I was his partner on this last mission and this is what partners do. For their teammates. Which is what Keith is. A teammate. Keith seemed to usually act normal about the pods, except for that once Shiro had almost died and was in them for a long time. That had been hard on him, but his reaction had also been expected..

“You know,” Pidge said absentmindedly, “you sit in front of Keith’s pod for hours even though we’ve told you a billion times he’ll be fine. Keith got all anxious that time you were in a pod and got all pouty when he had to wait three extra ticks until you came out. Three ticks, Lance. Three. You two are the worst.”

“Oh.” Lance found himself lacking words. He hadn’t known that.

“You know this wasn’t your fault right?” Pidge said, gesturing to Keith’s unconscious form.

“I know,” Lance said, “of course it wasn’t my fault. I was only standing with my back to him not bothering to make sure he was okay. I was only enjoying fighting so I could show him up and didn’t even stop to think he might need cover. Obviously that’s not my fault.”

“I don’t appreciate your sarcasm,” Pidge replied. “And we all figured you would think this was your fault, blaming yourself is sort of your thing. But it doesn’t matter what you think, it’s not your fault, at all.”

“Diagnostics look fine, Pidge,” Coran interrupted. “I have some work to do on the programs on the training deck if you want to help.”

Pidge nodded as Coran led the way out of the room. “Try chilling, man,” they called back at Lance, unhelpfully. “I’ll let Hunk know where you are.”

The room went silent and Lance slumped slowly onto his back. Despite the hard floor and his continually racing thoughts, he fell into an uneasy sleep within minutes. He never heard Hunk come in, but he woke he was off of the floor and lying on a pile of pillows wrapped in a large blanket. 

 

____________________________________________

 

Given Lance’s easy-going nature, Shiro had forgotten just how stubborn he could be.

“I’m fine,” Lance was saying, after kicking off his shoes and propping his feet onto Keith’s pod as if to prove a point. He was lying on his back, surrounded by a mess of pillows.

“That’s great, Lance,” Shiro said. “Now go to bed.” Seriously, it was like arguing with a toddler.

“I am.” Lance rolled onto his side and pulled a blanket from underneath him.

“Doesn’t count,” Shiro said, kicking aside a bowl of untouched space goo in order to sit next to Lance. “Why don’t you at least take a shower?”

“Because I smell lovely.”

Shiro would beg to differ. He wasn’t trying to force Lance to do something he didn’t want to do, but he hadn’t left the med bay for over a day. It clearly wasn’t good for him - his hair was sticking in all different directions and his eyes were dull with exhaustion.

“Give me an hour,” Shiro tried, “take a shower, eat something,” he paused, then added, “write to your family. I bet you have messages from them. They are probably worried and want to hear from you.”

The thought of his family worrying was enough to make Lance relent, and he stood slowly.

“Are you staying here?” he asked Shiro, just before leaving.

“Yeah,” Shiro said, “for a little while.”

Lance nodded, comforted at the fact that Shiro would be there. As long as Keith wasn’t alone, everything should be fine.

Back in his room, Lance flipped through his unread messages. Usually, he read each word slowly, savoring each sentence. But today he couldn’t focus. The sentences all seemed to mesh together, and he struggled to remember who each letter was from as he read.

Finally, he gave reading up. He opened a blank message box and started to write.

Mama,

Sorry this will probably be short. I told you about Keith, right? He’s the red paladin. We went on a mission earlier. It was supposed to be easy, there weren’t any soldiers to fight. But it was a weird planet with weird animal things. Keith got hurt. I’m not sure what to do? He’s going to be fine. We have those healing pods I told you about. He’ll be healed by tomorrow. But I’m so worried.

I like going on missions and exploring things. But I don’t like that I can’t protect everyone. I’m so stressed. Remember when I used to worry about school or friends and you would hug me really, really tight and tell me that it would all be okay? I wish you could do that now.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to stress you. I’m fine and safe and so is everyone else. I’m just scared. I miss you.

Love,

Lance

Chapter Text

Dazed, Keith’s eyes fluttered open. He could sort of tell he was back in the castle, but he wasn’t sure where, exactly, since his vision was covered in dark spots. His head was still spinning and all he could remember was someone shouting for backup. Who was shouting? He didn’t remember, and thinking about it only made his throbbing head hurt worse. He still heard the panicked voice repeating in his head, and in his state of confusion he thought, that’s my favorite voice ever.

After that strange thought it took less than a second for Keith’s brain to try and knock some sense into him. No, it’s the most annoying voice ever. Lance’s. Oh, Lance! Why had Lance been yelling? Fucking pigs. He could handle dumb pigs. Pigs! Suddenly, Keith remembered everything. His should-be-easy-enough-for-one-person mission had seriously gone south. Or north. Whichever direction was worse in space.

Abruptly, Lance popped into Keith’s sight. Keith teetered on his feet in surprise, too bewildered to realize Lance had been sitting on the ground beneath him, and hadn’t just materialized out of thin air. Lance tugged on his arm, gently leading him out of his healing pod.

Keith attempted to keep his balance, but ended up slumping over onto Lance, who tried his best to steady him.

“Lance,” Keith croaked out, looking up to meet the taller boy’s eyes.

“”Yeah,” Lance said, with a mixed tone of both relief and worry.

“Did you kill those dumb pigs?”

Lance let out a surprised laugh, shaking his body so hard he bent over slightly, still attempting to hold Keith up. Everything was okay.

Keith’s eyes grew wide at Lance’s reaction, and he couldn’t help but snicker. All the tension and leftover stress from the fight seemed to melt away as Lance laughed harder. Soon, both boys were laughing harder than they should have, pressed against each other as both struggled to keep their balance.

 

Meanwhile outside, Allura strode towards the medical bay, surprised to see Shiro leaning against the side of the door.

“I was alerted Keith had finished healing, his pod should open any tick now.” She arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t hurry over because I assumed you had gotten the same message and would be there when he woke.”

Shiro smiled easily. “Yeah, he should have gotten out just a little bit ago.”

“Don’t you want to see him?” Allura asked, worry creeping into her voice. Letting someone wake from a healing pod alone was always a bad idea, as they tended to be quite disoriented at first.

“Of course, but I’m being patient, Princess.” Shiro stated, a smirk starting to grow on his lips. “Lance has been waiting for him to wake this whole time, I figured it was only fair to let them have a moment together.”

Allura’s face grew more confused. “I don’t understand. There can be more than one person present when someone wakes, you know this.”

“It’s not the same,” Shiro explained, “but I guess I’ve given them enough time. Let’s go.” He nodded his head gently in the direction of the door, waiting for Allura to walk in before following.

The situation in the med bay was surprising, to say the least. Allura knew Lance and Keith had been growing closer, but they currently seemed exceptionally close. She couldn’t help but wonder if Shiro had been hinting at something earlier, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it as Lance caught sight of her out of the corner of his eye.

His face grew red and he quickly stepped away from Keith without thinking.

Keith, who had been using Lance as a support, immediately started wavering until Shiro lunged forward to catch him.

“Seems I’ve been missing out on all the fun,” he said suggestively. Keith started to roll his eyes, but Shiro pulled him into a tight hug, nearly crushing him.

“I’ve missed you buddy,” Shiro said, almost picking Keith off the ground.

From the side of the room, Lance smirked. See? He wasn’t the only with a ridiculous attachment to the mullet kid.

Suddenly, the room grew louder as the rest of the team pushed their way in.

“I got a message that Keith should be wakin - hey! Keith, my man!”

“Keith!! See Lance, he’s fine, I TOLD YOU.”

“Ah, good to see you looking so spritely! And after two days in the pod! Impressive my boy!”

Shiro let go of Keith just long enough for Hunk to swoop in with a hug, while Pidge bounced on their feet, waiting impatiently for their turn.

Keith’s whole body felt warm from all the attention. He wouldn’t admitted it, but he loved it. He never quite knew how to ask for hugs or reassurance that he was wanted, so having it thrown on him all at one time was actually quite nice.

After Keith had been sufficiently hugged (and them some), Allura cleared her throat.  “Keith needs to get some food, and I suppose we all could use a meal together. Afterwards, I’m going to need all the help I can get with some, um, potential issues the castle has been having. So I expect you to be ready to lend a hand.”

“Problems?” Lance asked, speaking up for the first time since the rest of the team had entered.

“Coran and I found some odd deficiencies in the castle defense system,” Pidge said, still clinging to Keith’s waist. “We’re going to work on figuring out the problem, but it seems like some of the parts have stopped responding, so we are probably going to have to search for new parts before going on any missions.”

“Sweet, another mall trip!” Lance exclaimed, before adding, “also, I told you the castle had issues.”

“No,” Pidge argued, letting go of Keith to face Lance with their hands on their hips. “You thought the pods had issues. The pods are fine, so technically, you’re wrong.”

Lance rolled his eyes, noticing Allura snicker from the side. She quickly regained her composure and walked out of the bay, the paladins following behind her one-by-one.

Shiro was last to leave, standing close to Keith in case he lost his balance again.

“You thought something was wrong with the pods?” Keith asked, making his way down the hall.

“Nah,” Shiro said, almost a bit too brightly. “Just Lance did. He was very … concerned.” He raised both eyebrows at Keith, who shoved him as hard as he could with what strength he could muster.

“What’s that even supposed to mean?” Keith grumbled, after Shiro hardly budged.

“Nothing.” Shiro responded, unconvincingly. Shiro was good at a lot of things; being subtle was not one of them.

__________________________________________

 

Keith spent most of dinner trying to sneak glances at Lance, who was in a heated debate with Pidge about a video game Keith had never heard of. His earlier conversation with Shiro had only given Keith anxiety. Shiro had only meant to suggest Lance clearly thought of Keith as more than a teammate, but Keith had taken it the wrong way.

Shiro knows, he thought. That part was obvious. Does everyone know? Does Lance know? Probably not, he figured. Lance was nice and funny and overly-concerned with the well being of his teammates. The way he’d hardly left the med bay was proof. But he wouldn’t have done that if he knew how I felt, Keith thought. He wouldn’t want to be close to me. He would probably be mad. I bet he would hate me.

“Dude, you’re stressing me out. Whatever you’re worrying about, stop.” Hunk pushed a second serving of goo in front of Keith, who started shuffling it into his mouth right away.

“Sorry,” he said, which came out muffled as he stuffed as much food as possible onto his spoon. Not eating solid foods for two days had left him starving.

“It’s fine,” Hunk said with a smile, “I’m sure the whole mission thing was traumatic, but I’m telling you, it’s all good now.”

Keith forced a smile and nodded. Hunk was right.

“So…anything exciting happen while I was out?” Keith asked, changing to topic.”

“Not really.” Hunk shrugged. It had actually been the quietest two days they had had in ages. It had been nice, at first, but quickly got boring. “I tried to do some maintenance on the lions but none of them really needed anything. I almost broke the kitchen dispensers trying to add new flavors, but I fixed it before Coran noticed. Pidge and I updated the space-to-earth messaging system.”

“Really?” Keith stopped eating to look at Hunk.

“Yeah, it’s a lot faster now. Only takes a few days for messages to travel, maybe less depending on the castle’s location.”

“Oh,” Keith said, “that’s cool.”

“Want more?” Hunk offered, about to pick up Keith’s bowl to refill it.

Keith shook his head quickly. He had been famished only seconds ago, but now he was distracted. “I’m good. I gotta go!” He snatched his bowl and headed off, throwing a quick wave behind him. “Thanks Hunk!” Before he could make it very far, his legs buckled beneath him and his half filled food bowl went flying.

“Whoa there!” Shiro had been mindlessly adding his opinions to the Lance vs Pidge video game debate (neglecting to mention he hadn’t ever played the game), but he saw Keith start to go down and he sprung to his side.

Hunk had rushed over too, and before long the entire team was starting down and Keith.

Blushing, he attempted to push himself off the ground, annoyed at how much everything was spinning. Hunk didn’t waste time in helping him to his feet, holding him tight by the shoulders.

“What are you doing?” Shiro asked.

“Um, leaving?” Keith responded. Lance, who stood behind Hunk, stifled a laugh.

“Good luck with that.” Pidge said.

“You probably need to take it slow,” Shiro said gently, “you were in the pod for a while, you need to sleep if off before you go running places.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “I did sleep. In the pod. For two entire days.”

Shiro shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that. You’re body was working to heal you, so it doesn’t really count as rest. Here, I’ll help you to your room.”

Hunk started to let go of Keith, just as Lance pushed his was closer. “I can!” He exclaimed, a bit too loudly. “Um, I mean,” he said quickly, “I was heading to my room anyways. I could take him. Or whatever.”

“Perfect,” Shiro said with a smile. When Pidge turned to him with eyebrows raised, he added “I have to go find Allura anyways, I wonder where she went off too.”

 

_____________________________________________

 

Shiro never had a chance to find Allura, as she was on her way to find Keith. Moments after Lance plopped a grumpy Keith down onto his bed, she entered through the already open door.

“I have a surprise for you!” she said cheerily, crossing the room to stand in front of Keith’s bed, hands behind her back.

“Why not one for me?” Lance asked. “Do you like Keith better?”

“Yes.” Allura replied, her face deadpan until a small smile crept up, proving she was only joking.

“Obviously she does,” Keith said, not wasting an opportunity to pick at Lance despite how exhausted he was. “we’ve already established I’m the best paladin.”

As Lance’s face twisted into mock hurt, Keith turned to look up at Allura. She brought forward her hands, and the moment Keith saw what she was holding, his face went red.

“I thought you would want it?” Allura said. “I found it crushed in one of your pockets, but I was able to re-vive it.” She still couldn’t read Keith’s expression, so she continued, “I think it’s great you are picking up things from the planets you visit. It’s good to keep memories.”

“What is it?” Lance asked, stretching his neck forward, view blocked by one of Allura’s hands.

“Nothing,” Keith said quickly. He snatched the offering out of Allura’s hand and closed it in his fist.

“But I wanna see!” Lance protested, aware of how flushed Keith’s cheeks were. Whatever it was, it had to be good.

“Perhaps you and I should leave, Keith still needs to rest. Let’s go see what the other paladins are up to.” Allura offered. Immediately, Lance’s attention shifted.

“Yeah, I bet they aren’t even doing anything. Oh, I know, let’s play games. I love games.”

Lance kept chattering as Allura shuffled him out of the room. Before she disappeared, Keith called out to her.

“Princess!” He said low enough that Lance wouldn’t hear from down the hallway. “Thank you.”

