Keith groaned in frustration. His roots were showing and he didn’t have any hair dye left.
The weird alien lights in the bathroom shined off the inch of white hair closest to Keith’s skull. They mocked him, a stubborn polar opposite of his so-called “emo look”. Keith tossed the empty bottle of black hair dye back on the counter. There wasn’t even enough to cover the hair at the front of his face.
His father had told him that he was born with oculocutaneous albinism when he was about three years old. Keith didn’t understand the big words at the time, but he knew it was why the other kids looked at his hair and eyes funny. It wasn’t normal. His father never said anything bad against being albino and that Keith shouldn’t be insecure about his white hair and pale eyes. But the teasing grew worse as Keith got older. Reluctantly, black hair dye was purchased from the drugstore and Keith’s glasses were swapped out for a pair of tinted contacts. His irises now appeared dark brown like his father’s but underneath they were still a pale, washed out blue-grey. His hair and eyebrows were tinted regularly with black dye. There wasn’t much he could do about his pale skin but that was easily overlooked by most people.
The other paladins didn’t even know. He was sure that Shiro would understand the best out of anyone, but he was gone. It would be harder to explain to Alura and Coran but maybe they would understand too. Hunk would be okay with it but the big guy couldn’t help looking at things that seemed weird. Pidge would complain that she couldn’t call him emo anymore and probably find a new way to make subtle digs at his appearance just like she did now.
Keith didn’t even want to think about how Lance would react. They had grown closer after Shiro disappeared. Their bickering and fighting has lessened. But Lance still poked fun at Keith. Telling him that he was albino would be adding fuel to the dwindling fire. And as loath as he was to admit it, Keith actually liked Lance and didn’t want to lose the small progress they had made in their friendship.
Keith sighed and grabbed a bandana out of his bag and tied it around his head. The white hairs disappeared behind red fabric. It would have to do. Luckily he still had eyebrow pigment left. Not a lot, but some.
He has only just finished his first brow when the bathroom door burst open. Lance was still in his bathrobe and a green mask covered his face. He caught sight of the little pen in Keith’s hand and whistled.
“I thought you said you didn’t have a beauty routine.”
“I don’t,” Keith grumbled. He glanced at himself in the mirror then turned away. His left brow was so pale it disappeared into his skin so it looked like he only had one. There was no way he could sneak out of the bathroom without Lance noticing. Luckily he had his contacts in so his weird eyes were hidden.
“Uh, yeah you do. You’ve got an eyebrow pen and whatever this bottle is,” Lance said, grabbing the empty tube of dye. “Why do you have back hair dye? Your hair is already black.”
“That’s because I dye it, dipshit,” Keith said, snatching the bottle back and stuffing it in his bag.
“You know, maybe your hair wouldn’t be so rough and dry if you had some better hair dye. This stuff is shit,” Lance said.
“Leave me alone, Lance.” Keith pulled the bandana lower on his forehead to make sure Lance didn’t see any of his hair accidently.
Lance noticed and put the cloth he’d found in the sink. “Oh, is your dye coming out? What color is your hair Keith? I bet it’s blond. Keith has a blond mullet!”
“I don’t have a blond mullet, Lance.”
“But you admit that you have a mullet.”
“Wha- No! I don’t have a mullet. Fuck off, Lance.” Keith started packing up his bag. There was a perfectly good mirror in his room. He only came into the bathroom because he didn’t think anyone was awake yet. Plus, his bedroom didn’t have Lance in it.
“It’s got to be blond. Blonds are the only ones who have eyebrows so pale,” Lance said, gesturing to Keith’s forehead. “Or old people. You can’t even see my abuela’s eyebrows because her hair is so white.”
“I don’t have white hair,” Keith said between clenched teeth. Whatever he said earlier about liking Lance was disappearing quickly. Why was he so pushy and annoying?
“Then let me see,” Lance said teasingly. Before Keith knew what happened, Lance had tugged the bandana off Keith’s head and the tiny bit of white hair was on show.
“You’re such a liar,” Lance crooned as Keith scrambled to cover his scalp. Why didn’t his shirt have hood?
“Give me back my bandana, Lance.”
“Not until you tell me why you lied about having white hair.”
Keith lunged at Lance, but Lance danced out of the way, the red bandana dangling in his hand. Keith reached for it again, but Lance held it out of his reach.
“Give it back!”
Keith ran at Lance again. As he predicted, Lance jumped left, and tripped over the leg Keith had extended in a sweeping glide across the tiles. Lance crashed to his knees and Keith grabbed the bandana, tying it securely around his hair again.
“Ow. You didn’t have to trip me,” Lance groaned from the floor.
