Actions

Work Header

Feelings On Fire (Guess I'm A Bad Liar)

Work Text:

Lance crept precariously around the small shop he found himself in, eyes wide as he took in all the new sights and smells there were to indulge in. He was starting to regret how eagerly he’d volunteered for this particular mission. Sure, he still considered it a win because he’d gotten out of doing his daily chores around the castle, but spending an hour wading through a swamp only to duck into what looked for all intents and purposes to be a cursed witch hut… it wasn’t exactly his ideal evening.

He stepped closer to one of the many shelves lined in glass jars, swallowing harshly and poking at one that was neatly labeled in handwriting of another language. He didn’t need to be able to read the label to be able to tell what was inside when his poke sloshed the liquid around, sending a very obvious eyeball looming to the front of the glass.

Lance launched backward, a full-body shiver wracking his frame. “ Creepy .”

He turned away hurriedly, not surprised in the slightest to find Shiro casting him yet another chastising glare. It was just the two of them on this mission, meaning Lance had to keep himself occupied all on his own. Shiro wasn’t much for casual conversation, at least not with Lance, so all of their exchanges on the way here had been in the form of lecture. Like, “Lance, don’t jump into that bog when you have no idea how deep it is” or later, “Lance, stop drowning in that bog!”.

The chime of a bell sounded throughout the small dusty room and Lance’s head whipped in the direction of the noise, his breath catching in his throat as he watched a pasty almost-translucent alien hobble their way out of the back room. He crept closer to Shiro, practically hiding behind the taller man’s shoulder as he peered over it.

“How can I help you?” The alien asked, the crackle in their voice leading Lance to believe that they might actually be as old as their appearance suggested. Shiro, ever the diplomat, didn’t seem at all disturbed by the unsettling atmosphere or the alien’s beady little rows of eyes that followed their every move.

“We’re looking for an ingredient.” Shiro stated formally, sidestepping and exposing Lance. A small squeak left the blue paladin’s lips and he chuckled anxiously, standing stiff as possible as hundreds of spider-like eyes ran over his frame scrutinizingly.

“For?” The alien questioned further, tilting their head to the side curiously. They took a step forward and Lance began to nervous giggle, patting Shiro between the shoulder blades as he sunk backward into the rows of wares that lined the store.

The alien huffed, turning back to Shiro boredly.

“A healing potion.” Shiro stated plainly, giving no sign that he was bothered in the slightest. The alien hummed intuitively, circling around him.

“What species and illness are you trying to treat?”

“Our Altean companions have something that resembles the human flu, though they assure us it won’t go away unless treated with the root of a Klypso flower.” Shiro reported, all business. Another shiver wracked Lance’s frame, disgust hitting him full-force all over again at the thought of what was going on back at the castle. It was like the time all four of his siblings had come down with the flu while he was staying over at Hunk’s, he’d came home to a scene straight out of the Exorcist that night.

Never again.

Being in the witch shack with Shiro was definitely preferable to witnessing the terrors of Allura and Coran suffering through their case of “The Spittles”.

“Ah.” The alien exclaimed brightly, holding a single finger up into the air. They turned away hurriedly and started back into the back room, hopping along quickly now that they were feeling more eager. “I might have what you need.”

As they disappeared from view, Lance averted his attention back to the shelves. One in particular had caught his eye the moment he’d walked in. He snuck over to the shelf as quietly as he could, risking a few glances in Shiro’s direction to ensure he wasn’t being watched. Then, with a sly little smile pulling at the corners of his lips, he reached out and picked up one of the sparkling and bright-blue crystal balls.

He held it up, admiring the smooth glass. He turned back to Shiro, beaming pride as he rubbed one hand soothingly over the smooth surface.

“Hey, psst, Shiro!” Lance whisper-shouted, grinning ear-to-ear as Shiro finally looked over at him. The leader’s eyes widened before quickly narrowing back into a glare. Lance was unfazed. He gave a series of spooky and mysterious noises, hovering a hand over the ball and wiggling his fingers. “I’m looking into the future right now and I see some hot alien princess ass in store for y-”

“Lance! Don’t touch-” Shiro shouted, raising his voice much more than Lance had been expecting. Lance stumbled backward, hands fumbling with the glass in his hands and desperately trying to keep it from falling… to no avail. He watched with wide, horrified eyes as the beautiful piece of art soared through the air and shattered across the floor. Shiro sighed, visibly wincing, “...that.”

Lance swept his hair back with a shaky hand, already jumping to a million conclusions about what the witch was going to do to him. He’d had a good run, really, but it seemed that death was imminent for him this time around. His eyeballs would be in a jar, on a dusty shelf, within minutes .

So, in usual Lance fashion when faced with something he was deathly afraid of, Lance decided to start laying the jokes on thick over his actual emotions.

“You think they bought their decor in the Halloween aisle at the dollar store or Party City? I’d better go find a replacement stat, if you know what I mean.” Lance laughed obnoxiously, unable to keep the pitchy uneasy chuckles from tumbling past his lips. His eyes were wide and wet, but he refused to cry in front of Shiro who already viewed him as such a child. Even now, the black paladin’s anger had given way to tiredness with a tinge of sympathy.

Shiro sighed loudly, lifting a hand to rub tired circles into his temples. Lance paled, feeling incredibly small as he gingerly brushed the glass underneath the nearest shelf. Perhaps if they were lucky, the shop keeper wouldn’t notice until they were far, far away from this place.

“Found it!” Came the garbled shout from the back of the building, followed by a loud hacking cough that only someone who had inhaled a mouthful of dust could manage. Lance stood straighter, wringing his hands together nervously as the alien ducked back into the room. In their hands they held a canvas bag that seemed to be dripping a mysterious substance. It wasn’t exactly what Lance would have expected from flower transportation, but he wasn’t about to question it.

The alien walked up to Shiro, but just as he reached out to take the bag from their hands, the witch pulled back and narrowed their eyes. They turned to Lance, quirking a single white eyebrow. Lance felt like he was choking on his own tongue. “Did someone touch my crystal ball?”

Lance’s fake smile faltered suddenly, memories that felt like decades ago flashing back to the forefront of his mind. He could specifically remember feeling like this many times before, after breaking a sibling’s belonging or being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Of course he’d never admitted to doing anything in fear of being punished, but his mother had always known. He could tell from the way she looked at him, from the guilt that ate him up for days afterward for not telling her the truth to begin with.

“No, ma’am.” Lance lied through his teeth, smiling so harshly that his jaw began to ache. The alien huffed, stepping closer to him. Lance cringed, squeezing his eyes shut reflexively as the witch used their cane to fish some of the broken glass out from beneath the edge of the shelf. Lance couldn’t watch as it happened, but he could certainly hear the scrape of it across the tiled floor, knew exactly what was happening.

“You lie.” The alien howled, voice dropping lower into something predatory. Lance cracked an eye open as a cold sweat enveloped his back, gaze flickering pleadingly to Shiro. The black paladin was watching the exchange closely, hand on the temporary weapon he’d been supplied while Keith still had the black bayard.

Lance looked back to the witch, watching uncomfortably as they shuffled closer to him and jabbed a finger directly into his chest. Their eyes had shifted from something humanoid into an abyss of dull grey, their irises and pupils disappearing into the swirl of monotone color. “You are a liar .”

“Look, I might have accidentally brushed up against it or someth-” Lance started to explain, words tumbling past his lips rapidfire. The witch shook their head, heaving a deep breath.