Allura nodded with a smile. “My pleasure.”

Once she was gone Keith unclenched his fist, and stared down at the small purple flower in the palm of his hand.

 

 

Chapter Text

Keith had fallen asleep almost immediately, and he stayed that way for the rest of the day and into the night. After waking, he stood and stretched. The weariness and disorientation from the pod was almost entirely gone. His first thought was to spend the rest of the night training-but he could just imagine the concerned lecture he would get from Shiro.

Sighing, he sat back down on his bed. It had been a bad idea to jump up from eating. If he hadn’t have fallen, everyone probably wouldn’t be so concerned. Why had he been in such a hurry anyways?

The messaging system! Keith tossed his pillow aside to grab the device that was resting next to his knife.

He knew he shouldn’t get his hopes up, but Hunk had said messages now came even faster. Maybe he had one…

To his surprise, he had 5. Three were from Luke, apparently all written the same day. The first was filled with childlike concern, as apparently he somehow knew Keith had gotten hurt. The second two both started with, Oh, and I forgot to tell you followed by sentences like, maybe instead of hurting the crazy pig you should have kept it for a pet? Maybe instead of hurting you it would give you rides? and but I guess your lion wouldn’t like it if you had a pig to ride instead so maybe it’s okay you killed it.

Keith couldn’t help but smile, re-reading each letter twice. The next letter was from Alex, who seemed more like a mother than a teenage girl. Most the letter was chastisement (I don’t know how these space mission things work, but I know you shouldn’t have gone to a random planet with just Lance. What was everyone else doing, TAKING A PICNIC?!?) Alex had managed to squeeze in a few sentences from Maria (Maria says “I would give Keith kisses to make him better, but I can’t because he’s not here” and now she looks like she’s gonna cry. GOOD JOB MAKING A 4 YEAR OLD CRY).

Keith’s smile grew. These people didn’t even know him, not really. And here they were, writing to him as if they had know each other forever. It was new, and Keith wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but he knew he didn’t hate it.

The last letter was from a sender Keith hadn’t seen before. Tentatively, he pressed his screen and it opened.

Dear Keith,

I’ve never written to you, so I figured it was time. I hope it’s not too much trouble for you, writing all these letters, but Luke loves it so much. He talks about it all the time, whenever I start to worry about how Lance is doing, he tells me it’s okay because you’re protecting him.

I’m so sorry no one was able to protect you when you got hurt. Must have been terrifying-we are all so glad you are okay. Lance told me you are healing right now, with some sort of fancy device. Very nice. Once you are better, try and be more careful! It’s not your fault, of course, but perhaps next time you could go to a planet without rabid wild animals. Just a thought, dear. Also, are you getting enough sleep? Lance said its hard to keep track of time, being in space and all, but you still need to make sure you get a solid 7 hours of sleep. 8 if you can.

I wanted to say thank you, for everything you are doing. You are protecting so many innocent lives, and I’m so proud of you. But it also seems like such a big burden you have been given. I’m sorry you and your team have to carry it, but I’m glad Lance isn’t alone. Just remember that all the lives in the universe are very, very, important, and that includes yours. So be safe, okay? Take care of yourself. Maybe take a break, have a movie night. Do they even have movies in space? They have magic healing machines, so they better have movies. I’m sure space gets lonely, but remember all of us here worry and care about you. Luke loves you, and I hope one day you can meet him. He asks me several times a day if a message from you came, reading them makes him feel so special. You have become very important to this family.

I know you must be very busy, protecting the galaxy and all, so I don’t expect you to write back. I just thought you should know I’m thankful for you, and your kindness. Be safe.

Love,

Mama

 

Keith swallowed, a lump forming in his throat. Mama? It was Lance’s mom, obviously. But it was weird reading a letter addressed to him, that she hadn’t signed with her real name, or even with Mrs. McLain. Maybe all moms did that? Keith didn’t know, it was possible.

He had spent almost a half hour reading all the letters, he figured he should get up and at least try training a little. But he didn’t want to. He scrolled over the letter again, and then once again just for good measure.

The letter specifically stated he wasn’t expected to write back, which was thoughtful. But Keith wanted to write something. He figured saying “you don’t have to write back”, was just a way of saying, “you can write back but I don’t want to make you feel like you have to.” Which meant it would only be polite to write back, right? Or maybe that would be weird?

Keith sat still for a couple of minutes, before shoving the device back under his pillow and exiting his room. His thoughts were racing and usually wandering the castle hallways helped him figure things out. The thought of someone on earth worrying over him was strange. It was nice, but also made him uncomfortable. What if he never wrote back, would they all forget about him? Or what if he wrote back and said something wrong, would they change there minds about him? He already felt a bit odd writing to Luke, like he was faking something. Lance was the nice one who could talk to anyone, but all these people on earth he had never met seemed to think Keith was the same too. He wasn’t; he was awkward around new people, had a hard time connecting to others and tended to isolate. But he didn’t want them to find out.

Keith turned a corner, his thoughts making him walk faster. He didn’t have anywhere particular to go, so he ended up pacing the same hallway several times. Eventually, he realized his wandering wasn’t really helping, and decided to give up and head to the training deck. As he swiveled around a corner, he slammed into someone coming the opposite direction, and whatever they had been holding went flying.

“Keith!” Lance barked out in surprise, before dropping to his knees to pick up what he dropped.

“Lance?” Keith bent down as well to help, and began gathering small, brightly colored SD card looking chips that flown across the slick floor.

“Here,” he said, once he had gathered all he could find. Lance took them from him, his hands already overflowing with the dozens he had gathered.

“What are these?” Keith asked, taking a bright orange one out of Lance’s full hands and examining it.

“Um,” Lance said slowly, “I’m not totally sure, but I think they are Altean movies.”

“Really?” Keith asked, remembering something from the letter he had just read.

“Uh, yeah,” Lance said, stammering. “I mean, I found a system that looks like it’s for movies, and then I found a bunch of these and they fit in the player so I guess …”

Feeling awkward, Lance attempted to nervously scratch the back of his neck, forgetting he already had multiple things in his hands. Several chips tumbled to the floor and both Keith and Lance instantly bent down to gather them again.

“Why are you walking around with them, anyways? It’s pretty late.” Keith asked, putting the chips he gathered in Lance’s cupped hands, for the second time.

Lance’s face went bright red. “I was looking for you. I, uh, figured you would be up by now, and uh, my mom suggested a while ago I should find some movies to watch, because they always helped me calm down when I was upset as a kid, but uh, I wanted see if you wanted to watch one with me?”

Oh. That was nice. That was very, very nice. Keith figured he should say no. He shouldn’t be hanging out alone with Lance until he could could get all these…feeling things…under control.

“I would love to.” Shit.

 

_________________________________________

 

 

“I think she wants us to pick a language,” Lance said, staring at the 3D figure who had appeared on the movie-theater sized screen. It had taken a while, but they had finally agreed on which chip to watch. It didn’t matter that neither of them could read the words printed on them, they had still argued for a good 10 minutes.

Keith nodded. Behind the virtual Altean woman there were hundreds of moving scripts, previews of thousands of different alien languages.

“Engl-“ Lance started, but Keith cut him off.

“Norwegian.”

“What? Keith, no. You don’t even know-“

“Arabic.”

The figure started to speak before Lance interrupted. “No, no, no. He means Eng-“

“Gaelic.”

“KEITH STOP.”

Keith burst into giggles, and Lance couldn’t help staring.

 

The movie started in some odd language, composed completely of growls and hisses. Lance lectured Keith while he figured out how to change it to English (“You can’t just shout out a bunch of languages, now you’ve confused it. Way to mess up the movie experience”) but after a few minutes he finally got it set to English. He plopped down into one of the giant bean-bag/couch hybrid chairs that were strewn across the floor, and gazed at Keith who was already hyper-focus on the film. Lance had never noticed this room before, but that wasn’t surprising given the castle’s enormous size. He figured he had found it at the perfect time.

Lance had been sure Keith would say no to a movie. Keith was probably too cool for movies nights. He probably had way more important things to do. But Lance’s mom had suggested it, several times, in her last letter. Lance couldn’t help but smile when he thought of that. She loved movies, and thought they made everything better.

To be fair, they kind of did. As a kid, whenever he failed a test he had tried hard on, or when he got picked on for being the loud, annoying kid, his mom would wrap him in a warm hug and start a funny movie. It was tradition. And since she wasn’t there with a hug, telling Lance to watch a movie was the closest she could come.

It wasn’t surprising she had also told Lance to include Keith. After his last letter to her, she was clearly worried about him. Lance knew Luke showed her every letter Keith wrote, and Maria probably did too. It would be hard not to get attached after that. Normally, Lance would probably get jealous. He was, after all, the cool brother. He wasn’t prepared to let anyone come in and take that role. But hearing about how much his little brother loved Keith was different. It hadn’t made him jealous, or competitive, just … proud. Like, he already knew how cool Keith was, he wanted his whole family to see it too. He was so glad they did; it made him irrationally happy. 

The movie was weird, as Altean humor really didn’t make a lot of sense to Lance. But there were a lot of fight scenes and the whole movie took place on a high tech space-pirate ship, which Lance was definitely into.

Without warning, Keith stood up. The movie was just getting intense, and Keith’s move started Lance.

“What are you doing?” Lance asked, suddenly getting nervous. Maybe Keith hadn’t wanted to watch with him after all.

Keith’s face had changed from when he had been laughing and messing with Lance over movie languages, and he now looked completely serious. Without making eye contact he said, “I have to go.”

“What? No!” Lance wasn’t one to pressure people into doing anything they didn’t want to do, but this was just weird. Moments ago Keith had seemed fine, in fact, he seemed happier than Lance had ever seen him. “Where would you even go?” Lance asked. Maybe Keith just wanted to go back to bed, that might make sense, given it hadn’t been that long since he got out of a healing pod.

“I forgot I have to train. Sorry.” Keith started to turn when Lance grabbed his wrist and shoved him back down next to him, more forcefully than he had meant to.

“The movie probably only has a half-hour left. Or a half varga or whatever. Is sitting with me for that long really that bad?”

“No!” Keith looked at Lance in surprise. “I uh, like hanging out with you.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Lance asked, raising one eyebrow. He really hoped he didn’t sound desperate.

“Nothing! I’m just supposed to be training! I just realized its been almost 3 solid days since I had any practice, I can’t just sit around here, no matter how much I like to, without doing any training.”

Keith tried to stand again, but Lance was still holding tight to his wrist. “Taking some time to relax isn’t a big deal. I do it all the time. You need to chill.”

Keith’s clenched his teeth in anger, and forcefully pulled his hand away and out of Lance’s reach.

“It’s different for you,” he snapped.

“How?” Lance asked, folding his arms against his chest. He was now fully offended, the movie playing in the background now completely forgotten. He got it, Keith thought he was better than him. That he was just the guy who made jokes and messed up. Lance stared down Keith, daring him to admit it.

To his surprise, Keith didn’t say anything like that. Instead, his voice rose and he sputtered out, “The only reason I’m here is because I’m good at fighting!” He lowered his voice and softly added, “if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here with you guys.”

“I don’t understan-” Lance started to say, but Keith kept going.

“It’s why I’m part of Voltron,” he said with a shrug. “Maybe it’s not a big deal to you. But if you weren’t part of Voltron, you would still be part of other things.”

“What do you mean?” Lance asked.

“You would still be part of the Garrison, you would be part of a friend group, you would be part of a family,” Keith smiled a little, “part of a big, loving family.” His smiled faded as quickly as it had appeared. “Not me. I got kicked out of the Garrison, and I didn’t have friends there anyways, not after Shiro disappeared. I’ve never had a family,” he glanced at his hands, “except this family. Being part of Voltron is all I have. If I mess it up, the only family I’ve ever had is gone. You guys will find someone better at fighting, or flying and I’ll just, be alone. Again.” Keith’s voice caught in his through, and he was struggling to push the words out. “I don’t want to be alone.”

Lance wasn’t sure what to say. He knew Keith had a hard time with feelings (in fact, Lance frequently wondered if Keith even had feelings), so clearly this was something that was really eating him up inside. Besides that, Lance had always assumed that Keith was just naturally talented. That he was born a great pilot and a great fighter, so practice was something he just did for fun. It had never occurred to Lance that Keith only worked so hard because he was afraid of being abandoned if he didn’t.

“You’re fighting skills are kind of pointless right now,” Lance said. Keith glanced up at him in confusion. “I mean,” Lance continued, “popcorn making skills might be nice. But we’re watching a movie, so whatever you can do with a sword doesn’t really matter.”

“What?” Keith asked, clearly confused.

“If all you were to me was a weapon, I wouldn’t have asked you to watch a movie with me. But I did ask you, because I wanted to watch with you. Even if you were the worst fighter ever you will still be here, watching a movie with me, because I wanted to watch a movie with Keith my friend, not Keith the pilot-slash-fighter-slash-paladin.”

“Oh,” Keith said softly.

“Yeah,” Lance said back. “Now be quiet, this is the good part.” Lance leaned into the sofa, fixing his eyes on the movie screen, pretending to focus. But when Keith wasn’t looking, he snuck a glance in his direction, smiling when he saw Keith relax back into the couch, a sheepish, happy look plastered on his slightly red face. He sat through the rest of the movie, and when Lance asked if he wanted to watch another one, he agreed without hesitating.

Chapter Text

Keith was losing his mind. It had almost been a whole week since he had gotten out of the pod, and the team hadn’t gone on a single mission. In fact, they hadn’t gone anywhere. The particle barrier seemed to really be having problems, so Allura had found a space pocket and hidden the castle in it while Coran tried to fix it. Shiro had gotten a distress signal, and he wouldn’t say much except it was from a far away planet who desperately needed help. He spent all his time trying to figure out what to do, given that Allura insisted it was too dangerous to do any travel while the barrier was down. Both her and Coran were working overtime to fix the problem, and Pidge and Hunk were both completely occupied trying to assist. Lance was fine (better than fine, actually) as he was now enjoying was he called a “space-cation”, which mostly included lying with his feet up on whatever couch was closest doing absolutely nothing productive. Similarly, Keith had nothing to do, but he wasn’t enjoying it.

“Shiiiiiro,” Keith moaned, slumping into his chair in the main control room. “Can’t we just take the lions and go help the planet.”

“Too far,” Shiro said. He was standing in the center of the room, swishing through the holographic map of stars splayed out in front of him. He had been going over the same problem for days, and wasn’t making any progress.

Normally, Keith wasn’t one to whine. But Shiro was like his brother, so he figured bothering him was sort of his job.