“Yes I did,” Keith said. He tossed a bottle of contact solution into his bag and screwed the lids on his contacts case. “You stole my bandana.”
“I would have given it back if you just told me why you have white hair,” Lance pulled himself off the floor and began scrubbing at his facemask over the sink.
“Did it even occur to you that it’s none of your business?”
“We’re a team, Keith. You don’t have to be afraid to tell us anything.”
“I’m not scared, Lance.”
“Then just tell me.”
“Oh, come on, Keith,” Lance whined. He leaned over and rested his head on Keith’s shoulder. Keith shrugged him off. “That’s not very emo of you.”
“Fuck off, Lance,” Keith whirled on Lance, his eyes angry under his mismatch eyebrows. “I’m an albino, okay? I don’t have any pigment in my fucking body. Now leave me alone so I can put some shit on that makes me look like a normal fucking person.”
Keith grabbed the abandoned eyebrow pen off the counter and brought it up to his face. His hands were shaking with rage and the pen left inky black squiggles instead of thick lines. Keith threw it down angrily. The trip of the pen broke off in the sink and with a groan of frustration, Keith sank to the ground, his back against the cabinets and hands stuck in the still-black hair above his red bandana.
Why did Lance have to be so pushy? Now Keith’s secret was out to the least trustworthy person in the entire castle. Keith didn’t even want anyone to know. He had hoped that he could find something to use as dye until he got back to Earth, or at least until they had time to stop at the space mall again. And if that didn’t work, Plan B was to tell Shiro first and have him use his Dad Voice™ so that the others didn’t mock him.
There was a hand on his shoulder. Keith startled and looked up to see Lance crouching sheepishly before him, one hand on Keith’s shoulder, the other holding the eyebrow pen.
“Sit still,” Lance said, leaning forward. “I’ll fix your eyebrow.”
“Go away,” Keith grumbled.
“Sit still,” Lance repeated.
Keith sighed and tilted his head back against the cabinet. Lance leaned forward and began colouring the pale hairs a dark black. It was strange having someone else do this for him. Keith had grown used to being his own secret keeper and doing everything himself. He closed his eyes so he didn’t have to see Lance up close with his tongue poking out of his mouth in concentration.
“How do you know how to do this?” Keith asked once Lance was done.
Lance reached up and set the pen on the counter before sitting next to Keith against the cabinets. “My older sister has really bad tremors in her hands so I help her put on her makeup in the morning.”
Keith glanced away.
“I’m sorry,” Lance said. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“Yeah, well. Whatever,” Keith muttered. He crossed his arms over his knees and rested his chin on them. “Thanks for helping with my eyebrow.”
Lance nodded in response. “Can I ask why?” He asked after a minute.
Keith turned to look at him. “Please do not ask me why I’m albino.”
Lance laughed. “No, I wasn’t going to ask that. I was going to ask why you didn’t tell any of us.”
“I just didn’t. I’ve been dyeing my hair since I was fourteen. I didn’t think anyone would find out.”
“You live with me. I snoop through everything.”
“Yeah, I know,” Keith said. “It’s annoying. And it’s not like I live with you because I want to. It’s for the safety of the galaxy or something.”
“Yeah, well.” Lance nudged Keith’s shoulder. “I wouldn’t have mocked you for it or anything if you had told me.”
“You say that now but give it a few hours and you would. And you would probably stare. That’s almost worse.”
“I wouldn’t stare.”
“Yes you would. People always stare at weird things.”
“You’re not weird.”
“I find that hard to believe coming from you,” Keith scoffed. “And I am weird. Normal people don’t have white hair at eighteen and have freaky eyes.”
“You don’t have freaky eyes.”
“I’m wearing coloured contacts, Lance. My eyes are this creepy colour that’s so pale it’s basically white. I look like something from a horror movie.”
“I doubt that. You’ve got a mullet. No horror movie villain would be caught dead with a mullet. And besides, I’m sure your eyes aren’t that creepy. Those aliens we met a few weeks ago with the glowing orange eyes? Those were creepy eyes.”
Lance had a point. “They’re still not normal,” Keith grumbled, not willing to give Lance a victory, no matter how small.
“Who cares about normal?” Lance asked. “Have you seen who we live with? Alura talks to mice telepathically and Coran had a mustache when he was a baby. Shiro has a weird metal arm and I’m pretty sure Pidge sleeps with her computers. We’re about as far from normal as possible.”
“What about you and Hunk?”
“Hunk’s perfect, Keith. Don’t blasphemy.”
Keith laughed. “True. But what about you?”
Lance ignored him. “So I don’t care if your hair is white or your eyes are really pale. We all have our own weirdness that’s combined to make a normal-ish space family.”