“Not just to me, you lie to everyone .” They announced knowingly, something about the certainty in their tone causing Lance to take a shuffling step backward. He was getting the oddest sensation, like he’d been put on a pedestal bare for the entire world to scrutinize. Was his mind being read right now?

The witch nodded slowly, raking their eyes over his trembling form. “You lie to yourself.”

“W-What?” Lance stuttered out, the tightness in his chest growing more and more demanding. It wasn’t like this stranger could possibly know him, know the lengths of what he did and didn’t lie about.

“Are you ever honest with yourself? With the people you love?” They pressed, studying his eyes closely as they spoke. Lance shifted nervously from one foot to the other before shuffling hurriedly around them, barrelling into Shiro’s side for protection. He turned back to the witch now that he had the comfort of someone much larger at his side, jutted his chin up into the air and huffed.

“Of course I am!” He insisted stubbornly, ignoring the sour taste of dishonesty the words left behind on his tongue. “I’m always honest.”

“Lance, you’re digging yourself a hole.” Shiro spoke quietly, almost as if it were a warning. Lance didn’t listen, instead staring determinedly at the witch as if waiting for them to take the challenge and try to argue with him. If they knew so much surely they could explain better than that.

They didn’t though, simply eyed him carefully as they shuffled past.

“I could teach you a lesson about what true truthfulness brings a person.” They muttered bitterly, before turning back to Shiro and holding the canvas bag up once again. Shiro gently pushed Lance away, stepping forward with business schooling his features.

“How much for the root?” He asked, digging into his pocket for the wallet he’d brought along. The alien witch hummed thoughtfully, chuckling quietly as if an idea had just occurred to them.

“A million kaptchas.” They demanded, turning to glare pointedly at Lance. Lance cowered, knowing his antics were the cause of the high price. Shiro actually gaped at that, losing his composure enough to allow his jaw to drop in shock.

“We can’t afford that!” He cried out, brushing back the tuft of white hair threatening to block his vision fully any second now. The witch frowned deeply, pulling the bag protectively back to their chest. They seemed unbothered by the dripping liquid that fell from it, soaking the front of their cloak.

“Well, I could think of one other acceptable payment…” They muttered deviously, showing row upon row of crooked yellow teeth in a smile. Lance resisted the urge to yelp or retch in disgust.

“Yes?” Shiro pressed on, diligently avoiding looking toward the alien’s mouth. The witch beamed a special smile up at him, close-mouthed and almost kind-looking.

“You allow me to do a harmless experiment on your friend here, I’ll give you the root for free.” They stated plainly, eyes sparkling with mirth. Lance lurched backward immediately, waiting on Shiro to give the word. That was about as suspicious as it came, a red flag of sorts, now was when they’d normally be evacuating and getting out of the situation real quick-like. Instead, Shiro simply stared contemplatively back at her. “I promise, no pain will come to him.”

“Hell to the no!” Lance shouted, hands landing on his hips. He leaned forward, glaring at the alien with all he had. He turned to Shiro next, channeling that same ferociousness toward his leader. “Shiro? Tell me you’re not considering this!”

“Do you have any idea how much vomit I’ve had to clean up this week?” Shiro growled out, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose between his fingers. Lance let out a pathetic squeak, looking helplessly between Shiro and the strange alien. Shiro turned back to them, nodding solemnly. “You have to swear on your life that it won’t hurt him or hinder his life in any way at all.”

“Of course not, I wouldn’t dream of hindering the paladins of Voltron.” The witch insisted, sounding surprisingly earnest about it. They turned to Lance, bringing their hands together excitedly. “If anything, the experiment would improve the way he lives his life.”

“That’s all I need to hear.” Shiro announced, reaching out just as Lance started to sheepishly back away again. He wrapped an arm around Lance’s shoulders and tugged him closer, restricting his arms from moving. Lance began to giggle nervously, trying hopelessly to squirm out of Shiro’s vice-like grip.

“What about me?! I’m the one that needs to consent to-” Lance started to protest, before the witch raised their hand and gave a simple chant. Lance’s head lolled forward, eyelids falling closed so suddenly it was as if they’d gained a thousand pounds in weight. He would have dropped to the dirty floor entirely if it weren’t for Shiro’s grip on him.

Shiro held Lance closer, protective as he studied the blue paladin and ensured he was still breathing evenly. He turned back to the witch and quirked an eyebrow. They held up their hands innocently.

“Merely knocking him out to make the process easier, you may watch if you’d like.” They stated clearly, turning around and veering off into one of the many side aisles. Shiro wondered briefly what he’d just gotten himself into before maneuvering onto the nearby rickety bench, allowing Lance’s limp frame to collapse against his chest.

The witch returned shortly after with a glass bottle, a bubbling red brew inside that seemed to steam as they opened up the lid. Shiro narrowed his eyes, but didn’t dare to protest as the alien moved in close to Lance, lifting one of his eyelids to study the sleeping eye beneath. They nodded to themselves, then promptly pried Lance’s jaw open and downed the entirety of the potion into his mouth. “Drink up, blue paladin.”

Shiro startled, nearly sending Lance flying to the floor in his shock. He managed to catch the blue paladin, holding his breath and expecting to hear choking any second now. Instead, only a pleased hum left Lance’s lips.

“Is he good?” Shiro asked dumbly, tilting Lance’s head to the side and narrowing his eyes. There didn’t seem to be anything noticeably off about his teammate. He looked just the same as he had when they’d started out on this mission, just a lot more unconscious than before.

“The spell is complete.” The witch confirmed, giving Lance a pat on the head that seemed almost maternal in nature. Shiro wasn’t sure what to make of that, only that it made him uncomfortable. He hoisted Lance up and over his shoulder, realizing that they were making a routine of ending up like this in some way or another. What was with Lance and always getting knocked out on missions? Shiro had carried him almost as much as the damn black bayard by now.

The witch held out the bag with the root inside, seemingly much friendlier about the entire exchange now that they’d been given an excuse to use magic. “It’ll wear-off within a week’s time.”

“Alright.” Shiro mumbled indifferently, wondering what exactly it was that would be wearing off. Would Lance turn into a toad or something? Perhaps his nose would grow each time he told a lie throughout this next week? Shiro hummed thoughtfully, snatching the bag from the alien’s hands with a curt nod.

He turned toward the door, clearing his throat. “Well, we’ll be taking our root and going now.”

--

“You didn’t tell us it was a witch.” Shiro stated bluntly as he walked into the med-bay, where Allura had been spending most of her time lately. Coran had been attempting to brave the sickness and continue with his chores about the castle even as they were docked on an uninhabited planet to recover, but Allura hadn’t dared to stray far from the medicine cabinet.

“It was irrelevant to the mission.” She declared, sitting up and immediately groaning. She started to fall backward and Shiro rushed forward, supporting her back. She shuffled a bit, settling into an upright position she seemed to be able to hold. “Did you get what you needed?”

“Yes, but-”

“But?” Allura demanded, looking up at him with worried eyes. For the briefest second, Shiro felt tempted to lie to her. He could do it easily, dart around the truth to keep her from worrying when she was already so weak. She wouldn’t be leaving this room for at least a few more days, she might not even notice anything was off with Lance anywa-

“Is Lance alright?!” Hunk yelled, barreling into the room. Shiro inhaled deeply through his mouth, turning around to face their unexpected guest. Hunk looked beside himself with concern, eyes wide and fearful, teeth practically chattering together.