“I’M. SO. BORED.”

“Hi bored, I’m Shi-“

“Don’t.” Keith interjected, amazed that Shiro could be fully immersed in planning and still manage to make a bad joke.

“Where is this planet anyways?” Keith asked, standing up and stepping towards Shiro.

“Here.” Shiro pointed to a small planet, and Keith studied its location. Shiro was right, it was pretty far from their current location. He understood why Allura didn’t want to travel unprotected, it would take multiple jumps and would probably take days, maybe weeks to get there.

Still, as far away as the planet was, some of the surrounding constellations looked familiar.   

“Wait, is that … Kerberos?” Keith asked, and Shiro nodded distractedly.

“Which means earth is, over there?” Keith held up his finger, following stars until he found it. “Just one jump away.”

“Yeah,” Shiro said, shaking himself out of his thoughts.

“So when the castle is fixed…” Keith trailed off, hoping Shiro would see where he was going.

“Yeah.” Shiro said again, before taking a deep sigh. “Once the castle is fixed, then we can travel there. Once we travel there, we will be close enough to earth. Close enough for a visit after.”

“Why haven’t you said anything?” Keith asked, slowly. It wasn’t like Shiro to keep things like this from the team. If he was planning on going to earth, even remotely soon, then the rest of the team would want to know.

Shiro shrugged, looking guilty. “I know how much everyone misses their family,” he said. “I know Pidge wants to see their mom, Hunk wants to see his parents, Lance has a small army of people who miss him,” his mouth twisted into a sad smile, “but I don’t want to get anyones hopes up. Not until I’m a hundred percent sure we are going.”

Shiro sighed again. “Besides, I don’t even know how long we would be able to stay on earth. I had always assumed we would free everyone, you know, so there wasn’t a need for Voltron, then return to earth permanently. But we still have a lot of work to do. This would just be a visit.”

Keith nodded. “Yeah, but I’m sure everyone would prefer a visit to nothing.”

“True,” Shiro said.

After a moment of silence, Keith tugged on Shiro’s arm. “I think you’ve stared at the map long enough for today. Let’s go do something else.”

“Alright,” Shiro said, following Keith as he led him along. “I am hungry. And did you know Lance found a movie room? Maybe we could watch one of those.”

“Yeah, I, um, heard about that,” Keith said, keeping his face facing forward so Shiro wouldn’t see him start to blush.

“Wait,” Shiro said, before they reached the door. Keith swiveled around to face him. “Maybe don’t tell anyone about this?” He asked nervously. “I mean, I’m not saying lie about it, I just mean, don’t bring it up if you don’t have to, I just really don’t want to get hopes up, and I’m working as hard as I can to figure everything out, we really should focus on the defense system right now, and-“

“Okay, okay!” Keith laughed, cutting Shiro off. “I get it. You don’t have to worry about me, I don’t have a big mouth. You’re confusing me with Lance.”

Shiro rolled his eyes, before nodding. “Thanks Keith, I appreciate it. Now let’s go, I’m seriously starving.”

 

___________________________________________

 

“Lance! Get your feet off the couch, now!” Allura said, after storming into the lounge room. She normally wouldn’t have cared, but she hadn’t slept for a solid two days and everything was making her irritable.

“You don’t look so good, Princess,” Lance said, ignoring her request. He figured if she really wanted him to do something, she should at least ask nicely.

It was true, Allura didn’t look good. She couldn’t remember the last time she brushed her hair, and there were visible bags under her eyes.

“UGH!” She slammed herself down onto the couch across from Lance. “It’s not my fault, I can’t figure anything out! The castle has never had this many issues. None of the replacement parts Hunk or Pidge have built are working.”

Being a princess, Allura had been taught to remain calm and diplomatic in any situation. But the stress was finally getting to her. She was, after all, a teenager. She shouldn’t have to be in charge of any of this.

“I’m sure there is someway to fix it.” Lance said, trying to be helpful.

“At this point, I doubt it.” Allura said bleakly.

“Oh, come on,” Lance said, sitting up. “Think about all the crazy awesome planets we’ve been to, all with crazy awesome technology. There has to be someone our there who knows something about this stuff.”

“Lance may be right,” a voice chirped up from the corner. Allura hadn’t noticed, but Pidge was sitting on the ground, their laptop and several other devices splayed out in front of them. “We’ve been trying so hard to fix this problem on our own, we haven’t considered looking for outside help. But we might need it.”

Allura sighed. “You may be right Pidge.”

“Whoa,” Lance said quickly. “I think what you mean, is I may be right. And not may be. I’m pretty sure I am.”

Allura couldn’t help but smile at that. Despite the stressful situation, Lance was still himself. Somewhat irritating, but still lovable in his own way.

“It’s a good idea,” she said. She was always hesitant to reach out for help, given that trusting anyone was always a risk. But she also remembered her father, and how whenever Altea needed assistance he had always gone out of his way to find it from outside sources. His method had resulted in strong alliances between Altea and other planets who were able to rely on each other.

“I suppose I could speak about reaching out to other planets with Coran, though I worry about making any contact in our weakened state.”

“Eh,” Lance said, lying back down, “we have our lions. Anyone tries to mess with us and BLAM! BLAM! We take ‘em out.”

Allura rolled her eyes and stood. In all fairness, Lance was probably right, for the second time that day. She turned to leave, eager to find Coran. Their situation was still troubling, but she was now in much better spirits than she had been before.

 

______________________________________

 

“Hey, Lance.”

Lance was lying back on the couch, feet propped up, in the same position he had been for hours. He was taking his space-cation very seriously. He had been drifting in and out of sleep, waking up long enough to butt into whatever conversation was happening and then losing interest and going back to sleep. At the sound of his name, however, he curiously opened one eye.

Keith was standing in front of him, hair looking more disheveled than usual, with a sheepish grin on his face. My God, Lance thought, he’s gorgeous. He was too tired to even attempt to rephrase that thought into something platonic, so he let it slide.

“Um,” Keith said softly, after Lance opened his other eye, blinking from the light, “I was wondering if you wanted to, you know, I mean if you aren’t still tired we could…”

“Geez Keith, spit it out!”

Both Keith and Lance jumped at the sound, making Pidge, who was still in the corner, smirk.

“Pidge! You’re still here?!” Lance asked, jaw hanging open.

“No,” Pidge responded, “I’m actually a figment of your collective imaginations, a delusion your minds simultaneously created in response to your stressful environment, for no real discernible reason.”

Lance stared at them in silence, wide eyed, until they sighed loudly and said, “obviously I’m still here, dummy.”

“Movie.” Keith blurted out. Pidge being in the same room had thrown Keith off, his plan was to ask as quickly and nonchalantly as possible, but instead the word had come out as more of a command than a question.

Movie? Lance’s cheeks instantly went red. Was Keith asking him…? They had just watched a movie together not even a week ago. Keith liked it so much, he wanted to do it again, with just him…

“Movie? What about a movie?” Hunk swung into the room, at just the right moment.

“Yes!” Keith said quickly. “I was just saying that everyone should come and watch a movie.”

“You were?” asked Pidge.

“Yes!” Keith said angrily. “I uh, mean, I was about to.”

Oh. Lance thought. Duh. Everyone. Everyone should watch a movie together. Like, team bonding. Sure.

 

Watching a movie with the whole team was an experience, to say the least. When it had just been him and Lance, Keith had noticed how serious Lance was. He got way more into the movie than Keith thought possible, laughing loudly at jokes Keith didn’t get and making sound effects during fight scenes. Simply put, it was adorable.

Pidge, however, watched movies in an entirely different way. They sat squished between Hunk and Shiro (who had decided to join last minute after the team whined for a solid five minutes) watching intently, waiting for a mistake.

“HAHA! RIGHT THERE! See what the warrior is wearing? She obviously changed outfits, but she hasn’t been carrying any luggage for the entire trip and they are in the middle of nowhere. How did the director miss that one?”

“Um, Pidge, I don’t know if you know this, but Altea has some pretty cool technology. Like, I bet she has a whole wardrobe in her pocket.” Lance replied helpfully, while Hunk nodded.

“I don’t think so,” Allura said from where she was sitting, criss-cross on the floor, next to Lance and Keith. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“Though it would come in handy, good thinking number five,” Coran added.

“Guys!” Shiro said, “I feel like you’re missing the point. This movie is an actual masterpiece, we all need to focus.”

“Yeah,” Pidge said sarcastically, “a very flawed masterpiece.”

“What has the warrior princess ever done to you, Pidge?” Hunk asked.

“She has done nothing wrong, probably ever, in her life, so leave her alone,” Shiro said, dead serious. Keith couldn’t help but smile-it reminded him of when he first met Shiro, they spent most weekends watching movies and eating junk food in order to relax from the stress of the garrison. Even back then, Shiro was known to get very attached to fictional characters.

“You know who she reminds me of?” Lance asked, to no one in particular. “My sis-“

“Alex,” Keith said, without thinking.

It was true. The actress from the movie had long, chestnut hair and a dark skin splattered with freckles. Her character was a good person, but covered it up with sarcasm and fake anger. Keith had thought of Alex instantly.

“Yeah,” Lance said softly, “how did you know?”

The friendly bickering had stopped, and the whole room was quiet besides the movie. Pidge was already re-focused on finding more flaws, but both Hunk and Shiro were straining to hear Keith’s response, while pretending to be interested in the movie.

“That one scene,” Keith said, feeling embarrassed, “where she takes down a dozen men so the sick general can get to safety, all while insisting that she doesn’t care about him at all.”

Lance laughed. “Yeah, that’s something Alex would do. She so protective but she likes to pretend she doesn’t care.”

Keith smiled, “I know, but she lets it slip sometimes, doesn’t she?”

“True,” Lance nodded, “like when you were in the healing pod.” He laughed again, “she was so upset and wrote a bunch of letters, but I mean it takes at least a day to send so I got them all at once. She kept insisting she was only asking because Maria was bothered about it, but if that was true she wouldn’t have sent, like, twelve in row.”

“Ha!” Keith laughed, despite trying to keep quiet so the others could hear the movie, “she’s worse than Luke! He sent me three. But that’s just because he had a lot of stuff to add.”

“Makes sense,” Lance said, “he always talks so much, I doubt he could everything he wants to say in one letter. It’s insane.”

“It helps that he’s cute,” Keith said, remembering the photos Lance had showed him.

“Um, sometimes,” Hunk interjected. He had been trying to make it look like he was watching the movie and not eavesdropping, but he couldn’t help himself. “Once, I stayed at Lance’s house for part of summer break, and that kid bit me. Twice.”

“Actually, I think it was three times,” Lance said.

“Thank you Lance. Three times.”

“I’m sure he had a good reason,” Keith said, smiling at Hunk’s horrified expression, “maybe that’s just how he communicates.”

Shiro snorted, then tried to hide his reaction with a fake cough.

“Will you guys keep it down?” Pidge asked, only slightly annoyed. Watching ancient Altean films was interesting, but they had to admit, whatever was going on between Lance and Keith was beginning to get interesting as well.

“Uh, sorry.” Keith said sheepishly. He hadn’t failed to notice that during the conversation, Lance had scooted closer, and was almost pressed against him. He had already missed a substantial part of the movie, and now it was impossible to focus on.

Altean movies were sometimes three, times as long as earth movies. Shiro didn’t mind, he was fully invested in the story. Pidge, however, got bored and fell asleep, feet on Shiro’s lap and head on Hunk’s. Hunk fell asleep only minutes after Pidge; Allura noticed and rolled her eyes. Humans.

Hunk’s steady snoring behind him made Lance realize how tired he was. The movie was good, but it was dragging on. He could always come back and finish it another time. Next to him, Keith was diligently watching as a fight scene continued - the paladin was trying to predict each movement and attempting to analyze each piece of Altean weaponry used, despite the speed at which the instruments were being flung around and fought with. His eyes glinted with light as the scene continued.

If Hunk had been next to him, Lance would have immediately slumped down into him and fallen asleep. That’s because Hunk is warm and soft, Lance thought, and my best friend. Hunk’s not next to me, it’s Keith. Keith, whose difficult and confusing … and … surprisingly sweet and loyal and has such a perfect smile and such pretty eyes and is so nice and good with kids and, well, my whole family who has never even met him loves him, so that kinda makes him family too. Yeah, Keith’s family so its fine, Lance reasoned sleepily, before closing his eyes and letting himself sink into Keith.

Keith tensed for a moment, before leaning back into him, hesitating before slowly wrapping both arms around him. He was sure Lance hadn’t meant to fall asleep on him, he must have just been exhausted and not realized what he was doing. Still, Keith loved the way Lance felt in his arms, like a puzzle piece he hadn’t known he was missing. He figured he could move Lance into a comfortable position and leave before he ever woke up, avoid all awkwardness but still get to feel warm breathing and smell cinnamon shampoo for just a little while longer. And of course, he would eventually have to deal with the feeling of warmth spreading over his body. He had to stop it before it got too big to deal with, and surely before Lance ever found out. The idea of Lance ever knowing was Keith's worst nightmare; the thought of the rejection he would face was scarier than a hundred galra fleets. But he pushed those thoughts to the corner of his mind, and let himself match Lance's breathing. He would deal with all that later. For now, he just wanted to stay like this, for just a little bit longer.

Chapter Text

“You sure this will work, Princess? It’s a long way to travel without the protection of a particle barrier.” Shiro asked, arms folded. It was certainly a risk, and Shiro didn’t want to get his or anyone else’s hopes up before everything was set.

“There isn’t another option,” Allura sighed. “I’m worried too, but there isn’t much we can do. As for now, it seems to be our best course of action.”

Shiro nodded. “I trust your instincts. But I still think we should keep our guard up.”

Allura hummed in agreement. “And remember, you can still form Voltron if need be. But Coran has scanned as far as possible, and there don’t seem to be any threats in our way. If there was anytime to do this, it’s now.”

“Alright. I’ll let the team know.”

 

“The good news,” Shiro said, “is that after quite a bit of searching, and long distance communication, Coran and Allura have found a planet that uses the same technology as Altea did 10,000 years ago. It’s named Vesnu, and appears to be peaceful.”

The team was gathered in the control room, Shiro standing at the head with Hunk and Lance both slumped in their chairs, and Pidge eyed him from the side of the room, where they stood next to Keith against a wall.

“So, they would have the parts to fix the particle barrier?” Pidge asked, Shiro’s statement catching their interest.

“Yes,” Shiro said, softer than usual.