“Even if you think so, I don’t,” Keith said. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes. “All my life, I’ve just wanted to be normal like the other kids. I didn’t want white hair. I wanted to look like my Dad but I didn’t. I didn’t even feel human. I felt like a freak.”
“Well, you’re not 100% human are you?” Keith glanced over at Lance. He was fiddling with the tie of his robe, not meeting Keith’s eyes. “You’re half Galra. So of course you didn’t feel human as a kid because you’re not fully human. So maybe the albino thing is just a weird result of being half-human-half-Galra. Maybe it’s your normal,” Lance said, bumping Keith’s shoulder gently with his own. “And I don’t think you should call yourself a freak because you’re a mix of two different species.”
Keith looked down at the floor between his feet. He hadn’t thought of that before. He had actually forgotten about the whole half-Galra thing. There had been too many other things to worry about, with Shiro gone and relearning how to form Voltron and everything. Maybe his genes did get all mixed up because his parents were two different species. Maybe Lance was right and the albinism was the result of being half and half.
“Maybe you’re right,” Keith said slowly.
Lance grinned. He’d gotten a victory after all. “Can I see them?” he asked softly.
“See what?” Keith asked, confused.
“You want to see my eyes? Lance, you’re looking at them right now.”
Lance rolled his eyes and groaned. “Without your contacts in, dummy.”
No one had ever asked him that before. Funny that the first person was Lance. “I guess?” Keith reached over for the overturned bag on the ground beside him and pulled out his contacts case. “This might be a bit gross,” he warned as he poked his eyeball with his finger.
Once the brown lenses were safely back in the case, Keith turned to look at Lance. Everything was a bit blurry and the lights were hurting his eyes but Keith tried his best not to squint.
“Wow,” Lance whispered.
“A bit different, huh?”
“They’re beautiful.” Lance cheeks bloomed a rosy colour almost immediately.
“Really?” Keith whispers back.
“Yeah,” Lance said, nodding. His eyes never left Keith’s. “They suit you.”
This time it's Keith’s turn to blush.
They sat staring for a few more seconds. Lance’s gaze was strong, never wavering. Keith drank in the sight of the brilliant blue of Lance’s irises. He’d never noticed how blue they actually were. Almost a perfect match to the Blue Lion’s paint. Lance smiled and Keith’s stomach flipped.
He looked away. “So, um, I’m going to put my contacts back in because I can’t really see anything and the light’s hurting my eyes,” Keith said, awkwardly standing up.
Lance watched Keith reinsert the contacts. Pale blue-grey replaced by a brown so deep it's nearly black. “What are you going to do about your hair?”
“Probably wear a bandana until I can get some more dye,” Keith said.
“Would you consider wearing it white?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
Lance shrugged and dragged the toe of his slippers in lazy figure eights on the tiles. “I guess I just think you shouldn’t have to hide this anymore.”
“You just want to see my white hair, don’t you,” Keith smirked down at him.
Keith laughed. “Well, you’ll have to wait I guess. It takes a while to grow out and I can honestly tell you that I do not rock the skunk look.”
“Why wait? I found this,” Lance jumps up and opens a cabinet on the other side of the room, pulling out a small purple bottle, “a few weeks ago when I was snooping through the cupboards. Apparently, it’s some weird Altean shampoo or something that’s supposed to take out dye? I asked Coran. You should try it.”
He tossed the bottle to Keith, who only fumbled it a little bit. “You’re sure this won’t make all my hair fall out?”
“I promise,” Lance said, crossing his heart for effect. “I’ll leave you to it. Come find me when you’re done. I’ll be in my room.” With that, Lance grabbed his bag and skipped out of the room. Keith swore he could hear him humming.
He glanced down at the bottle in his hands. The label was written in Altean so Keith had no idea if it was weird alien shampoo or rat poison. Reluctantly, he set the bottle down and untied the bandana. The small sprouting of white hair was still there, pressed flat to his head. Keith ran his hands through his hair. Even if this stuff did make his hair fall out, being bald would be better than having hair to rival Cruella de Vil.
Keith cranked the taps on the sink to hot and stuck his head under the spray. He measured out a normal portion of the shampoo and began scrubbing. Almost immediately, the water turned black with dye. Keith closed his eyes. He couldn’t be having second thoughts now. Not now that all the dye was gone.
The taps turned off, Keith rang out some of the extra water from his hair and stood up straight. The reflection in the mirror was comical. All the hard work Lance had put into fixing his eyebrow was smudged down to his chin. His hair was stringy and a dull creamy-white colour, darkened from the water. Keith tied a towel over his head, covering his hair and eyebrows, and scrubbed the streaked makeup off his face. If anyone other than Lance saw him, they wouldn’t know the difference.