Lance didn’t even look that bad! He was just unconscious! Sure, maybe Shiro had been a little hasty and careless in the way he’d tossed him down onto the couch, but after carrying him across half a planet Shiro was pretty damn sure he deserved a rest. Instead, he would probably have to clean up whatever mess of sick Coran had made of the control room. Damn it. He was so tired.

“Shiro.” Allura said in an even voice, though the fierceness suddenly burning behind her eyes was anything but. Shiro frowned deeply, mentally kissing his afternoon nap a long and passionate farewell, until they’d meet again. He tuned back into reality mid-rant from the princess. “-happened? Tell me you didn’t anger the witch.”

“I wouldn’t say anger, necessarily.” Shiro reasoned, keeping his voice calm and professional. He cleared his throat, watching as Hunk came to stand at his side. “Lance lied to them about touching one of their belongings, so they made a point to call him a liar and told him they wanted to teach him a lesson about truthfulness. They let me have the root in exchange for permission to cast a spell on him.”

“Oh no.” Hunk whispered worriedly, bringing his hands up to cover his mouth in shock. Allura didn’t seem nearly as surprised, more-so unimpressed than anything else as she fell back against the pillows, her expression cold.

“How long does it last?” She asked, looking curiously up at Shiro. He shrugged.

“Only a week.”

“Whatever happens when he wakes up is your problem,” Allura reminded him, pursing her lips, “it’d best not interfere with the forming of Voltron.”

“Of course not, Princess.” Shiro assured her, reaching over to grab a clean cloth from the pile. He soaked it in cool water in the sink and stepped closer, plastering it to Allura’s feverish forehead. She groaned in protest, weakly trying to convince Shiro that she didn’t need to be coddled, but he wasn’t listening to a word of it.

He’d seen how competent his team was at taking care of themselves without him around. Maybe they did a good job of being heroes, but they were absolutely terrible at looking after themselves. He’d come back to a completely nocturnal Pidge, an Allura covered in bruises from pushing herself too hard on the training deck each night to catch up to the other paladins, a Keith who had been skipping out on meals to train so many times that every one of his ribs were showing, a Hunk who had somehow convinced himself that he no longer needed an anxiety journal (he very much did), and Lance. Now, Lance hadn’t noticeably changed at all since the last time they’d seen each other, which was concerning in itself knowing Lance’s tendency to bottle things up. Who knew what that kid was hiding away in himself, he was probably on the brink of a total meltdown!

And on top of it all, the final nail in the coffin, absolutely none of them had been taking their daily multivitamins Coran had specially prepared!

Shiro would do all the coddling he very well pleased, thank-you very much, lest he turn his back again for a second and turn around to a crew of dead teammates!

Shiro grumbled bitterly, turning to Hunk. “You guys keep an eye on Lance, come find me if he wakes up weird.”

Hunk nodded seriously, refusing to take any task that included his best friend’s well-being lightly. He turned and hurried back to the lounge they regularly used, still terrified to see what the witch had done to Lance but determined to stand by him through it all the same.

--

Hunk leaned over the back of couch, watching over Lance diligently as he finished explaining to Pidge what was going on. The green paladin had already been in the room once Hunk had arrived, sitting next to Lance and poking at him, annoyed that he had decided to sprawl out across the entire couch.

They looked only slightly more tolerant of the situation now that they knew Lance was quite literally cursed.

“We should wake him up!” Pidge announced eagerly, leaning over Lance and narrowing their eyes. It was the same look they got every time a new science experiment tumbled into their lap and it had Hunk thoroughly panicked. He laughed nervously, reaching over to playfully swat Pidge away from Lance’s frail, unconscious body.

“What if he wakes up as a zombie or something?” Hunk tried to reason with them, hand returning to his face so he could bite at his nails. He immediately regretted saying anything, his words seemingly sparking an even more interested flame inside of Pidge. They grinned, reaching out and clasping Lance’s face between their hands. Hunk prepared himself for the worst.

“Lance!” Pidge yelled at the top of their lungs, patting Lance’s face all over in what could have been mistaken as slaps. He didn’t budge. For a brief terrifying moment, Hunk had to wonder if the witch had leached his soul or something.

“Pidge! You can’t just-” Hunk cut himself off, words dying on the tip of his tongue as Lance bolted upright into a sitting position. He groaned loudly, reaching up to rub his fists at his eyes. Then he yawned, furrowed his eyebrows together, and fell back down into the cushions. It truly looked like Lance was just waking up from a simple nap.

Nearly a minute passed like that, Lance sitting there with his eyes still closed and breathing so even they had to wonder if he’d fallen back asleep, Hunk and Pidge on the edge of their seats as they waited for any sign as to what had changed about their friend. Finally, Lance cracked a single eye open. The shriek he let out was so high-pitched Pidge fell backward onto their ass on the floor.

“Why are you guys staring at me?!” Lance demanded to know, bolting upright again. He scrambled to the other end of the couch, warily eyeing his friends. He reached up and felt a hand over his face, checking his palm for any smudged ink. After confirming that there weren’t any freshly-drawn dicks on his face, he looked back up accusatively.

Hunk opened his mouth to gradually ease into an explanation, while Pidge hopped up onto the couch and jabbed a finger in Lance’s direction.

“A witch cursed you.” They stated excitedly, leaning closer to try and examine Lance for anything out of the ordinary. He pulled a face, shoving them backward again.

“Personal space, Pidge.” Lance muttered, burying his face in his hands as he tried to make sense of the situation. Hunk walked around the couch, settling a hand on his shoulder supportively. Pidge groaned from where they’d been banished to the other side of the couch.

“Do you feel off?” Hunk asked quietly, almost afraid to hear the answer. Lance straightened back up, rolling his neck and stretching his limbs out experimentally. He settled into a shrug, tipping his head back against Hunk’s chest to stare up at him in confusion.

“Not really?” Lance confirmed, pulling the most relieved sigh from Hunk’s throat and the most annoyed one from Pidge’s. Lance cast a glare in their direction, then turned back to Hunk with a more serious expression. “I mean, I’m a little hungry and my neck hurts like hell, but other than that I’m-”

A hushed silence fell over the room as the automatic doors slid open, revealing a disheveled Keith. It wasn’t hard to tell from the flush to his pale skin and the sweat-slicked state of his hair that Keith had just left the training deck for the night. He looked utterly exhausted. He didn’t so much as glance in their direction as he entered the room, simply paced across the floor to the chair his jacket was slung across.

Hunk opened his mouth to urge Lance to continue, then promptly snapped it back shut when he caught a glimpse at Lance’s face. He was staring at Keith, proper checking him out, total ogling. He wasn’t even being subtle about it this time, anyone that so much as looked at him would know where his thoughts were currently at. Hunk knew from the smug look Pidge shot in his direction behind Lance’s back.

Keith snatched his jacket up and turned to leave, pausing mid-pivot when his gaze swept over the three teammates, all watching him like hawks. Keith bristled, grip on his jacket tightening.

“What?” He demanded, glaring so harshly that anyone in their right mind would know to look away and simply leave the fiery paladin be. To further that statement, both Hunk and Pidge did turn away and tried to busy themselves staring absolutely anywhere else. Lance, on the other hand, continued to gape at Keith as if he was seeing light for the first time.