“What else?” Keith prompted, sensing Shiro holding back, though he had already figured where the conversation was going.

“Well, the bad news is that the planet is quite far to travel to. It’s risky to go there unprotected, but there isn’t really anything we can do about that.”

“Annnnnd, the good news is…?” Lance asked expectantly.

“I mentioned it before, but I received word of Galra troops who had taken over a far away planet. Luckily, this planet is near Vesnu, so as soon as the ship is fixed we can head right over and stop the existing Galra threat.”

Pidge raised their eyebrows, unconvinced. “Hunk and I have been working on the particle barrier for weeks now. Even with the right technology, it won’t be that easy to fix.”

“True,” Shiro agreed, “but according to Coran’s calculations, if Vesnu really has everything we need, it will only take a week.”

“A WEEK?!?” Lance sprung from his chair, jaw hanging open. “I can’t just sit around on some dumb planet FOR A WHOLE WEEK!”

“I thought you were enjoying your space-cation?” Keith asked, hardly hiding his smirk.

“WELL I’M GETTING BORED!”

“Serves you right,” Pidge said, “that is what happens when you sit around doing nothing.”

From the front of the room, Shiro smiled fondly. “I already thought of that. Both planets are near Kerberos, which as you know, is very close to-“

“Earth?!” Hunk jumped out of his chair to grab Lance by the shoulders. “You guys know Kerberos is like, way close to earth, right? I mean, not really, but with the lions it is!”

“Uh, yeah,” Lance said, “what exactly are you saying Shiro?”

“He’s saying we could spend a week on earth while the castle is fixed,” Keith cut in, almost sharply.

Shiro ignored Keith’s tone, and nodded. “Yeah. It would only be a week, and then we would head straight for where the distress beacon came from. We can’t afford to spend any more time before we help whoever sent it.”

The result of Shiro’s plan was chaos. Pidge stood up on their chair, bouncing up and down before launching themselves onto Hunk’s shoulders, who was shaking Keith too hard to notice.

“A WHOLE WEEK ON EARTH-“

“Do you know how long its been?! I’m gonna see my mom-“

“AND SEE MY PARENTS AND EAT REAL EARTH FOOD”

“Let’s go now, can we go now, when are we leaving?”

“I THINK I’M GONNA THROW UP I’M SO EXCITED.”

In the midst of all the yelling and jumping, Lance quietly snuck out of the room. With all of the movement and noise, no one noticed-except for Keith, who had been curiously eyeing him the whole time.

Keith remembered when Hunk and Pidge had announced they had found a way to message earth - Lance had sent his dinner flying. It seemed odd that Lance was now so quiet; it was worrying. Despite his own reluctance to return to earth (he couldn’t help but wonder where he would even go or what he would do for an entire week) he had admittedly felt something close to excitement when he imagined how the other team members would react. Especially Lance.

Keith stood and made his way to Lance’s room, figuring that’s where he had gone. He knocked once before slowing opening the door.

“Hey Lance? Can I come in?” He peeked his head in, surprised to see Lance hunched over on his bed. Lance looked up, tears streaming down his face. Without waiting for a response, Keith pushed his way in and sat next to Lance.

“Is something … wrong?” The question came out hesitant and Keith felt awkward. He wondered if maybe he should get Shiro, or Hunk. Surely Lance would want them more in this situation.

“What?” Lance looked up, sobs growing louder. His face was now completely covered in tears. “No, no, nothings wrong, I just …” he trailed off, pausing. After a brief moment of silence, he leaned over and wrapped his arms around Keith. Keith could feel Lance’s tears soaking through his shirt as the boy pushed his face into Keith’s neck.

“I just…” Lance started, struggling to get the words out in between sobs, “I’ve wanted, for so long …” he grabbed Keith harder, pushing his whole body into his. “We’re going home.” He said finally.

“Yeah,” Keith said, slowly moving his hand up and down Lance’s shaking back. After a moment he leaned in closer, and pressed his hand harder, until he could feel Lance’s warmth through his shirt.

“We’re really going home,” Lance said again. Through his tears, Keith heard Lance laugh, and he swore he could almost feel his smile pressing against his shoulder.

 

It took a while to calm Lance down, but once he stopped crying he got too excited to sit still. Jerking up he started pacing the room, talking incessantly.

“Now Keith,” he began, “we only have a week, so obviously it’s critical we make a strategic plan. I know you are against making plans, but that is a no-can-do in this situation.”

Keith raised his eyebrows at Lance skeptically, but didn’t say anything. At this point the blue paladin was talking more to himself than anything.

“There’s a frozen yogurt shop a block from my house we have to go to, at least, I don’t know, twice a day probably, but we’re also going to need to make quite a few iHop runs. Obviously. Also, the beach is must, but Keith, can you even swim? Probably not, I bet you would drown. Then how will we form Voltron?”

“Hey!” Keith interjected, not really listening to Lance, but definitely picking up the part about him being a bad swimmer. What was he saying about iHop?

Lance ignored Keith and kept talking. “I bet like, a gazillion movie have come out, and I’m going to need to see all of them. Oh! remind me to bring my DS with me when we come back. But how will I charge it? Maybe if I put it in a healing pod…”

Now that Lance seemed fine, Keith figured he could leave. Hearing Lance make a bunch of plans for earth was making him weirdly stressed. Lance only slightly acknowledged him when he said he was going, too absorbed in his planning to do anything more than nod in his direction.

Unsure of where to go, Keith wandered back to his room, and flopped on his bed. His hand hit something hard, and he pulled out the messaging device from where it had slide from under his pillow. He scrolled through the multitude of new messages, smiling slightly. There were several letters from Lance’s siblings and a few from cousins who wanted to join in. As usual, Luke had sent more than one, because he always forgot to add something “super, super important”, like asking what Keith’s favorite flavor of Kool-Aid was. Then there was a list of questions about aliens from Lance’s dad, a letter from Lance’s favorite aunt, and of course, one from Lance’s mom.

After deciding to reply to the first letter she sent (which took hours to write only a few sentences), she started writing him regularly. Keith wasn’t sure how she did it, but she wrote like she already knew him. Like she was really, actually worried about him. Like it really mattered how he was doing. Reading her letters was like drinking hot chocolate-it made everything feel sweet and warm. To think that Lance had her his entire life almost made Keith jealous.

Keith slid the messenger back under his pillow. He would respond later. Right now he felt almost angry. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that Lance would go to earth and see what seemed like a billion people who had missed him desperately, while Keith would go to earth and sit in an abandoned shack by himself. Then again, maybe it was fair. Lance was charismatic and happy and yes, annoying, but also loyal and loving and crazy funny. It made sense people had missed him. Keith had isolated himself on purpose, so he figured it sort of was his fault he didn’t have anyone waiting for him back home.

Frustrated, Keith stood back up. Wallowing in self pity would change nothing. Instead, he figured he could do what he was good at. With that, he flung his door open and headed to the training deck.

 

Later that evening, as the rest of the team went about their usual routines, Lance was still coming up with ideas for activities to do on earth. A week wasn’t very much time, so things had to be meticulously coordinated.

“Should we do a Disneyland day?” Lance asked. “I feel like we should do a Disneyland day.”

Hunk rolled his eyes as he slid something pink and gelatin-like out of the oven. “You’ve been in space for how long dude? You don’t have any money to go to Disneyland.”

Lance leaned against the counter and sighed. “I don’t need money, Hunk. I’m a space hero. Guaranteed free access.”

“Say who?”

“Oh, everyone. I’m sure. Probably.”

“Okay, buddy.” Hunk said, but with a smile.

“You know Shiro probably won’t like you showing your lion to the whole word,” Pidge chirped up. They were sitting crossed legged on the counter, licking a spoon clean of whatever Hunk had been cooking. They weren’t really sure what it was, just that it was good.

“Huh?”

“Don’t be a showoff.” Pidge clarified. “Like, just land your stupid lion and visit your family. The whole rest of the world doesn’t need to know about the alien war.”

“True,” Hunk nodded.

Lance rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever. I save the universe, but I can’t tell anybody. Great.”

“All the important people will know,” Hunk said, helpfully, “like your family. They already know and they’re proud of you. I think that’s good enough.”

“Yeaaaaahh,” Pidge said, “all the people you want to impress know.”

“True,” Lance said. “I totally showed up my big brother, so that’s a check. And now my dad knows for sure that I’m awesome, so I got that covered. And the rest of my family.”

“And Keith.” Pidge added, keeping a straight face.

“W-what about Keith?” Lance stuttered, hoping this conversation wasn’t heading where he thought it was.

“You obviously want to impress Keith, and he’s already seen all your sharpshoot stuff in action, so I guess you’re good there.” Pidge said.

“Oh, um, yeah, because we’re rivals! I’m not trying to impress him, I’m trying to beat him. Which I clearly do, all the time.” Lance said, still tripping over his words.

“If you say so,” Pidge said, eyeing Lance suspiciously.

“I do say so!” Lance insisted.

“Anyways,” Hunk interjected, “what do you think Keith is going to do on earth?”

Lance slammed both hands on the counter, making Hunk jump and Pidge glare. “Keith,” he said slowly, now that he had everyone’s attention, “will be coming with me!”

Pidge raised an eyebrow. “Does Keith know this?”

“Obviously,” Lance said. “I mean my little brother reeeeaaallly wants to meet him, and after I introduce him to my whole family we can go to the beach! Oh my goodness, guys, we could build a sandcastle. After I prove that I’m 100% a better swimmer than him. Yeah, I’ll do that. Crush him in swimming and then build some sandcastles.”

“Sounds like Keith is going to have a great time,” Pidge said sarcastically.

Hunk gave Pidge a soft shove, but then turned to Lance with a smile. “Sounds like a lot of fun. It’s really nice you invited Keith to come with you.”

Lance rolled his eyes. “I didn’t really, invite him, per se. It’s just that he has to come, you know?”

“Um,” said Hunk, slightly confused, “no, I don’t.”

Lance sighed, dramatically. “Luke would be so upset if he didn’t get to meet Keith. My mom would be livid if I didn’t bring him. She’s gotten very attached.” Lance smiled to himself. Talking about Keith and the rest of his family, in the same sentence, felt good. It wouldn’t be long before Lance would be back with his family, and Keith would be with him, and everything would be perfect. Everyone right where they were supposed to be. At least for a week.”

“You make a cute couple,” Pidge said.

“Thank- WAIT A MINUTE!” Lance turned to where Pidge was, hoping they wouldn’t notice his face had gotten substantially more red. “WE ARE NOT A COUPLE.” Lance snatched Pidge of the counter, attempting to push them off, but they quickly clung to Hunk for support.

“THEN WHY DO YOU LOVE HIM SO MUCH?” Pidge asked, trying to kick Lance’s face while he attempted to pull them out of Hunk’s arms.

“NO! STOP IT! YOU QUIZNACKING LITTLE-“

It was then that Keith entered the kitchen, hoping to grab a quick snack before he went back to training. He hadn’t been expecting to see Hunk standing in the middle of a mess of kitchen supplies, hanging onto Pidge, or Lance shrieking incoherently as Pidge planted their feet directly onto his face. Keith backed out quietly, hoping no one had seen him. “I don’t even want to know,” he muttered to himself.

Chapter Text

“We will be there within a day,” Shiro said, smiling at his team. He had just finished briefing them, fully enjoying the feeling of excitement that was growing in the room. Shiro had finished mapping their course, and the star chart still floated behind him.
“We will land on Vensu,” he continued, “and you can take your lions and fly to earth from there. I will stay with Allura to make sure everything goes well with the repairs.”
“You aren’t coming to earth with us?” Pidge asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I’ll try,” Shiro replied. “If everything seems to be safe and going well, I’ll come to earth for a few days.”
“You should visit your grandmother,” Keith said quietly, “I’m sure she misses you.”
Shiro’s face softened. “Yeah, I’ll try.” After a moment, he turned his attention back to his team. “I know this is very exciting, but I want it to be clear that we can only stay until the castle is fixed. The minute everything is ready, we have a planet to free. I want everyone to stay in constant communication with each other. Your lions should be well hidden, but close enough that you can reach them if an emergency occurs.”
Shiro had already given the same instructions multiple times, but repeating them seemed to calm his nerves. He wanted more than anything for the paladins to have a happy - and safe - trip to earth; they deserved it.
“I’ll let you go now,” Shiro finished, with a smile, “I’m sure you all want to finish getting ready to leave.”
Lance was out of the room before Shiro had finished his sentence, followed eagerly by Pidge and Hunk. Keith hung back until the rest of the paladins had left, grabbing Shiro’s shoulder before he exited the room.
“Everything all right?”
“Uh, yeah,” Keith said, avoiding eye contact. “I just thought maybe I could stay with Allura and Coran, you know, to make sure everything is going all right with the castle. And you could see your grandmother. You deserve that.” And I won’t spend a week wondering what to do or where to go, he thought.
Shiro smiled. “That’s a very kind, but I plan to come to earth soon after you all do. Besides, Lance would be very upset if I took you up on that offer. He won’t stop talking about introducing you to his family.”
Keith’s eyes snapped up to Shiro’s face, a movement he immediately regretted when he saw his friends smirk.
“You’re my best friend and I love you,” Shiro said, “but when it comes to Lance, you are the single most oblivious person I know.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Keith asked, the question coming out weakly.
“I should get going,” Shiro said, ignoring Keith, “I have lots of important things to do.”
“Like what?” Keith asked angrily.
Shiro shrugged, his smirk growing, “Oh, you know, important black paladin stuff.”
With that, Shiro strode out of the room. Keith’s could feel the heat in his cheeks rising, something he quickly attributed to his annoyance with Shiro. His racing heart had nothing to do with the fact that Lance, beautiful, funny, perfect Lance, wanted him to go home with him.