Keith gathered his things and opened the bathroom door. The hallway was empty. He walked slowly down towards Lance’s door. Stopping at his door, Keith took a deep breath before knocking.
He didn’t wait for an answer before pushing the door open. Lance had gotten dressed, now wearing jeans and a blue shirt, the terrycloth robe in a ball on the floor. When he saw Keith at the door, a smile filled his features with delight. He looked like a very excited puppy.
“So, how does it look?” Lance asked.
Keith touched his towel. “Um, I didn’t really look. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen it natural.”
“Then let’s look at it together.” Lance got off his bed and steered Keith to stand in front of the full length mirror. He stood behind Keith and looked over his shoulder, making eye contact with him in the mirror. “Do you want to close your eyes for this?”
“It’s not like I don’t know what it looks like, Lance. It’s my hair,” Keith said. Nevertheless, he closed his eyes.
He felt Lance’s hands on the towel, felt fingers untucking the ends and gently unwrapping it from Keith’s head. Keith took a deep breath.
The towel fell. Behind him, Keith heard Lance gasp.
“It’s horrible isn’t it.”
Lance’s hands were on Keith’s shoulders and he was spun around before his eyes had time to open. When his eyes opened, he was eye to eye with Lance.
“I didn’t even get a chance to look, you idiot.”
“Shut up.” Lance said. His hands moved from Keith’s shoulders to the back of his neck. His long fingers threaded through Keith’s newly white locks. Then his lips met Keith’s.
Keith’s eyes closed again involuntarily. This was not how he expected this to go but he wasn’t going to complain. He kissed Lance back. It wasn’t the light brush of lips like Keith thought first kisses were, but more like their bickering, the push/pull for control, the give and take. Keith’s hands settled on Lance’s narrow hips, gently tugging him closer until their bodies were flush from knees to chest.
Lance nipped gently at Keith’s bottom lip before drawing away. He blue eyes were full of an emotion Keith couldn’t place. “You definitely do not look like a skunk.”
A laugh bubbled up in Keith’s chest and he hid his face in Lance’s neck to contain it. “We kiss, and that’s the first thing you have to say?”
Lance laughed too, kissing Keith’s wet hair and then his lips when Keith looked up. “What can I say? I’m a classy guy. But seriously, it doesn’t look bad. I really like it.”
Keith turned around and finally got a look at himself. The towel had taken a good portion of moisture out of his hair and it was closer to the bright white color Keith remembered. It made him look unnaturally pale, especially when Lance, who was perpetually tan, was standing right behind him. The only thing that was different was his eyes, still a black/brown from his contacts.
“I haven’t seen myself like this for about four years,” Keith said quietly.
“And is it good or bad?” Lance asked.
“It’s okay. I think I just have to get used to it again.”
Lance wrapped his arms around Keith’s waist and tucked his chin over Keith’s shoulder. “I think it looks great. Very badass.”
Keith smiled and relaxed back into Lance’s chest. “You never answered my question,” he said after a moment.
“What question?” Lance asked.
“You told me why everyone else in the Castle is weird but you never said what makes you weird. So, what is it?”
Lance flushed prettily. “Well, I’ve got a massive crush on this guy with a dorky mullet and gorgeous eyes that he claims make him look like the Exorcist.”
“Do you? And how does that make you weird?” Keith asked with a grin.
“Well,” Lance said, wrapping his arms more securely around Keith’s waist. “I usually don’t fall for people prettier than I am.”
“Ah, I see,” Keith said.
“Yup,” Lance said, reaching around to pressing a final kiss to Keith’s lips. “Well, I’m starving. How about we go down and get some breakfast?”
“Breakfast sounds good.”
“And don’t worry about anyone saying anything. I’ll just tell them that my half-Galra boyfriend can kick their ass no matter what colour his hair is,” Lance said proudly.
Keith smiled again and grabbed Lance’s wrist before he could move away. “Lance.” Bright blue eyes focused on him. “I just wanted to say thanks. For being so… good about all of this. I was kinda, I dunno, worried I guess, about telling people. But, yeah, you were great, so thanks. For that.”
Lance squeezed his hand. “It was no problem, babe.”
Keith wrinkled his nose. “Babe? Really?”
“Yup,” Lance said, popping the ‘p’ obnoxiously. “Can we please go for breakfast now? I’m actually going to die of hunger.”
“You’re such a drama queen,” Keith said, following Lance out of his room. Breakfast did actually sound really good. Keith’s stomach rumbled quietly. He hoped there were muffins.