That wasn’t what Keith had wanted. It didn’t matter that the other two had looked away when Lance was still looking at him so weirdly. He stomped closer, jacket slung haphazardly over his shoulder so he could cross his arms over his chest. “Why’s everyone staring at me?!”

A hushed silence fell over the room. Hunk determined not to say a word, Pidge fighting the urge to shout the obvious into Keith’s face because surely he had to be blind not to realize what Lance’s staring meant right now, and Lance because he seemed to have lost the ability to form a single syllable.

Keith stepped closer, raising his eyebrows expectantly. Lance licked his lips, blinking rapidly and thankfully tuning back into reality. Hunk exhaled calmly in relief, crisis averted.

“Because you look hot .” Lance breathed, sounding dazed.

Hunk inhaled so suddenly that he choked on the air, wheezing as he bent over the back of the couch. The crisis was back-on, in fact the crisis was so on that Hunk didn’t doubt he’d have to dive between the red and blue paladins any second now to keep them from tearing each other’s throats out.

What was Lance thinking?! Was he trying to tease Keith?! Why did he sound so uncharacteristically genuine?!

“Excuse me?” Keith scoffed bitterly, staggering closer with hands curled into fists. Rather than attempting to duck away or cower in fear, Lance actually leaned further out over the edge of the couch, closer to the impending doom the red paladin was promising. Keith froze the moment he realized this, the anger in his gaze switching to uncertainty. Silence stretched on, the shock evident on Keith’s features giving way to pure, unadulterated anger (so Hunk assumed anyway, given he’d never seen Keith’s face flushed such a burning red in his life). “What the hell is that supposed to mean?!”

Realization slowly flickered across Lance’s face, varying emotions from embarrassment to anger. He didn’t speak a word in response though, didn’t even attempt to defend himself. His lips were pressed so tightly together it was almost like he had no intentions of continuing the conversation whatsoever.

Normally this would be the point where Lance would begin to ramble, would desperately cover up his mistake or play it off to be something intentional. He wasn’t even trying to scramble out of the hole he’d just dug himself, he was staying obediently put as they filled the grave in around him. Staying silent only criminalized him more, what was he thinking?!

“He means you look hot as in... sweaty! Because you’ve been training!” Hunk interjected, stuttering over the words in his desperation to get them out. He’d promised to have his buddy’s back many years ago and this seemed to be one of those scenarios where he’d just have to step up to the plate. Lance looked utterly useless.

Lance’s shoulders relaxed and he threw a thankful smile in Hunk’s direction, turning back to Keith with an affirming nod. Keith watched the exchange without moving a muscle, clearly clueless as to what to make of what was going on.

“Uh?” Keith tried, casting a pleading look in Pidge’s direction like they might take pity and explain to him whatever was happening here. Pidge solemnly shook their head, sworn to secrecy by Lance, who was doing a damn terrible job of keeping his own stupid secret anyway.

Finally, Lance seemed to pick up on the awkwardness of the situation and took it upon himself to diffuse it like usual. He was the most conversational of the crew, he always had something to say that would change the subject or alleviate the tense atmosphere in a room.

“Yeah, what Hunk said! You look really sweaty and it’s hot!” Lance shouted with confidence, a smirk stretching across his lips like he’d just delivered the most merciless burn of the century. It didn’t take nearly as long for him to realize what he’d done this time, regret sinking into his every pore as Keith actually started to nervously chuckle .

Lance groaned pathetically, collapsing forward and burying his flaming face into his hands. “What the fuck am I saying?”

“I could ask the same question.” Keith managed weakly, looking understandably uneasy with the entire situation. He took a cautious step backward, as if trying to evade a dangerous wild animal rather than a terrible social interaction. “I’m, uh, going to take my jacket and leave, if that’s okay?”

Hunk nodded encouragingly, practically begging Keith with his eyes to just leave before things could get any worse. He had no idea what Lance’s problem was, but he could only save the guy from himself so many times.

Keith turned to leave and Hunk, naive guy that he was, believed that that was the end of it.

“Yeah, go! I love watching you leave!” Lance shouted out, managing to twist his tone to make the words sound like an insult despite the obvious implications.

Keith froze, eyes wide as he looked back at them over his shoulder, like a deer caught in headlights. Pidge had reached their threshold for bullshit, and promptly doubled over and fell off the couch, rolling around on the floor in a fit of hysteric laughter. All of the air in Hunk’s lungs left him in a ghoulish gasp and he also fell to the floor, hitting his head off the armrest of the couch.

And slowly, the proud post-insult smile on Lance’s face crumbled into a slack-jawed sense of awe like he couldn’t believe the words that had just left his own mouth. He gulped, hurriedly trying to cover for himself. “Not like that! I mean I like watching you leave because you’re going away… from me. It has nothing to do with looking at your ass!”

“Were you planning on looking at his ass when he left?” Pidge wheezed, clutching their stomach between giggles. Lance’s head whipped in their direction, facial features twisted into something that almost resembled fear.

“Um... yeah?” He croaked, like he physically could not stop the word from tearing its way past his lips no matter how he tried. Pidge actually stopped laughing at that, the room falling back into uneasy silence as they stared at Lance in disbelief. He paled considerably, sheepishly looking back to Keith as if waiting for the verdict to drop.

Keith looked… unsettled, mostly. He had the acute look of a person who had stepped in something and when looking at the bottom of their shoe, couldn’t tell what it was.

“I can’t tell whether I should punch you or not?” Keith spoke finally, voice pitchy and uncontrolled like a prepubescent boy. He pulled a face, scrunching his features together in poorly-concealed disgust. He whirled around and stomped out of the room, cupping his hands around his mouth as he stumbled into the hallway and shouting with all he had. “Shiro! Lance is being fucking weird again!”

“Fascinating.” Pidge spoke the moment the doors closed behind him, turning to Lance with wonder written across their face. “It’s like you have no filter whatsoever around him.”

Up until that moment, the curse had been a long forgotten event of Hunk’s day. It hadn’t even occurred to him that Lance’s strange behavior might have such a blatant explanation, he’d just figured that maybe Lance had gone off his rocker, or decided that today was finally the day to make his long-term crush on their teammate known (in the worst way possible, in standard Lance fashion). Leave it to Pidge to piece together what was actually happening.

Lance physically could not keep from saying those things.

“Why me?” Lance wailed, looking suspiciously close to actual, real tears. He collapsed across the couch and this time Pidge didn’t even complain about him taking all of the space, only settled an understanding hand on his back and gave him a few comforting pats.

Lance tugged at his own hair and looked up, eyes barren from any emotion whatsoever. He stared evenly at Hunk, total seriousness written across his entire face. Then, in total deadpan, he spoke. “I’m going to kill Shiro.”

“I don’t know, it kinda makes sense?” Hunk suggested carefully, picking Lance’s legs up just enough to sit down beneath them and then allowing them to fall onto his lap. Hunk rubbed soothingly at Lance’s calves, the blue paladin having gone back to hiding his face in the cushions. “The witch wanted to teach Lance a lesson in truthfulness and if there’s anyone that Lance lies to the most, it’s Keith. I mean, he acts like he hates the guy when in reality he-”

“Doesn’t.” Lance grit out, word slightly distorted and muffled from where his face currently was. He lifted his head, looking back at Hunk with a glare. “We don’t need to go into detail about it, Hunk.”

“How long did Shiro say it’d last? A week?” Pidge asked from the floor, looking contemplative. They may not have gotten a science experiment out of this curse situation, but it was clear they’d found some form of entertainment in it. “That’s more than enough time for Lance to spit out a confession or two.”