________________________________________

"But obviously the essence of cupcakes is more than the aesthetic, I'm just saying it helps.” Hunk had started his rant innocently enough, listing the pros and cons of visiting each cupcake shop he knew. There were far too many to visit all in a weeks time; some had to be cut off the list. Before long it turned into him mostly listing all the good parts of every cupcake shop, which was making it hard to cut any out.
He was standing in the hanger, overstuffed bag slung casually over his shoulder. He was tilting slightly to one side as the weight of the bag dragged him down, but he was too into his conversation to notice.
Keith stood across from him, his considerably lighter bag at his feet. He wasn’t even sure why he was bringing a bag, except that Shiro had insisted he might need one. (“To bring back things from earth you want to keep, like, say, a pair of pajamas to wear a night like a REGULAR person”). Keith had shoved in an extra pair of clothes, a toothbrush, and some space rocks he had found lying around from some of their previous missions.
“You get what I’m saying, buddy?” Hunk slowed his speech to look at Keith. As soon as Keith nodded, Hunk continued. “It just that the mixture of flavors is such a critical part…”
Keith was glad Hunk was filling the silence, otherwise he wouldn’t be sure what to do. After his conversation with Shiro, his whole body felt a million times lighter. He almost ran to Lance’s room in excitement. Once there, he had stood in front of the door, hand raised about to knock, for what seemed like hours. Suddenly, as quickly as they had come, the warm feelings left, and he felt paralyzed. What if Shiro had misunderstood something Lance had said? What if Lance had no idea? What if Lance only wanted to take him out of pity, he was the kind of person who felt the need to take care of everyone? What if he went with Lance and none of his family wanted him there? He would be intruding on a reunion. Keith had left without ever knocking on Lance’s door. Since then, his mind had been filled with nothing but panic.
“Dude, you doing alright?” Hunk stopped his cupcake musings to focus on Keith. “You look kinda pale.”
Keith shrugged. “Tired, that’s all. I didn’t get much sleep.”
“HEY HEY ME EITHER!” A bright voice boomed, and Lance popped into view. “I’m so excited, you guys have NO idea!” He was carrying two identical bags, both so stuffed they could hardly be zipped.
“Lance no!” Pidge came sliding in behind Lance, holding tight to one of the straps on his bag. “You don’t need that much stuff, I already told you.”
“Yes, I do! It’s all necessary!”
"No, you don’t,” Pidge said, pulling harder as Lance attempted to squirm away. “You packed six different versions of the same alien board. You don’t even like board games!"
“Necessary!"
Pidge released their grip for a half-second, and Lance darted away, racing to the blue lion.
“Why do you even care?” Hunk asked, eyeing Pidge.
“I’m just trying to help,” they responded, before taking off after Lance.
As soon as they were gone, Hunk turned to Keith with a laugh. “Excited to spend all your free time with that?”
Keith tried not to let his surprise show on his face. "No! I mean yes. I mean...yeah...I'm going with Lance, uh, what was the question?"
Hunk laughed, in a way that was too warm to make Keith embarrassed. "Oh buddy," he said, once his chuckles subsided, "you and Lance are so funny.”
Keith opened his mouth to ask what that was supposed to mean, but never got the chance. Before he knew it, Hunk had gathered him so tightly in his arms his feet were barely touching the ground.
“I’m gonna miss you!” Hunk said, “a week is a really long time!”
Keith stifled a laugh before relaxing into Hunk. He tried to pat his back as a comforting gesture, but gave up when he realized his arms were completely pinned to his side by the yellow paladin. “It will go by really fast,” Keith said. Hunk slowly let Keith down, and smiled at him. “Yeah, it probably will.”
“Aren’t you excited to see your moms?” Keith probed. Out of everyone, Lance and Hunk talked about earth the most. While he never actually participated in the discussions, Keith liked to listen. Everything seemed to slow down whenever the subject of earth came up. There was always a certain sadness, but it was tinged with a feeling of hope. Lance would tell stories of the trouble him and his siblings got into, while Hunk tended to talk about earth food, and how his bakery-owning moms made the best kind.
“Yeah,” Hunk said, his eyes softening, “I really am.” He smiled wider before adding, “one day I’ll take you to meet them - they would really like you.”
Keith couldn’t hide the grin that started spreading on his face; being part of this team was by far the best thing that had ever happened to him. But before he could enjoy the feeling any longer, a familiar voice came booming through the hanger.
“NOPE. NOT HAPPENING! KEITH IS COMING WITH ME!” Lance, who had finally gotten Pidge off his back and into their own lion, came strolling back into view.
Hunk rolled his eyes. “I said someday, Lance. Besides, you can’t tell Keith what to do.”
“I’M NOT TELLING HIM WHAT TO DO!” Lance exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air, “I'm just saying that he’s coming with me!”
“Whatever,” Hunk said. He pushed past Keith to grab an indigent Lance into a hug, before waving a final goodbye and heading to Yellow.
After Hunk had disappeared, Lance turned to Keith.
“Okay, let’s goooooo!” He tugged on Keith’s arm, waiting for him to pull away or say something sarcastic. To his surprise, Keith did neither.
“Yeah,” Keith replied, with a soft smile and a look on his face that Lance couldn’t quite place. “Let’s go."

Chapter Text

Ever since the night Lance disappeared from the Garrison, the McClain household had been unusually quiet. One moment, the house had been lively and full. All it took was a single phone call, and a blanket of silence had wrapped around the entire place. The same people still lived there, still doing the same things, but every single one of them noticed a strange sort of emptiness after that day. It was as if the entire house had been hollowed out. Though light still shone through the windows the same as it always had, it didn't seem to reach to the floor. It painted the walls sloppily and thinly covered how dark everything should have been.
Lance's father was a swimmer. He grew up swimming, and later surfing. All of his kids loved the water, but Lance had loved it the most. Even as a tiny child he was a fish. His father hadn't been to the ocean since the phone call.
Lance's mother had never been someone who got jealous, over anything. She had a smile as bright as the California sun, a trait she shared with her sun. After the disappearance, she began to feel the edges around her heart harden. It scared her, how bitter and black her insides felt. Months and months passed, and her despair had turned to anger. It was the kind of anger that burned, and she didn't know how to get it out. It simply wasn't fair, that Lance had been taken from her. She wondered if maybe the rest of her life would be shadowed by the flames in her chest.
Just as a phone call had changed everything, a letter disrupted the McClain family's new routine.

"I swear I saw something!"
"You're imagining things."
"Am not! I've been watching closely!"
"Liar."
"Mama!"
Elisa McClain glanced up from her cup of tea, carefully placing it on the wooden table in front of her. The mug was a hand-made gift from one of her children, and she treated it like precious china.
"Yes, dear?"
Next to her, her sister-in-law glanced up as well. Clea spent the majority of her time at the McClain's house, as did her her children. It was a large house, conveniently located a few minutes from a beautiful but hardly populated beach. Tucked in between groves of trees, it was out of sight, becoming its own little haven.
"Mama!" Racing around the corner, carried by swift but chubby legs, Maria came into view. Behind her was a small, darker skinned boy, a few years older than her.
Without hesitation, Maria crawled onto the couch and into her mother's arms. "I saw him," she whined. "I saw Lance!"
"Did not!" The boy next to her exclaimed.
"Danny!" Clea chastised, "I told you to be nice and watch Maria. Don't be mean to her."
Danny slumped forward, and crossed his arms with a huff.
"I did! I promise! There was something in the sky!" Maria insisted.
Elisa smiled. She wondered how much of Lance Maria even remember; she had only been two when he left for the garrison. Still, given her excitement Elisa figure she must remember something, which seemed likely since Lance had hardly left Maria's side since the day she arrived home from the hospital. He had soothed nightmares and played blocks and taught her to stand. The memory left a pang in Elisa's heart, so she shook it out of her mind.
"He's probably not even coming." Danny mumbled, sliding onto the couch.
"Danny! Why would you say that?" Clea turned anxiously to her sister, hoping the words hadn't affected her. She seemed so much happier since the first letter arrived, but something dark still flashed in her eyes whenever anyone spoke of Lance. She wanted to see him, to hold him. Letters were more than she had ever hoped to get, and she felt guilty for being selfish, but she wanted more. She wanted her son back.
"It's okay," Elisa said, reaching over Clea's lap to clasp Danny's small hand in hers. "Sometimes I worry he won't really come too."
Lance's last letter had said he was coming - soon. But it never stated exactly when. Everyone had been on a constant lookout for days. Elisa spent most of her time on the living room couch, which was situated right next to the front door. Clea joined her often. Lance's father decided some yard work was far overdue, and took to fixing up his already perfect lawn, while glancing at the road every few seconds. Most of the children had made bets over who would see him first, so the stakes were high. A day never passed without two or three exclamations of "I saw him!" Even Grandma McClain had moved her knitting chair out of its usual corner to right in front of the largest window in the house.
"MAMA!" A shrill voice echoed through the house, and Alex came running her. Her hair was soaked and tennis shoes untied. "I was...coming home...from the beach," she managed to breathe out, "and I saw, like uh, it was, I don't know but there were two and its him!"