“Try ten .” Lance sighed forlornly, picking at the fraying threads on the couch. Pidge quirked an eyebrow and Hunk paused where he was rubbing Lance’s legs, the both of them too curious about what Lance meant not to get hung up on it. Begrudgingly, Lance went on to explain himself. “It took every bit of willpower I had not to say something stupid just now.”

“Buddy, you… said a lot of stupid things?” Hunk explained quietly, hoping that this wouldn’t come as any news to his friend. Lance groaned, as if it physically pained him to relive what had just happened.

“That was nothing compared to the stuff that I had to swallow back.” Lance assured them both, kicking Hunk in the thigh until the older boy went back to massaging him. Hunk gulped nervously at the mere thought of what else Lance had almost said, meanwhile Pidge looked like they’d just been given the most interesting information they’d heard all year. They chuckled, leaning closer to Lance and propping their chin on the edge of the couch, close to his ear.

“Example?” They asked, batting their eyelashes. Lance couldn’t see them and merely grunted in answer, but Pidge wasn’t having that. They slung an arm over his tired shoulders, leaning in even closer and casting a knowing glance toward Hunk. “Was it dirty ?”

“No! That’s what made it so gross!” Lance cried in outrage, jumping up so suddenly that Pidge was sent toppling back onto the floor again. Lance pulled his knees up and spun around on the couch, dropping his head into Hunk’s lap instead. Hunk sighed and rolled his eyes, dropping his hand again to run his fingers through Lance’s hair. Lance stared up at him, bottom lip trembling. “I wanted to tell him that the way he lights up after training puts every star in the sky to shame. Who even says shit like that?!”

“Aw, Lance, that’s sweet!” Hunk argued, while Pidge made gagging noises in the background. Lance frowned, bringing his knees up and curling around Hunk’s middle like a koala.

“I want to die.” He announced loudly, as if he wanted the whole world to know.

“I think I’m falling in love with this witch and I’ve never even met them.” Pidge cackled, sounding suspiciously close to witch-like themselves. Lance sat up and glared at them, then surprised them both by getting to his feet. Hunk frowned, watching as Lance headed toward the door. It was never a good sign when Lance wanted to deal with things on his own.

“I’m going to my room.”

“You can’t hide forever!”

--

The castle felt weirdly quiet without Lance toddling around from room to room. Pidge wouldn’t be the first to admit it, it was unlikely they’d ever say it out loud, but it was always nice to receive a visit from a wandering Lance. While Hunk was in the kitchen, while Pidge was hard at work in their room, while Keith was training, while Coran was studying, while Allura was piloting or on sick people bedrest, and while Shiro did whatever it was that he did (usually nap), Lance would intermittently wander in to keep each of them company. He didn’t really have one thing that kept him busy throughout the day like the others did, but instead he kept busy by spending time with all of them.

More than one of Pidge’s experiments had gone awry by now thanks to accepting Lance’s help, but they still graciously accepted every single time he offered. They liked having his company, everyone on the ship did. So, it came as no surprise to anyone when the balance of the whole team felt off after Lance disappeared to his own room for the day. It got to the point where Pidge was spending more time looking up at their door than working.

At that point, they left to go wander the halls. They ended up in the dining hall considering dinner would be served soon anyway, but they weren’t expecting to find the rest of the team already there so early. It seemed everyone had had the same idea and had gotten bored with waiting for Lance’s company to show up.

Pidge muttered their greetings and slid into their usual seat, fingertips drumming on the table impatiently while the others made small-talk. They could hear Hunk hard at work in the adjacent kitchen and debated going to see him, but he never liked to have people in his space while he was working, except for Lance. Lance seemed to be everyone’s exception.

Pidge frowned.

“Has anyone heard from Lance?” They asked, raising their voice enough that it’d cut through any of the existing chatter around the table. Everyone fell into silence and Pidge looked around the table. Shiro looked tired, Keith looked weirdly antsy, Allura looked less dead than she did a few hours ago, Coran looked like he’d made a recovery, and… there was Lance’s empty seat.

“No, thank god.” Keith answered finally with a snort, crossing his arms over his chest. Pidge rolled their eyes, looking at him with disinterest. The angsty emo boy act might fool everyone else, but Pidge had spent enough time vent-crawling to know what a softie Keith really was. Every night after Allura fell asleep, all of the mice would creep out of her bed and rush to Keith’s room, where he would spoil them rotten with stolen food from the kitchens.

“Oh, shut-up.” Pidge snapped, kicking Keith’s foot under the table. “You miss him too.”

“The table is awfully quiet.” Allura commented quietly, twirling her fork between her fingers. Shiro nodded, clearing his throat.

“Dinner will be ready in a minute, go tell him.” Hunk suggested, poking his head into the room with flecks of food goo across his face. Pidge chewed thoughtfully on the inside of their cheek, debating the suggestion.

“He’s sulking, that won’t be enough to get him to come out.” They decided aloud, remembering how annoyed with himself Lance had looked earlier.

The boy was a drama queen through and through, every single thing he felt was amplified to ten times the normal person. Normally, this meant that everything was a big deal, but he recovered quickly from it because that was his normal. His crush on Keith was a special case though, it wasn’t like any of his other infatuations where he’d confessed within the first week, gotten rejected, and moved on. He’d been sitting on these feelings for years now, and if you knew Lance at all you knew how hard it was for him to keep his mouth shut.

Pidge had no doubt that he’d sulk in his room until someone physically dragged him back out.

“Tell him we won’t eat until he gets here.” Keith suggested quietly, almost mumbling his voice was so low and passive. Pidge blinked, eyes widening as they looked across the table at the red paladin. Keith shifted, looking flustered under their gaze. “What? There’s no way he’d punish the rest of us because he can’t deal with his self-pity properly. It’d force him to show up.”

“I thought you didn’t want him here.” Pidge questioned, humming innocently. Keith scoffed, huffing to blow his hair out of his eyes.

“I don’t.” He insisted, flattening out his napkin that he’d already folded a hundred times over. Pidge got to their feet, shooting him a final skeptical look.

“Seems you put an awful lot of thought into how to get him here, for someone who doesn’t care.” They commented lightly, aware that everyone else in the room was staring at Keith with a similar curious glint in their eyes. Keith shifted uneasily in the face of so much attention and shrugged his shoulders. Not exactly a denial

Pidge smirked. “Don’t worry, Keith, your secret’s safe with me.”

After that, Pidge was quick to slip out of the room and start down the halls toward Lance’s room. They thought about what Keith had suggested on the way, still impressed by how accurate of an idea it really was. For all they fought and argued, Keith really must pay close attention to Lance to pick up on these little things.

Pidge stopped in front of the blue paladin’s door, slamming their fist down against it a few times for good measure. A tired grumble sounded from inside the room.

“Lance! Dinner’s ready!” They called out, kicking their foot against the door as well. Lance groaned again, a soft thud hitting the door that must have been a pillow. Pidge narrowed their eyes in annoyance.

“I’m not hungry!” Lance whined petulantly, though Pidge could just barely make out the sound of him rolling out of his bed as the mattress creaked beneath the shifting weight. Pidge rocked back on their heels expectantly. Another thud landed against the door, this time sounding heavier, possibly a shoe of some sort. “Go away!”

“Shiro said we can’t eat until everyone is at the dinner table! You know how weird he’s been about eating regular meals as a team lately!” Pidge shouted stubbornly, finally pulling out the big guns. The shuffling behind the door was damn near instantaneous. Pidge had to wonder if Keith had pulled this line before in order to know how well it worked.

Lance stumbled out of the room a moment later, already dressed in his pajamas with hair messy enough to say for itself that he’d had no intentions of coming back out of his room tonight. He glared at Pidge as he shuffled past them, head hung low as he started down the hall. Pidge skipped ahead to keep up with him, humming absentmindedly.

They cleared their throat, jabbing an elbow into Lance’s side. It was unsettling seeing him be so uncharacteristically quiet. “Keith’s already there, you excited to see him again?”

“Yes.” Lance blurted, cursing under his breath the moment the word slipped past his lips. He turned to Pidge with a bitter glare, shoving them gently away from his side. “N-No.”

“Ah, so it’s not just when you’re around him, it’s anything to do with your crush on him.” Pidge realized aloud, a smirk growing across their features. Lance’s pace sped up and Pidge bounded curiously right along after him. “Do you wanna kiss him? Take him to the movie theater and put your arm around him?”

“You know I do!” Lance snapped, whipping around to glare at them. Pidge paused, feet stumbling beneath them as they came to an abrupt pause. Lance loomed over them, using his height to his advantage to seem more intimidating than he was. “Why are you making me say it?!”

It was all very big brother-esque in nature, the way Lance threatened to blow up but obviously didn’t have enough fight left in him to try. In fact, Pidge was having specific flashbacks to when they’d teased Matt about his first crush. They’d pressed and pried relentlessly, had teased him until they were both blue in the face from yelling. He’d never told them about his crushes again after that, so they’d been forced to resort to a snooping lifestyle.

They didn’t wanna make the same mistake this time, not with Lance.

“I just wanna be included.” Pidge blurted out in admission, looking down at their feet. They’d never told Matt as much, had purposely tried to make him believe their only intention was to torture him as much as possible. In reality, young Pidge had just wanted to be a part of what was happening, had wanted to root for their brother and was uncertain how to express that.

Pidge fiddled with their fingers now, looking curiously up at Lance. “You’re always so private about it usually, it took me months of snooping in the vents to hear you talking about it at all with Hunk. And to think you’ve liked him for years , I never even knew.”

“I would have liked to keep it that way.” Lance responded coldly, his voice just barely above a whisper in pitch. Pidge furrowed their eyebrows together and pushed their glasses higher up on the bridge of their nose.

Why ?” They pleaded, desperate to make sense of why Lance was so weird about his crush on Keith in particular.

“‘Cause the more people that know, the more likely Keith is to find out.”

“What’s so bad about that?” Pidge asked, still confused. Lance’s behavior just didn’t add up. He was normally so open about his affections.

It had nothing to do with the fact they were both boys, Lance had settled in with the team enough after the first few months to start openly flirting with male aliens and ranting about his love for male celebrities back on Earth. Everyone knew he was as bisexual as they came and they loved him just the same. So what was it about Keith in particular that made his feelings so hard to express?

Lance processed their question slowly, face scrunching up in distaste once he’d registered it. He took a deep breath, turning so he wasn’t facing Pidge as words started shooting off out of his mouth at a fire so rapid it was hard to distinguish what he was saying.

“He hates me. I’m the last person in the universe that he’d want to be with! He’s infinitely out of my league, he’s a solid ten and I’m like a three!” Lance rambled on, stumbling forward and hastily continuing en route to the dining room. Pidge followed quickly after, determined not to miss a word of the explanation they had fought so hard to get. “He wouldn’t even have to think about it. He’d reject me so hard. I’d fall into a deep depression-like state, be unable to fly in his— my —lion, and then Voltron would implode. I’d fuck the whole universe over because I can’t handle rejection from the people that actually matter to me.”

Lance exhaled shakily as he finished ranting, his eyes looking suspiciously watery. Pidge was confused for a moment before the curse occurred to them... and they realized that Lance had had no say whatsoever in whether he’d wanted to share all of that or not. Pidge frowned deeply, guilt eating away at them already.

“Lance.” Pidge breathed, reaching out before the blue paladin could turn away again and grabbing both of his hands into their own. Pidge squeezed reassuringly, looking up at him with what they could only hope looked to be understanding eyes. Judging by Lance’s scowl, he hadn’t interpreted it as such.

“Don’t you dare give me that pitying look.” He grumbled, though he made no move to brush Pidge’s hands away or leave. He stayed stubbornly rooted to the spot, the both of them standing in the middle of the hallway a few feet down from the door to the dining room. “You asked.”

“I forgot you were going to answer truthfully!” Pidge replied, slapping one of their hands to their own forehead. This insight didn’t seem to ease Lance’s worries whatsoever. Pidge looked over their shoulder, wondering how much time they had before someone else would come looking for them. They turned back to Lance, determined to make this right. “I’m sorry, Lance. I know how much he matters to you, I wouldn’t tease you about it if I wasn’t absolutely certain that things will work out for you.”

“How?” Lance sighed, like they were talking utter nonsense. Pidge smiled, almost impressed by how naive Lance could be.

“You’re so oblivious.” They pointed out fondly, reaching up to muss Lance’s dark brown hair up. They pulled back, beaming a grin up at him. “Keith likes you back.”

“What?” Lance asked, sounding choked off and breathy. He was staring at Pidge as if they’d just uttered the secrets to the universe. A dog to a bone, a dehydrated man in the desert to water, Lance looked absolutely desperate for more information. Pidge was in their element now. “Did he tell you that?”

“He didn’t have to.” Pidge smirked knowingly, grabbing Lance’s sleeve and pulling him along into the dining room before he could add anything else. They’d be there all day if they allowed him to keep asking questions.

He looked exactly as dazed as before as they stumbled into their seats, staring off into space with the traces of a goofy smile just barely gracing his lips. Pidge ignored the worried looks everyone shot in their direction, knowing that Lance’s state was nothing to worry about. They’d certainly rather Lance look like such a lovesick puppy than the sad, self-deprecating person he’d been earlier.

“Ah, you found him!” Coran beamed, pointing his fork in Lance’s direction. “Let’s eat!”

As if on cue, considering they’d probably been waiting for the second Lance arrived, Hunk shuffled out of the kitchen and into the dining room. With him, he pulled along a trolley stocked high with different variations of the same substance they ate for nearly every home meal. He’d prepared it nicely today though, made the food goo out to look almost appealing.

As he started dishing out servings onto everyone’s plate, the silence that enveloped the room started to feel a little heavier. Pidge shifted, not-so-discreetly risking a glance between Keith and Lance. Lance looked absolutely out of it, as if he was still completely hung up on what Pidge had suggested. Had he never even entertained the possibility that Keith might feel the same?!

And Keith, on the other hand, was still fidgeting with his napkin. Though, in the span of the ten seconds Pidge spent studying him and trying to read where his thoughts were at, they caught him glancing over at Lance three times. One might assume Keith was worried about the blue paladin, if it weren’t for how openly he despised him. Pfft.

“How are you feeling, Lance?” Shiro spoke suddenly, everyone at the table surprised by the break in the silence. Six pairs of eyes darted in Shiro’s direction, then slowly slid back over to Lance. “Keith said you were acting a little... off.”