_________________________________________


The moment Lance set foot on earth, he could taste the ocean. He stood at the entrance of a small cave, where Blue and Red were hidden. Large rocks hid his view of the water, but he could hear the crashing waves.
“Can you feel it, Keith?” He said, so quietly it was almost a whisper.
Standing directly behind him, Keith had no idea what he was supposed to be feeling. He had never been to California before, but everything around him was oddly familiar. It was strange, but it felt…like earth. Whatever that odd nostalgic feeling was, it wasn’t what Lance was referring to.
Lance was standing with both his arms out, his eyes closed. After a few seconds, his eyes shot open. His previously peaceful face lit up with excitement as he grabbed Keith’s arm. “Keith,” he repeated, “can you feel it?”
Before Keith even had the chance to open his mouth to respond, Lance was dragging him out of the caves and into the light.
The sun was setting, and Lance loved it. It was the sun, his sun. Pulling Keith along behind him, he was practically running. The dirt road he found his way to, the trees scattered on the side, the cool breeze gliding through his hair, were all pieces of his childhood. The moment he had taken off into spaces, part of his life had shattered, and now it was slowly coming back together.
"Just a few more minutes," Lance said, to himself more than to Keith, "a few minutes and then we're there."
It was less than a few minutes, only because of how fast he went. His long legs sprinted down the gravel road, and Keith almost tripped trying to keep up. Lance wasn't about to let him fall behind, so he had tightened his grip on Keith's wrist and resorted to tugging him along.
It was almost too much for Lance, seeing his house. It was so close, he couldn’t help but think maybe it wasn’t real. He had had this exact same dream too many nights in row to not consider the possibility. Still, this was different. He could smell the trees mixed with the ocean air. His hand was wrapped so tightly on Keith he could feel warmth through his body. Whatever this was, real or not, it was so good.
Lance stopped at the threshold of the yard, turning back to look at Keith. He looked like he wanted to say something, but before he could, he was tackled from behind. Keith, who had seen the assailant coming, didn’t even try to hide his smile.
“LANCE!” Alex had catapulted herself onto Lance’s back, and only released him so he could turn and wrap his arms around her.
Keith took a step back, wishing for a split second that Lance hadn’t let go of his wrist. He shook the thought out of his head, and went back to watching. One by one, and occasionally in groups of two or three, people came running to see Lance. There were siblings, lots of siblings, but also cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and then his father. When Riel McClain got to him, Keith’s mouth dropped open. The man was a spitting image of an older Lance, but even taller.
“Kiddo!” He stared at Lance in amazement for a few seconds before adding, “you’re home!” and gathering his son in his arms until Lance’s feet didn’t touch the ground.
Lance’s dad didn’t seem like he was going to release him, maybe ever, until a soft voice came from behind the small crowd.
“Mi hijo,” a woman whispered, but it was loud enough that everyone turned. Slowly, people shuffled to the side to let Elisa through, and Keith was barely able to catch a glimpse of her face before Lance’s arms were covering her.
Keith felt a sharp pang in his chest, suddenly realizing just how hard being away from home must have been for Lance. Keith never thought about it too much, it wasn’t like there was anything on earth worth missing. But Lance had this. He had dozen of people who loved him, a beautiful home next to a sun-filled ocean, and a mother who clung to him in the tenderest of ways. How Lance possibly survived being torn away for all of it, while still managing to be bright and caring, astounded Keith.
Lance’s mother held on, and didn’t seem ready to let go. Most of the chattering and noise had silenced, and Keith stood awkwardly on the outskirts. He loved watching all these people give Lance attention - the boy deserved it. Still, he felt bad. Like he was an outsider watching a moment that was supposed to be private. He wondered if Lance would notice if he left; just for a few hours so that he wasn’t interrupting any family time. Then, if Lance really wanted, he would come back after…
“IT’S KEITH!” A shrill voice knocked Keith out of his thoughts, and he glanced around to see who could possibly have noticed him.
Within an instant, a small boy with messy hair and several missing teeth pushed his way through the crowd. His big eyes widened even further as he sprinted at Keith, causing him to stumble and almost fall.
“I knew you would come!” The boy declared, wrapping his arms around Keith’s waist in what was less of a hug and more of a possessive grip.
“Um…” Keith said slowly, “how did you-“
“Oh, it’s Keith!” Suddenly Keith was noticed, and a flock of people surrounded him.
“Yes! I knew your mullet would look awesome!”
“I don’t like it.”
“No one cares what you think, Deborah.”
“Keith, I was so worried when you were in the healing pod!”
“Oh,” Keith said, not sure who was even talking to him, “you know about that?”
“Which time?” Another voice asked, “you were in there allllll the time.”
“Not ALL the time-“ Keith started, but stopped mid sentence. He was being hugged by at least two people, both talking at him. The small boy was still attached to his waist, staring up at him eagerly. One look into his shining eyes, and suddenly recognized him. It was Luke, his Luke.
“Did you know that Keith is part Galra?” One of the cousins said loudly.
Immediately Keith tensed up. Apparently Lance had been sharing a lot of information. He waited for signs of disgust, for the younger children to be grabbed back and forced away. To his surprise, no one flinched, and the chattering continued.
“I don’t know what Galra is?” One of the older adults admitted.
“Neither do I, but it sounds awesome.”
“Luke, let him go,” a woman said, appearing from behind and pulling the boy off. It was a struggle, as he wasn’t keen to let go.
“Why do I gotta?” Luke whined, furling his brows and jutting his lip out in a pout.
“It’s my turn,” the woman said simply.
Keith turned to look at her, and couldn’t help but notice how familiar her smile was. It was soft, yet blinding. She radiated warmth, and Keith instantly felt safe.
“I’m Elisa,” the woman said once Luke had relented, “but you can call me mama.” Without warning she pulled Keith into a hug, and held onto him like the world depended on it.
Hesitantly, Keith wrapped his arms around her back, bending down a bit as she was far shorter than him. He her raise a hand and softly stroke the back of his hair, before quietly saying, “I was so worried about you. I’m so happy you are here.”
Then her demeanor changed, and she pulled back. Holding Keith at arms length, she eyed him carefully. “You…you better not do that again!” She said, louder than before. “You and Lance, both of you…stop…all of your…shenanigans! No more almost dying!”
Lance’s laugh rang out from several feet away. He was leaning on Alex but had stopped his conversation out of curiosity once his mom had started towards Keith. He stood up straight and happily bounced to his mother’s side.
“I haven’t been pulling ANY shenanigans, I’ll have you know,” he declared with a smirk, “but mullet over here has been AWFUL.”
“What?” Keith protested, his face growing red. “You always pull the worst stunts! You know that!”
“Nope,” Lance replied casually, “doesn’t ring a bell.”
“You dirty liar! You pull so many…” Keith paused. What was the word? “Shenanigans! Shenanigans all over the place. On a daily basis! Daily!”
“Both of you are trouble makers!” Elisa exclaimed. Her eyes softened as the looked between the two boys. “I’m so glad you are home.”
Keith felt a lump rise in his throat. He was sure the last part had been directed at Lance, but she had looked directly in his eyes while saying it. It almost seemed like she was saying…no. Keith pushed away the thought.
Lance had leaned back in to hug his mother, and Keith noticed how absolutely peaceful he looked. Lance was always talking, always moving, always doing something. For the first time, the anxiety that always clouded his eyes seemed to clear up.
“You need food!” Keith was torn away from his thoughts of Lance with a sharp pinch on the cheeks.
“Hey!” He turned to see who had grabbed him, but no one was there. After a few seconds he looked down and noticed a small, wrinkled woman. She reached back up to pinch Keith cheek, and he was too stunned to protest.
“You are so skinny. Come right now, you need food.”
“Abuela!” Lance skipped to Keith’s side, only to get his cheek grabbed as well.
“So skinny!” The woman mumbled. “No one eats in space? Is that it? Dios mío!”
“Alright,” Elisa said gently, managing to pull her mother away. “We all should eat.”
As people started migrating inside, Luke quickly jumped at his chance. Starting from a distance, he sprinted and jumped at Keith, who hardly had time to catch him.
“You coming?” He asked urgently, wrapping his arms around Keith’s neck to keep steady.
Keith glanced ahead at Lance, who was already several feet in front of him, motioning for him to follow. He turned back to Luke. “Yeah,” Keith nodded, “can I sit next to you?”
Luke’s impossibly big eyes grew bigger. “You want to sit next me? YES! I’M SITTING NEXT TO KEITH!” He slumped over as Keith carried him, leaning his head on Keith shoulder.
Already at the front door, Lance turned to look back. Framed by streams of golden light and the soft hum of crickets, he saw Keith with his arms wrapped around Luke, smile towards him.
Lance wasn’t sure he had ever felt so happy, in his life. He was home, he was safe. Every worry he had carried around for the past few years melted. The evil he had seen was temporarily forgotten, the pain and loss weighing on his heart lifted. The heaviness in his chest had disintegrated, fizzling out until there was nothing dark left. The world around him was nothing but pure light.
“I like it here,” Keith said, once he was close enough for Lance to hear. “I like them,” he motioned to inside the house, where the sound of plates clashing and multiple conversations rung out.
“They like you,” Lance replied. Keith’s face instantly grew red, and Lance felt his heart beat faster. He had always known Keith was good looking, but this was something else entirely. Holding his baby brother and blushing, Lance couldn’t stop the words coming out of his mouth. “I like you!”
Keith’s eyes widened, and Lance quickly continued, “I mean, I, um, I glad you are here with me!”
Keith let out a soft laugh, playful bumping Lance with his shoulder as he strode inside.
“Yeah,” he said, “me too.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The McClain family home was, if nothing, built for people. It had amazed Keith. The tiled kitchen was large, and a counter ran through it, separating it from the dining room. Huge windows stood behind the seemingly endless table, a glass door situated in the middle that led to the back patio. Those doors stayed open during dinner, as the patio was filled with tables and various sized chairs.
Keith had gotten a quick glimpse of the living room, it was stuffed with several couches with mismatched pillows and blankets strewn across them. The walls were crowded with framed pictures, notes and drawings. Books covered the far wall, more pictures being used as bookends. The TV was set so one couch was facing it, and a heap of blankets had been tossed in front. Nothing about the house was dirty, but rather it was a mess of small pieces of the people who lived there.
It hadn’t surprised Keith that there were several guest rooms, but it was still disappointing. Something about sleeping in a new place gave him anxiety. Stupid, he thought to himself, the moment he felt his chest tighten when Alex offered to show him to the largest one. Why does this still bother me? After all the foster homes he had been through, he thought he would have gotten used to it. Instead, it had made it worse. After leaving the garrison and becoming part of Voltron, it had taken him weeks to be able to sleep through the night. He had gotten used to late night training sessions and always feeling exhausted. Despite his introverted nature, something about being in alone in a new place was terrifying, and he felt like a child for even thinking about it.
“Thanks,” he told Alex, trying to keep his voice upbeat. Dinner had been finished and the family had sat around talking for hours. Now that it was past midnight, everyone was starting to wander to bed. Lance had sat next to his mother, and had kept his arm around her for the entire meal. After, they had moved to the living room and he was currently sitting between her and an aunt, deep in conversation.
“Nope!” Lance declared, stopping a story mid-sentence. He practically bolted to Keith’s side, a goofy grin smeared across his face.
“What?” Alex raised an eyebrow in confusion, but Lance was already explaining.
“I traveled very, very far to get here, and so did Keith. Obviously. Tell her Keith.”
“Uh, yeah?” Keith nodded, trying to hide his confusion.
“We traveled all this way for an earth sleepover, Alex. A sleepover. Kind of a big deal. It doesn’t count as a sleepover if Keith gets his own room. Obviously.”
Alex rolled her eyes, unable to hide a smile. “Whatever,” she said, “it’s nice to know you haven’t changed - you’re still super weird.”
“Yup!” Lance agreed confidently, before swinging his arms around her shoulders, “but you still love me!”
Lance had meant it in a funny way, so he wasn’t expecting Alex to tighten her arms around him and whisper “yeah,” before turning away to hide tears. Keith watched, his throat tightening.
Once Alex had disappeared, Lance turned to Keith, a bright smile quickly replacing the pain that had flashed through his eyes only seconds earlier. “I’m going to tell Mama goodnight,” he said cheerily, “you can head upstairs if you want. My room is the third door on the right.”
The relief that soared through Keith’s body was almost overwhelming, and he was glad that Lance had already turned away and started back towards his mother. Keith needed a moment to process what had just happened.
Unsurprisingly, Lance took his time saying goodnight. Keith headed up the stairs, stopping in front of a white door. He rocked back on his feet, unsure. He knew it was stupid, but he felt odd just barging in, so he opened the door slowly.
Lance’s room was was an organized mess, memories filling every corner. Posters of space were taped on every wall, and what looked like an old elementary school project of the solar system hung from the ceiling. Sitting on was side was a wide dresser, a large mirror resting on top. The entire surface was taped with pictures, old report cards, and notes. Three separate basketballs and two soccer balls were strewn around the room, and Keith noticed multiple trophies on various surfaces. Next to the dresser, a surfboard was propped against the wall. Everything about Lance’s life seemed full - stuffed to the brim with personality and traces of people who loved him.
Towards the middle of room was a queen sized bed, neatly made with several pillows and extra blankets propped on. One bed. Obviously. Lance had his own room, why would there be more than one bed? Panic started to rise in Keith. What exactly was the plan? Where was he supposed to sleep? Lance probably wanted nothing more than to sleep in his own bed, but Keith would bet anything he would offer it before taking it for himself.
Quickly, Keith made his way to Lance’s bed, grabbing a few pillows and one of the many blankets. He wasted no time in setting them up, creating a makeshift bed next to Lance’s. He sat comfortably on one of the pillows and continued gazing around the room, until Lance all but burst in.
“It looks exactly like I remember!” Lance exclaimed, nostalgia flooding him. He felt like he was back for summer vacation, like maybe nothing had really been real. Everything looked the exact same, except the random messy haired paladin sitting in what looked like a nest of pillows on his floor.
“Uh, Keith, buddy, whatcha doin’?” Lance asked.
Keith stared back at him quizzically. “I’m going to go to sleep? I’m tired.” He answered, suddenly wondering if he had done something wrong.
“Yeah,” Lance said slowly, “that’s what beds are for. It’s okay, you got pretty close, just a couple feet off. But you know, most people actually sleep in them, not just sit next to them.”
Keith rolled his eyes. “It’s your bed. I’m fine to sleep on the floor.”
Lance opened his mouth to respond, then slammed it shut. He had sort of assumed they could both sleep in the same bed. He was used to sharing a bed, sometimes with three or four siblings and cousins at once. But maybe that was weird. He was lucky Keith had even agreed to stay in the same room as him.
Lance had noticed early Keith’s strange habits, only because he also had a hard time falling asleep in the castle. Several times he had wandered around the castle plagued with homesickness while everyone else slept, only to catch a glimpse of Keith vigorously eliminating a training bot. At first it annoyed him, that Keith was so pretentious he would miss out on sleep to train. Then Lance started noticing the bags under the other boy’s eyes, and once overheard Shiro mention he was going to read for a while, and maybe Keith would like to try sleeping next to him while he did? To Lance’s surprise Keith agreed, and had looked visibly relieved.
Though deep in a separate conversation, Lance had noticed Keith’s panicked look when Alex offered him a spare room. He hadn’t had time to think about his response, before he knew it he was standing up and suggesting they share a room. It had only occurred to him afterwards that maybe Keith didn’t want or need Lance - that maybe he was overstepping his bounds. He quickly nixed the idea of sharing a bed, and moved on to his next plan.
“I didn’t invite you to my house to make you sleep on the floor,” Lance argued, “I wasn’t raised like that.”
Keith raised an eyebrow, and Lance continued. “You take the bed, I’ll take the floor.”
“No.” Keith responded simply, curling further into his stack of pillows. “This is your first time home in years. Sleep in your own bed. I’m fine on the floor.”
Lance rolled his eyes. Like hell that was going to happen. He yanked a blanket off the bed, and snatched two pillows up under his arms before situating himself on the floor. “Too late,” he announced, “I’m already here. Looks like you have no choice.”
“No,” Keith said again, “I’m not making you sleep on the floor. I was here first, so I win. Now get in your damn bed.”
“I can’t, I’m sleeping on the floor.”
“I’m sleeping on the floor!”
“Well then I guess we’re both sleeping on the floor then, is that what you want?”
“Maybe I do!”
“Fine!”
“Fine!”
It only took a few minutes before Keith was completely passed out, and Lance could hear him breathing softly. He stayed awake, staring around his room, trying to take every piece in, amazed at how many small things he had forgotten. Eventually, the sound of Keith’s steady breath lulled him to sleep, and he found himself struggling to keep his eyes open.

 ______________________________________________________________________

The moment Lance began to wake up, he felt like he was being crushed. A sense of sadness was swirling in his stomach, and he pulled his knees up to his chest to alleviate the pain. It wasn’t a new sensation, but today it seemed to be worse than usual.
He rolled onto his side, keeping his eyes pressed closed. Every time, he thought, every time. Every time he dreamt of his family, he woke up like this. Sad, and alone. It was kinda nice, he thought, sleepily. His dreams of home usually were, but this one was especially…nice. I saw mama, he thought, trying to ignore the sadness still swooping over hime. And papa, and abuela and Keith, and Luke and - KEITH.
Lance shot straight up, his eyes flying open. Instead of the dimmed white lights of the castle, a golden sunshine was pouring over him. Whatever darkness had been lingering in him evaporated. It hadn’t been a dream. He was sitting in California, on a pile of his old blankets, in a room filled with pieces of his childhood. Euphoria flooded him as he laid back down, and breathed in the familiar smell of his house. It was too good to be true - and yet, he was here.
“Keith!” Lance exclaimed, unable to keep his happiness contained. He grabbed one of his pillows and flung it in Keith’s direction. When he didn’t get a response, he threw another one. Still, nothing. It took throwing his blanket, an old stuffed animal, and eventually a basketball for Lance to realize that Keith wasn’t even in the room.
Lance rolled his eyes instinctually. Weirdo probably woke up hours ago to go for a run or try and fight seagulls on the beach or whatever it was he did for training when he didn’t have the simulators. It shouldn’t have bothered Lance as much as it did. Keith could do whatever he wanted. Lance had just wanted to…he wasn’t sure actually. Wake up next to him and start their earth adventure together? No, that sounded sappy.
Lance finally pulled himself off of the floor and padded into his bathroom. He had brought plenty of space products to get ready with, but it had been unnecessary. Everything was exactly the same as when he left it, down to the flecks of toothpaste in the sink. Lance glanced back in the mirror and noticed a small scar running from the bottom of his ear to his hairline. He couldn’t really remember where it came from, probably just another Galra attack. It was odd, nothing in his room had changed except for him.
Lance pushed the thought from his mind and brushed his teeth quickly, rushing over his skincare routine. He figured he could catch up tonight - there were more important things to do.
With a satisfied huff after one last glance in the mirror, he bounded down the stairs, ready to swing into the kitchen. He could already smell the scent of something warm and buttery drifting through the air, and he heard his mama speak softly.
“Good, good, that’s very good.”
“It’s not good - it’s not working. It’s not working. Why isn’t it working?” Came a second, slightly shrill voice.
“No it’s fine, really, very good.” His mother continued, and as he got closer he heard his father pipe in, “Yeah it’s great. I LOVE eggshells in my pancakes. Gives it a crunch.” Something went flying through the air and Lance heard is father make an exaggerated “oof!”
Stepping slowly into the kitchen, Lance stumbled across a scene he wasn’t really prepared for. His mama stood in the kitchen, watching fondly as Keith attempted to crack an egg into a bowl. By the amused glances of his father, who was now positioned further away, he wasn’t very good at it.
Keith’s concentration didn’t break, even when Mama shuffled away to wrap Lance up in a good morning hug. Lance’s father followed suit, except neither one let go.
“Guys,” Lance managed to breathe out, “you’re gonna kill me.”
“With love!” Lance’s dad exclaimed, and hugged him harder.
“Riel, let him breathe!” Mama let go and pulled her husband off. She stood silently, looking at Lance for longer than she should have. It was the same unbelieving stare she had been watching Lance with since the moment he returned. Lance wasn’t sure how he should respond - even thinking of how much pain she had been through because of him was unbearable.
Luckily, Keith interrupted.
“I DID IT!” Keith swirled around, holding an empty broken egg shell in his hands. He looked more proud of himself than he did after Zarkon was defeated.
“Lovely!” Mama replied, bustling back to his side. “It just needs 2 more.”
“Oh.”
Lance wandered over, noticing the pile of discarded egg shells and yoke piling up in the trash. “So, uh, someone’s not a chef.”
“Hey! I helped with those!” Keith insisted, pointing at a stack of pancakes next to the stove.
“Sure,” Lance said with a smile, “does that mean you watched while Mama did everything?”
“Supervised,” Keith corrected, “she said I was the supervisor.”
Lance could barely contain he laughter as he tried to keep a straight face, “that’s what she used to tell me when I was a kid and she didn’t want me to mess up what she was doing.”
Keith rolled his eyes. “That’s different. I bet you were a terrible child.” He turned back to the unfinished bowl of pancake mix, and started working on cracking another egg. Lance opened is mouth to argue, but nothing came out. He hadn’t exactly been the most well behaved child, something Keith had apparently gleaned from their time together.
Lance rounded the counter and picked up the plate of finished pancakes, moving to set them on the table. “Can we eat now?” He asked, sliding into a chair next to his dad.
“WE CAN EAT NOW?” A loud voice came from behind, and Lance’s chair shook as Alex shoved past him. “I’ve been waiting FOREVER.”
Keith eventually admitted defeat, letting Mama crack the remaining eggs (though not without her adamantly stating, “you did wonderful, dear. Just wonderful. It takes time, we’ll try again tomorrow”). He shuffled to the table, where even more people had arrived.
Lance currently being bombarded by Luke with questions about alien pets, and Danny was on his other side listening vehemently. His side of the table was completely filled, and Keith stood awkwardly unsure of where to go. He usually sat at the exact same spot every morning at breakfast in the castle; what if he accidentally sat in a seat someone else usually sat in? Or sat next to someone he had to talk to, but then what if he couldn’t find things to talk about? Or -
“Oh good, you’re here,” Alex grabbed Keith’s sleeve and tugged him into the seat next her. She already had what appeared to be half a pancake shoved in her mouth, and was attempting to speak through a mouthful of syrup. “Today is going to be so fun, Uncle will said he is going to find those flavored marshmallows and Terry’s financeé, Hannah, just got back in town after a conference so she is going to come, but she doesn’t even eat meat so I’m not sure what the point is?”
Keith stared at her blankly, not sure if he was understanding the words coming from her muffled, food-filled mouth.
She swallowed quickly and chugged her orange juice, all while holding up a finger indicating for Keith to wait. Finally, she turned back to him. “You do know we’re going to have a barbecue, right?”
“Uh - no…” Keith began, before a hand reached over him and swatted at Alex.
“SECRET BARBECUE!” Abuela shouted, “IT’S A SECRET.”
“Oooohh, yeah,” Alex said softly. “I’m not supposed to tell you or Lance, because, it’s like, a surprise.”
“Oh,” said Keith, suddenly feeling self-conscious, “so who all is coming?”
Alex shrugged, “oh, you know, everyone. All the other cousins you haven’t met yet and aunts and uncles and…” Alex trailed off. “This will be fun!” She insisted, noticing Keith’s panicked face, “you get to meet all the other cousins!”
“You don’t really need to,” Danny shouted from across the table, after getting bored with Luke and Lance’s conversation. “I’m the cool one.”
“I figured that,” Keith said, and Danny beamed.
“You said I was the cool one!” Lance interrupted, his attention turning to Keith.
“I have never said anything of that sort, in my life, ever.” Keith said, and Alex choked on her orange juice. Suddenly the whole table was laughing as Lance crossed his arms in a huff, unable to hide the smile growing on his face.

Chapter Text

“I cannot believe I lost him,” Lance huffed out, in between bites of a chip-filled hot dog. “Shiro is going to murder me.”
“Lost who?” Aunt Clea asked, swishing lemonade around a plastic cup.
“KEITH!” Lance exclaimed, shoving more food into his mouth. The neighborhood park wasn’t that big, how had Keith managed to disappear?
“He’s right there,” Clea pointed past the soccer fields to the side of a hill, where Keith was sitting surrounded by three aunts.
“Oh,” Lance let out a sigh of relief. “What’s he even doing?”
Clea shrugged. “Your boyfriend’s popular.”
“Yeah, everyone really likes hi-wait! He’s not my boyfriend!” Lance swung away from Clea, hoping to hide how flustered even the insinuation was making him. “You can’t just say stuff like that!”
Clea just shrugged again, and bent down to lift Danny into her arms. Lance tousled his hair before staring back at where Keith was, trying not to smile when he noticed one of his aunts attempting to braid his mullet. Keith didn’t seem to notice-he was busy talking and gesturing wildly to one of the other aunts.
“Wanna go see Keith, buddy?” Lance asked Danny, who nodded vehemently and struggled to get out of his mothers arms. Once free, Danny clasped Lance’s hand and all but dragged him past the soccer field to where Keith was.
“Have you tried conditioner? You really should,” Aunt Terry was saying, tugging on Keith’s bangs, “you have to do shampoo AND conditioner.”
“I have survived over 19 years of life without ever buying a bottle of conditioner, I think I’ll survive,” Keith retorted.
“Lance,” Terry said urgently, “how could you do this? I would have thought you would have shared at least A LITTLE.”
Before Lance could respond, Keith snorted. “Lance, share? Doesn’t sound right.”
Lance let out an exasperated “hey!” He plopped down next to Keith, making sure to shove him over as he did. Keith popped back up, and Lance couldn’t help but notice how bright his smile was. None of his teasing had any edge to it, everything about him seemed…comfortable. It wasn’t something Lance had necessarily been expecting when introducing Keith to new people, but the fact that he fit in so well with his whole family was making his heart beat faster than normal.
“We should go find the marshmallows and start the s’mores making,” Terry declared, grabbing Hannah’s hand and dragging her away.
“Wait for me!” Lance’s younger Aunt, Annalee, exclaimed, jumping up.
Lance leaned back into the grass, breathing in the smell of campfire and hotdogs. Everything was so serene, so peaceful, until Danny started screeching.
“LUKE! OVER HERE, WE’RE OVER HERE”. Keith grimaced and covered his ears, while Lance sat upright in surprise.
Luke came barreling over, straight into Lance’s lap.
“Hey, kiddo,” Lance said, a smile spreading over his face. Danny shoved his way past Lance and into Keith’s lap, and both boys seemed content for the time being. Lance started to relax again, slowly leaning backwards, when Danny, once again, broke him out of it.
“Are you gonna get married?” Danny was staring intently at Lance, who wasn’t exactly sure where the question had come from.
“Uh, I think, eventually, once I meet someone…” Lance stuttered, and Danny shook his head.
“I mean, are YOU GUYS gonna get married?” He nodded between Lance and Keith, whose face suddenly went bright red.
“I…uh…why would you…” Lance stuttered.
“Dad says when people hang out all the time and love each other they get married,” Danny continued, “so you guys are getting married, right?”
“No!” Luke exclaimed, and Lance breathed a sigh of relief. Let the kid change the subject and maybe Keith would forget this awkward conversation even happened.
“They aren’t getting married, stupid,” Luke said, “They already are married. That’s how it works in space.”
“Wait, no,” Lance began, not expecting Luke to look as sad as he did at his answer.
“So you don’t love each other?” Danny asked, with a furrowed brow.
“It’s not that, it’s um, see…” Lance started, but luckily Keith cut in.
“I told Lance I wouldn’t marry him until he bought me a GIANT wedding cake. He’s been slacking off.” Lance’s jaw dropped at how casually Keith made the statement, his eyes twinkling as he said it.
“Oh,” Luke said, nodding. “You should work on that Lance.”
“I think your mom is looking for you,” Keith said, pointing to where Clea was wandering and shouting Danny’s name.
“I gotta go,” Danny said quickly, motioning for Luke to come with him, “we should hide before she finds either of us.” Keith let out a surprised laugh and both of the smaller boys darted away.
“Didn’t realize you were such a fan of cake,” Lance said, once both Danny and Luke had disappeared from view.
“I…uh, yeah, sorry. Uh…you’re brother is…funny.” Keith mumbled, suddenly feeling extremely self conscious.
“Haha, yeah, he always says crazy things. Super crazy.”
“Super crazy,” Keith repeated.
“It’s nice though,” Lance said, slowly, “that both of them can tell we’re really good friends.”
“Uh, yeah…” Keith stuttered, suddenly noticing how close Lance’s hand was sitting to his. It would be so easy just to grab it…
“Like, super good friends, since we fight in a space war and all that,” Lance was rambling.
“Yup,” Keith nodded, brushing his hand along side of Lance’s.
Lance kept talking, pretending not to notice. But he opened his hand to the side and pushed it closer, until Keith slide his in. He was warm and soft and Lance tightened his grip as he let himself lean backwards into the grass. Keith followed suit, closing his eyes as soon as his head hit the earth. Everything smelled good, and his hand was warm in Lance’s. The perfection of the moment was almost overwhelming.
“I’m glad we’re friends,” Lance said, finally finishing his ramble.
“Me too,” Keith said softly, stroking Lance’s hand with his thumb. Because after all, wasn’t that something friends did?

The barbecue ended soon after, with Maria falling asleep on top of a slide. Keith climbed the play set and carried her down, handing her to her father who carried her to the car.
“Carry me, too, Keith,” Lance demanded, slumping over onto Keith’s back.
“Not happing,” Keith responded, dodging out of the way so Lance all but face-planted into the ground.
Lance moodily made his way to the car, while Keith helped gather left over hot dog buns and forgotten paper plates. The sun had slunk behind the trees, and the earth was washed in a cool blue. The scent of campfire lingered in the air, and idle chit-chat rung out between adults.
I want to do this again, Keith thought. He had never been to anything like this. It was so big, so messy, so…full. And somehow, he got to be part of it. I want to keep doing things like this forever, Keith mused, shoving leftover hamburgers in a cooler. With Lance. Yeah. I like that. He was getting too tired to shove the thought away, or even process what he was thinking. He slid into the car next to Lance, not even having time to buckle before the other boy was slumped on top of him.


______________________________________

“You need a shower, too,” Lance said, shaking his wet hair back and forth, making sure to hit Keith.
“I’ll take one tomorrow,” Keith groaned, attempting to shove past Lance.
“You smell like campfire, you’re gonna make all my blankets smell bad.”
It took a minute of bickering, but Keith finally relented. He was exhausted and completely worn out, but Lance wasn’t giving him much of choice.
“Maybe try conditioner, it will change your life,” Lance added, helpfully.
Keith rolled his eyes and slammed the bathroom door, harder than he really had to. Once he was in the shower, he sighed and let the warmth wash over him. He dumped a handful of shampoo onto his hand, and ran it sloppily through his hair. Suddenly, everything around him smelt sweet. It smelt like cinnamon and soap and Keith didn’t have time to think about what he was doing before he poured more and more over his head. It was overkill, for sure, but it smelt so good and so, so familiar,
Keith stopped suddenly in confusion. It shouldn’t be familiar. He was in a new place, on earth. The shampoo was in some fancy bottle, but it obviously came from earth. It wasn’t from the castle, as all of the soap there was an odd but nice sterile smelling serum, and it wasn’t anything Keith would have come across before - he had never spent more than three dollars on soap and this was clearly worth at least fifteen. It didn’t make sense, but Keith knew exactly where the smell was from.

When Keith got out of the shower, Lance was already set up on the floor. He had rearranged the pillows around him and was completely wrapped up in one of his larger, fluffier blankets.
“I don’t get it,” Keith said, plopping down across from Lance. He knew it was a weird thing to be curious about, but he figured it would bother him until he asked. “Your shampoo smells the exact same as the stuff you use in space. How is that even possible? The stuff in my room just smells like a fancy hospital.”
Lance’s cheeks darkened and his smile faltered. “Uh, yeah, it’s uh, it’s dumb, but once when I was getting really homesick I asked Coran if there was a way to make my shampoo smell different, just uh, cause you know, I’ve been using the same brand for like, ever, and I thought maybe it would help, cause it’s familiar? Uh, I mean I don’t know. Turns out there are a bunch of controls you can use to make basically any scent and it took a long time but I finally figured one out so that, uh, so you know, it smelled the same.”
“Oh,” Keith said softly, looking down and his hands. It hurt to think about how homesick Lance must have been; he sort of understood before, he could guess what it must have been like. But now, having met Lance’s whole family and seeing how much they adored him, he was starting to get it even more. The pain from being separated from them must have been unbearable. 
“Wait,” Lance said suddenly, narrowing his eyes at Keith, “how would you know what my shampoo smelled like in space?”
Keith froze. He should have figured Lance would ask that, but the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. How did he even know in the first place? I like being with you and I like how you smell and I feel warm inside whenever anything reminds me of you and I wish I could stand next to you all the time and breathe you in - nope that was probably not an acceptable answer.
“I…like cinnamon,” Keith stuttered. “So, I guess I just randomly noticed, or whatever.”
Lance nodded, not even attempting to hide his growing smile.