Lance’s eyes widened and he turned to face Keith, their eyes locking. The rest of the table sat in hushed silence as they watched the exchange. It was a wordless ordeal, but the emotions that flickered across their faces seemed to speak for them. It switched from shock, to hurt, to anger. It was clear that Lance had interpreted Keith’s worry as tattling on him to the leader.

They turned in opposite directions, both pouting. Lance sheepishly looked back to Shiro, rubbing at the back of his neck and clearly buying for time before he’d have to open up about what was going on. Pidge cleared their throat, deciding to take one for the team. God knows that Keith and Lance didn’t need more tension between them.

“Lance doesn’t really wanna talk right now, he’s got a sore throat.” Pidge spoke up hurriedly, attempting to take some of the heat off of Lance. He turned to them with thankfulness in his eyes and Shiro hummed knowingly, leaning back in his seat.

“Okay.” Shiro confirmed, taking the first spoonful of food from his plate. The rest of them followed suit after that, quietly eating their meals.

“I’m full.” Lance announced the moment he’d finished, having practically shoveled the entire plate into his mouth. The rest of the group was still only half done at most. They all turned to him with varying concerned expressions. He pushed his chair out, getting to his feet. “I’m going to bed.”

Lance turned to leave and Pidge watched him go, upset that they hadn’t managed to ease the awkwardness enough to keep the team together. They turned back to their food dismissively, simply accepting that Lance needed more time to himself. They lifted another bite to their lips and froze with their jaw hanging slack, eyes widening as they watched Keith shove his chair back and stare after Lance.

“What? Gonna leave the dishes to the rest of us as usual?” Keith called out, a venom to his words that didn’t reflect in his worried eyes whatsoever. Lance spun around, a glare already set into his features. He huffed, leaning against the door frame. “You had lots to say earlier, why so weirdly quiet now?”

“I don’t wanna say anything to you that I’ll regret.” Lance answered carefully, through his teeth. It was obvious how much strain he was under, but only Pidge and Hunk realized he was doing his best to tell the truth without giving too much away. To anyone else, he probably just looked like he was holding himself back from starting another fight with Keith.

“What’s your problem?!” Keith hissed, getting to his feet. Shiro gave a warning hum, but Keith ignored it and stomped straight across the room. He stopped right in front of Lance and grabbed a fistful of his pajama shirt, pulling him forward until they were both invading each other’s personal space. God, Pidge was gonna gag on all the sexual tension in the air if they didn’t sort this out soon.

“Y-You.” Lance stuttered out, cheeks aflame with the brightest shade of red Pidge had ever seen. They smirked despite themselves, glancing knowingly over at Hunk. The yellow paladin was watching Keith and Lance’s exchange as well, but he didn’t look nearly as fond toward it, he just looked concerned.

“If you’ve got something to say to me, spit it out!” Keith shouted, shaking Lance slightly. Lance blinked, reaching up to settle his hand over Keith’s one tightly gripped into his shirt. Keith’s sneer faltered just slightly, giving way to something nervous and flustered that he was clearly trying to hide.

There was a fierce determination showing in Lance’s eyes that Pidge didn’t decipher until it was too late.

“I lo-” Lance started to speak, the entire room seemingly in slow motion as he uttered the damn words he’d been coveting away for so long. He didn’t get anything else out though, stopping mid-confession when a giant metal tray flew through the air.

“Woah! Suddenly I tripped and this tray of food is flying through the air, on course to hit Lance!” Hunk yelled theatrically, having obviously just thrown the tray. Keith and Lance were too wrapped up in each other to know that though, so they didn’t even have the reaction time to dodge before the tray was hitting them both upside the head.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team was looking at Hunk like he’d just lost his mind.

“Ow.” Lance grumbled, stumbling away from Keith and dropping their interlocked hands. They both brought their hands up to rub at their temples, glaring at Hunk harshly. When Hunk didn’t look apologetic in the slightest, clearly quite proud of the crisis he’d averted, Lance seemed to catch on to what he’d just been saved from doing. He breathed a shaky exhale, looking Keith over one last time before taking a backward step out of the room. “I’m leaving.”

“Whatever.” Keith managed, uncaring as he lumbered back over to the dinner table, head still in his hands. It was possible that Hunk could have maybe thrown the tray with a bit less force than what he’d used, but whatever. It’d worked. No confessions happened tonight. They’d all live to see another sexually-tense day.

--

Keith stared pleadingly up at the stars, begging the dark swirling colors of the galaxy around them to just make him feel tired. He wasn’t sure exactly what time it was, being in space really put it into perspective that time was just a concept, but it’d definitely been hours since the rest of the team fell asleep. He’d even gone to see if Pidge was still awake and they were asleep, which meant either it was really late or Shiro’s lecturing had finally gotten them back onto a normal sleep schedule.

Keith pouted, rolling over and burying his face into the couch cushion. Shiro’s lecturing was the reason he was in this mess to begin with. Normally, when he had trouble sleeping, he would just take a quick late night trip to the training deck and work himself to the brink of exhaustion. He’d come back in an hour or two and pass right out. It made sense. It was productive and practical.

Shiro was determined to make sure he didn’t overwork himself though, had given him a very strict limit on how many hours he could spend on the training deck before it would manually shut down and he’d be left with no opponent to fight. In the beginning, he’d reached the limit before the rest of the team even woke up in the morning. Now he tried his best to ration the time he had, trained for short periods of time throughout the day. It was a nuisance. It’s not like he had anything else to do around the castle that was valuable to him or the team.

Since Shiro had gotten back and started smothering them all, Keith had been forced to start passing the time in other ways. He tried to mimic Lance’s approach and spend time with each of his teammates while they did their own thing, but he couldn’t help but feel more like a hindrance than help.

He was smart in his own ways, but no engineer like Pidge. He couldn’t bake or cook alongside Hunk, had caught the food goo on fire the one time he’d tried. He couldn’t keep Allura company or help nurse her when she was sick, the awkward silences were too plentiful. Shiro didn’t even allow him into the room when he was trying to nap. And Coran tried his best to connect with Keith… but they just didn’t have the same amount of patience for studying and taking notes.

It had occurred to Keith that maybe instead of making his own rounds about the castle to spend time with everyone one-on-one, he could just tag along with Lance as the blue paladin wandered around. He was talkative and passionate enough about everything that he could fill any awkward silence. Everyone was happy when Lance stopped in to spend time with them, even Keith had grown fond of the occasional visit he made to the training deck.

Lance was just like that, easy to be around and easy to talk to. He was flexible, he knew when to be loud and obnoxious to drown out Keith’s own thoughts, and he knew when to be quiet and respectful. Of course, even knowing these things he didn’t always act accordingly. It didn’t really make sense to Keith, he’d figured out early on into their adventure that Lance was better at reading moods than anyone else aboard the ship, but sometimes he would just lash out for no reason at all at Keith.

It was specifically Keith too, no one else had to face the wrath of Lance’s rapidfire emotions that bounced back and forth so quickly it was whiplash-inducing. There were so many times where they’d gotten closer, were acting like two good friends would, where Keith really thought they were making a connection and they were finally past the fighting… and then Lance would flip. For no reason. He would start stuttering and blushing, then when Keith would question it and try to make sense of what he’d done wrong, Lance would turn hostile and explode at him!

Stupid Lance.

Speak of the devil , the sound of the doors sliding open had Keith lifting his head. He didn’t really have to bother to look, he’d checked everyone’s rooms on the way down to the observation deck and Lance’s had been the only one with the lights still on. He sat up anyway though, yawning tiredly as he watched Lance stumble into the room.