It had been an exhausting day. Good, but exhausting. Lance was completely worn out, and so was Keith, so it made no sense why, two hours after they had both showered and gotten ready for bed, they were still awake.
“It’s totally possible, Lance, not only that, it’s probable!”
Lance rolled his eyes, “sure, buddy. You and your conspiracies, I swear.” Keith wasn’t deterred by Lance’s sarcasm, and he went straight back into his rant. Lance noticed the more excited Keith got, the bigger his arm movements. Every once and a while he would say something while waving his hand and his hair would sway from side to side and when he stopped his nose would crinkle and his mouth would scrunch just slightly as he thought. Suddenly, Lance was paying more attention to Keith’s lips, and he got the sudden urge to smash them into his. They were probably soft and Keith was so gorgeous and…
“Right, Lance?” Keith stared wide-eyed, having just finished a half-an-hour long rant. “You do believe that, right?”
“Uh, um,” Lance stumbled. “No. Not at all.” He figured his best bet would be to disagree with Keith, given that was how he tended to cope with avoiding feelings.
Keith rolled his eyes. “Figures.” And suddenly he was back ranting about something new, raising his hand and gesturing wildly.
I held his hand, Lance thought. The previous hours felt too good to be true. He was with his family, on earth, with hotdogs and marshmallows and his hand in Keith’s. He probably only did it to be nice, Lance thought instantly. Keith was, well, Keith. He was talented and smart and damn good looking and why would he ever think of Lance as anything besides a friend? But it had been Keith who had slid his hand into Lance’s in the first place. Sure, Lance encouraged it but Keith had been the one who threaded their fingers together. It seemed impossible, but maybe there was a chance.
Lance shook the thoughts out of his head as Keith yawned and leaned back into the pillows. Keith, it seemed, was too tired to continue. Lance had the sudden urge to hold his hand again, or at least do something, anything, so that he was closer.
“You know,” Lance said, eyeing Keith carefully, “I think there are some things you should know if you are going to stay here.”
Keith raise an eyebrow, and started to sit up. “Like what?”
“Well,” Lance said slowly, not sure exactly what he was doing, “you should probably be more educated about the state you’re in. You know, California.”
“What?” Keith wasn’t sure if he was just tired, or if Lance was really making no sense.
“Like conservation. California is really big on that.” Lance continued.
“That’s…great.” Keith stuttered, trying and failing to see where Lance was going with this.
“I think both of us should make a bigger effort to do our part, don’t you?” Lance asked, waiting for Keith to answer.
“Well, uh, yeah. I mean, what should we do?”
Lance paused and tried to look like he was thinking. “Well, there are lots of things we could do. We could conserve energy, maybe buy those cool lightbulbs or something. But I think we should start with conserving space.”
“What?” Keith really wasn’t following, “conserve space?”
“Yep,” Lance nodded vehemently, “we take up so much space when we don’t need to. We could probably save some by, oh, I don’t know, sharing a bed. I mean, look at us, all sprawled out on the floor when there is a perfectly good bed right here.”
Keith’s look of utter confusion melted off his face, and he tried to roll his eyes but couldn’t. Surprised laughter was rolling out of him, and he practically giggled. When he finally got himself under control, he attempted to make a serious face as he turned to Lance. “How inconsiderate of us,” he declared, climbing onto the bed and dragging his pillows with him.
Lance sighed quietly, trying not to show his relief. He had no idea what he was doing, but he was certain he wanted to be just a little bit closer to Keith, and this seemed like the best way. He pulled himself up, sliding into the bed until he could feel Keith’s heat from between the sheets. His head sunk into his pillow, and he could hear Keith’s soft breathing.
“I’m glad we did this,” Keith said, so quietly Lance almost didn’t hear, “for the environment.”
“Yeah,” Lance said, his heart racing and Keith scooted closer until their arms touched and Keith’s hair brushed against his shoulder, “for the environment.”

Chapter Text

After getting kicked out of the Garrison, before finding Shiro, Keith had worked hard to convince himself he was happy. He always told himself he didn’t like people, and people didn’t like him. Being alone in the desert should have felt like a dream. In some ways, it was. He was free to do whatever he wanted, anytime, all the time. No rules, and nothing to stop him. He would ride his bike as far as he wanted, relishing in the heat of the afternoon sun.
But his happiness was always short lived. He returned to his shack every night, and as the darkness came so did the cold. He couldn’t afford a heater, so he wrapped blankets around himself and tried to ignore his freezing toes. He couldn’t help but think about people, at the Garrison and in other places, who were in a home, warm and pressed against people they loved. It was a frustrating thought, but it would never leave.
The morning Keith woke up in Lance’s bed, the thought sprung on him again, despite him not having thought it in a while. But this time it was accompanied by a I never thought I would be one of those warm people, and now I am.
He wasn’t quite sure how to control what was happening in his chest, so he breathed in slowly. Everything around him was good. So good. Lance was so close, his arm slumped sleepily over Keith’s shoulder. Everything was so quiet, it almost hurt to think that eventually Lance would wake up and the moment would end. Carefully, Keith turned around to face Lance, and gently buried himself closer into his chest, breathing in every piece of him.

Lance woke earlier than he usually did, and found himself faced with a nest of tangled black hair. He squinted his eyes blearily, before remembering that it was Keith. His Keith. The Keith who had beautiful eyes and the happiest smile, and whose laugh made his insides tangle up. That Keith. In bed, next to him.
In his head, Lance knew that it was Keith, sleeping in his bed, because they were friends and nothing more. But it was Keith, who cared about people fiercely and loved Lance’s family deeply and had held his hand the day before. He held Keith’s hand.
Slowly, Lance moved to carefully stretch his arm out and toss it over Keith’s shoulder, figuring that was the most he could do. Keith was his friend, but right now, in the early morning, wrapped in blankets and warmth, he figured he could pretend, at least for a little.
To his surprise, Keith shifted a few minutes later. In a panic, Lance began to move his arm, only to have Keith roll over and curl into him.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In the late morning, as dusty sunlight filtered through the dirty windows and glinted off the well-worn tiles, Keith stood in the kitchen, wiping what appeared to be the last remains of breakfast off the counters. He had asked Mama if she needed help cleaning, half expecting her to refuse, as one would a guest. Instead, Mama had sighed in relief and tossed a damp dishrag at Keith, pointing out what needed to be cleaned.
Somewhere in the distance, Lance shrieked.
"Lance!" Keith sprung over the counter without hesitation, sprinting up the stairs to where the noise emitted from. When he reached the source he looked up from where he had bent down to pull the dagger hidden in his boot, only to see Lance standing happily in front of his mother and father, with Alex leaning nonchalantly against a nearby wall. She raised her eyebrows slightly at Keith, then went back to scrolling through her phone.
"Perfect timing!" Mama exclaimed, ignoring Keith's dramatic entrance. She walk to Keith and slung her arm around his shoulders, though she had to reach up slightly. "I'm sure you will want hear this!"
"WE'RE GOING TO THE BEACH!" Lance practically shouted, causing Alex to raise her eyes once again, only to roll them.
"The actual beach, Keith!" Lance jumped in front of Keith, grabbing both his arms and shaking them.
"Um, cool," Keith said.
"Not just cool, Keith," Lance said with an eye roll, and Keith instantly noticed the family resemblance between him and Alex, "it's the beach, it's AWESOME!"
"It's like five minutes from here," Keith said, "you could have gone any time."
"Yes," Lance said, with a wave of his hand, "but there was so much to do. We had to talk to people, and then we had to eat some food, then we talked some more, and ya know, did all sorts of stuff. I was busy. But now we're going to the beach!"
"Glad you’re excited, kiddo," Lance's dad said, ruffling his hair.
Mama quickly turned to Alex and began giving her instruction, much to her obvious dismay. "Will you put Maria in a swimsuit? And make sure she has shoes. Oh, and tell Luke he has to wear a swimsuit, I don't care if he thinks the ocean is just a giant tub, he's wearing a swimsuit and that's final. Oh, and everyone needs towels, We should have plenty in the laundry room..."
As Mama chattered on with instructions, Lance grabbed Keith by the wrist and pulled him towards his room, hardly containing his excitement.

Almost an hour later, Keith sat waiting on the edge of the couch. He was wearing one of Lance's many swim trunks, tapping his foot impatiently. It was taking much, much longer for everyone to get ready than he had expected. All that was needed was a swimsuit and a towel, how was it taking this long?
"Keith!" Luke yelled, rushing into the room, "where did I put my other flip-flop?"
"I don't kno--"
"I need my other flip-flop!" He shrieked.
Keith sighed and stood up, leading Luke to his room where he eventually convinced him to wear one of his other twenty pairs of flip flops sitting in his closet. Finally, everyone was ready.

Leading the way to the beach, Alex bounced happily ahead, looking much more enthusiastic than she had earlier. Behind her, Lance scooped Maria into his arms, holding her as she squirmed excitedly. Luke trailed behind with Danny followed by Keith and the McClain parents as well as several other adults.
The moment the crystal blue waves came into view, Lance stopped. Maria pushed herself out of his arms and ran ahead, not wiling to be left behind. Lance stood still, watching the shimmering blue collide with bright stripes of sunshine. Suddenly, he felt what he had when he first wrapped his arms around his mom earlier the same week; it was the distinct feeling of home.
Caught up in the warmth of sand and the smell of salt, he almost didn't notice Keith had came to stand next to him.
"Hm," Keith said, "I guess it is pretty."
"Pretty?!" Lance turned to Keith in disbelief. "It's the OCEAN Keith, it's...it's..."
"Awesome?" Keith supplied, mimicking Lance’s earlier reaction.
"Yes! Awesome!" Lance ran across the sand, letting out a happy sigh once the cold water ran across his feet. "Come on!" He shouted back, walking further and further into the waves.
Keith shook his head, "Looks cold," he shouted, not sure that Lance could hear him over the pounding water.
"Just get in, you big baby!" Lance responded, backing up further and further with his arms out.
Keith shook his head, "I promised Luke I would help him build a sand castle, and it's going to be way better than yours."
With that, Lance sprung out the water, pushing as fast as he could to where Keith was. "No, no, no! I'm the sandcastle master, and I will be winning this contest!"

Lance, to Keith’s dismay, was much, much better than Keith at sandcastles. So much so, that Luke deflected to Lance’s and Danny’s side within the first five minutes. Keith sat in the sand, Maria happily giggling next to him, trying to construct something that could pass as a sort of building.
“Maybe I can make a tower…” Keith mumbled to himself.
“5,” Maria answered, matter of factly. “5 princesses towers.”
“Right,” Keith said, “that’s what I meant. 5 princess towers.”
The towers ended up being mostly lumps, but Keith felt it was the effort that really counted. Maria had gathered seashells and seaweed and a few quarters that Keith didn’t know where they came from. She gleefully filled every side of Keith’s sad looking sandcastle with decorations, clapping her hands when it was done.
“TIME TO JUDGE!” Danny announced, cupping his hands around his mouth.
Keith trotted over to Lance’s castle, and instantly rolled his eyes. It was massive. Clearly modeled after Allura’s ship, it was smooth and almost twice the size of Keith’s own. It was lined with gleaming shells, all of the same size and color, that glinted in the light.
“Pretty great, right?” Lance said casually, leaning back into the sand, “I don’t think we even need to see yours, I think I can accept the title of ‘Sandcastle Master’ right now.”
“Not a chance,” Keith argued, pulling Lance up by his wrist, “you have to see ours.”
Lance tried to keep the laughter out of his voice, but eventually it became impossible. “Du-dude! You were supposed to build a castle, not an anthill!” Lance doubled over in laughter as Danny and Luke snickered on the side.
Keith calmly held up a hand, “I have to explain first.”
Lance glanced at him curiously, and Keith dramatically cleared his throat. “These,” he said, pointing at a few larger lumps, “are the princess towers. Very important, right Maria?” Maria vigorously nodded her head, and Keith continued, “over here is the side where the ballroom is, for, uh, like balls and stuff.”
“The princess ones!” Maria exclaimed, and Keith nodded seriously.
“Yes,” he said, “the princess balls. These shells are the magic shells, for uh, magic,” he said, pointing at a few of the hastily put on shells, “and that hole right there is, umm, Maria what is that hole for?”
“Ice cream!” Maria exclaimed.
“Exactly,” Keith said, “that is the hole for ice cream. Obviously.”
Lance stared at Keith, his expression a mixture of shock and something else Keith couldn’t quite place.
“So, I think, we did pretty go—“
“You win!” Lance said, the words coming out louder than he expected.
“Wa-wait what?” Keith stuttered, glancing between his lump of sand and Lance’s expertly crafted castle. He looked back and Lance, waiting for a sign he was joking.
“I know when to accept defeat. You, uh, you guys clearly win.” Lance stuttered.
“What no!” Luke cried, pulling on Lance’s arm, “that’s no fair!”
“Should have stuck on my team,” Keith said with a smirk.
“Hey, don’t get all big headed on me,” Lance complained, “I’ll beat you next time, for sure!”
‘Next time’ ended up being directly after, as neither Luke nor Danny were willing to accept defeat. The sandcastle competition continued long after, and unsurprisingly Lance won the next 6.
Eventually, the sun began to slink downward, and in small groups the beach began to clear.
“Ready to go?” Riel asked Lance, slinging his arm over his son’s shoulders and pulling him close. Keith couldn’t help but notice the happiness that emitted from him as he did, his smile brighter than Keith had ever seen.
“Almost,” Lance said, “I want to stay just a couple more minutes. You go ahead.”
“Alright,” his dad replied, a knowing twinkle in his eyes, “on one condition,” he turned to face Keith, “you have to get this one in the water.”
Keith shook his head even before he realized he was responding. “Why? It doesn’t even matter?”
“Trust me,” Riel answered, “it does.” He ruffled Keith’s hair before shooting him a blinding smile and sprinting away across the sand.
“God,” Keith breathed out, “he’s basically an older version of you.”
Lance rolled his eyes, but pulled Keith towards the water. “You don’t have to,” he said, as they got closer, “but I think you should try.”
Something about Lance’s eager look caught Keith’s breath in his chest, and he followed without hesitation.
“Cold!” Keith yelped, as the first wave hit his feet.
“You get used to it, dummy,” Lance retorted, “come on!”
Lance pushed Keith further, until the water was past his waist. He waited for Lance to do something, but instead he stood with his hands out, closed his eyes, and let the water run over his fingertips.
Keith followed suit, feeling slightly stupid but doing it anyways. The waves pushed against his body, and the sun glowed a spectrum of orange and pink as it began to slip behind the horizon.
Keith breathed in, and felt utterly and completely full.
He turned to Lance, only to see the other boy already staring at him. Keith forced his body against the weight of the water and moved forward, wanting nothing more than to be closer to Lance. Keith understood why Lance loved the beach so much, he practically was the place. His glinting eyes were every color of the blue waves, and his smile shone in a way that matched the sunset to perfection.
Lance was staring at him with his eyes wide, and cheeks flushed, when Keith realized they were touching. He hadn’t meant to get so close, but now his hand was grabbing the side of Lance’s arm, their chests almost pressed against each other.
Waiting for Lance to laugh or pull away, Keith felt the need to fill the silence. “I’m…very happy—“
He never finished his sentence. Lance wrapped his arm against his waist, and pushed their lips together. Initially rigid from surprise, Keith felt himself melt into him. Keith moved his hands from Lance’s arms and into his hair, pulling him closer. Lance tasted like salt and sweetness, his lips distinctively soft. Lance slid his arms tighter around Keith, desperately tugging at him.
A strong wave pushed itself between them, softly separating their lips. Lance pressed his forehead against Keith, who laughed slightly, hoping Lance wouldn’t notice how red he had turned. “Was this for the environment, too?” He asked jokingly.
“No,” Lance replied with a smile, “it was for me.” He leaned closer into Keith and continued, “though that doesn’t really sound fair. We should do one for you too.”
Keith wrinkled his nose in confusion, “what do you mean one for me—“
Lance cupped his hands around Keith’s face and pressed their lips together, their bodies rocking slightly with the waves.

Chapter Text

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.”