“What are you doing here?” Keith asked casually, remembering their last exchange at dinner earlier in the night and wondering if they were still on uneven terrain. It was hard to tell with Lance sometimes, he’d hold grudges for days or forget about it in seconds. It was infuriating how hard he was to predict, no matter how hard Keith tried to keep up with the cues and play along accordingly, Lance was always two steps ahead of him.

Lance shrugged, walking forward to lean against the back of the couch.

“Checking on you.” Lance replied easily, voice gruff from lack of use, but the words slipping out so casually and thoughtlessly it was almost as if he’d said them a hundred times before. He hadn’t. He hadn’t said them once before. In fact, Keith was so shocked to hear them that he gave a choked little noise in the back of his throat.

Lance tensed, eyes widening as if he’d just realized what he’d said. He turned to Keith with his hands held up between them, looking almost defensive. “Fuck, no , I’m here to see the stars.”

Stupid, stupid Lance.

“What is wrong with you?” Keith all but growled, ignoring the quiet ache in his chest that seemed damned insistent that he’d actually wanted Lance to be serious. He’d been struggling with that a lot lately, he blamed it entirely on the whiplash Lance’s mixed signals were throwing his way. He didn’t actually want to be with Lance. He was too obnoxious, too all over the place, too unreliable.

“So many things.” Lance answered, folding his arms behind his head and leaning back. It was a surprisingly casual pose, it told Keith that Lance wasn’t here to fight. While that was a relief in itself, it also added even more confusion to the mix. If Lance wasn’t here to fight, to tease, to goad him into another argument… then what was up with that line from before?

He’d been acting weird today, weird even for Lance.

Lance cleared his throat and Keith sat up straighter, feeling almost giddy with anticipation. It was always like this between them, unpredictable to the point Keith’s fight or flight instincts had to kick in for something as simple as a conversation. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Can’t sleep.” Keith answered simply, seeing no reason to go into anymore detail than that. He expected Lance to leave then, or maybe to make himself at home and sit down on the couch. It wasn’t Keith’s observatory after all, it was free to the entire team to use. Still, Lance hovered hesitantly, looking as if he had something to say but never opening his mouth once.

Keith bit his bottom lip contemplatively, deciding to take a shot in the dark. “You wanna sit with me?”

“More than anything.” Lance answered on an exhale, like he’d been holding his breath waiting for Keith to ask. Keith pulled a face, uneasy about how invested Lance seemed all of the sudden. He’d been doing this all day, Keith had to wonder if it was a new teasing method to throw him off guard.

Lance kept saying these… things. They didn’t really sound like insults, but the sheer amount of passion behind them was so intense it had to be staged. There was no way Lance was actually genuinely thrilled to be sitting beside Keith on a dingy couch at not-exactly 3am.

“Okay, okay, no need to be weird about it.” Keith grumbled, scooting over and patting the cushion beside himself. Lance lit up, jumping over the back of the couch like the animal he was and collapsing into place next to Keith. He grinned, turning and beaming a full-fledged Lance McClain grin in Keith’s direction.

“Thanks.” Lance whispered, soft and personal, voice so unlike his normal loud boisterous tone that Keith found himself melting backward into the cushions. Oh no. No, no, no. He was not going to turn into a puddle of ooey gooey emotional mess tonight, he was way too tired for that.

“You already forget about earlier? Were you in a mood or something?” Keith asked, knowingly brushing on a sore subject. He just didn’t know how else to deal with the sudden gentleness Lance was showing, it was treacherous and unfamiliar, Keith needed to snip it in the bud before it became a habit. Lance was so much easier to deal with when he was obnoxious and uncaring.

Lance’s eyes widened with recognition and then he frowned. He looked down at his own lap, fiddling with his hands. “I’m sorry about earlier, I’m going through alot right now and expressing emotions has never been easy for me. I know I’m being confusing, but the last thing I’d want to do is hurt you.”

“Thanks?” Keith choked out, feeling as if he’d just attempted to swallow sand. Lance was messing with him right now, right? He had to be. There was no way he’d just had a total change of heart and suddenly wanted to make amends for every fight they’d ever had. Hell, the only stable and reliable aspect to their relationship was the rivalry that Lance had introduced, if Lance took that away… what would they have left? Anything?

Keith worried his bottom lip between his teeth, unreasonably nervous at the thought that things might be changing between them. Sure, he was no fan of how they were now, but that didn’t mean he wanted to hurl himself into the unknown. “Lance? What’s this about? Is there something going on?”

Keith immediately regretted asking, watching as mixed emotions flickered across Lance’s face. He had that same soured-lemon face on from earlier, the one that made it look like he was physically trying to hold himself back from speaking. What did he have to say that was so terrible? Was it something really mean? Was he made at Keith for something?

Lance exhaled finally, bending over and burying his face in his hands. Keith watched on in utter confusion, eyebrow quirking curiously as he watched a dark blush spread from the base of Lance’s neck up to his ears.

“I care about you.” Lance announced suddenly, voice muffled by his palm. Keith blinked owlishly, trying to reason with himself that he’d simply heard wrong. Lance had sought him out in the middle of the night and for what? To come in here and say some sappy bullshit like that? Keith wasn’t having it. There had to be an ulterior motive somewhere.

Lance sat up suddenly, turning to Keith with red cheeks to match the tips of his ears. He reached out, clasping a hand onto Keith’s shoulder. “I don’t say it enough… or at all, but you’re really important to the team. You’re a good leader, I don’t know where we’d be right now without you.”

That made… a little bit more sense. There had been a few times where Keith was feeling particularly down on himself or overwhelmed where Lance had reassured him about his place on the team. That was entirely different from Lance admitting how valuable Keith was to him, personally. That would just be weird.

“Yeah? You think so?” Keith laughed nervously, feeling the heat rising to his own cheeks. Damn Lance. He ducked his head, smiling discreetly to himself. Lance still hadn’t moved his hand away, but Keith wasn’t as bothered by his touch as he’d expected. It was almost grounding, having another person so close by, he wanted to lean into Lance for more support.

“Of course I do.” Lance insisted. Keith looked over at him, hair falling in his eyes messily. If they were doing the serious, genuine friendship thing tonight then Keith might as well make the most of it and unload some things. This was his favorite kind of Lance, the quiet and caring one, the kind you usually only ran into very late at night, and even then it was a rarity.

“Sometimes I feel like I do more harm than good.” Keith admitted, impulsively reaching to take Lance’s hand into his own. He fully expected Lance to pull away, but he didn’t. Their hands fell between them on the couch and neither made any move to separate them.

“Nah, you’re doing great, Keith.” Lance assured him, voice faltering when Keith squeezed his hand. He shifted in the spot, kicking his foot against the floor. “You’re the best thing to ever happen to me.”

“Huh?”

“You’re the best thing to ever happen to the team .” Lance corrected hurriedly, though it hardly sounded believable compared to the meaningful way he’d whispered it before. It was Keith’s term to fidget nervously, to squirm and blush as he tried and failed to find the words to say in response.

“Right.” Keith breathed, trying to keep his hand on Lance’s as still as possible while the rest of him wanted nothing more than to jump up and bolt. That was how he handled situations like this one, he ran before anyone could notice how totally over his head he was in it all. He swallowed harshly, hand darting away from Lance’s as he got to his feet. “Well, I needed that.”

“You going to bed?” Lance asked, rolling his neck and stretching his arms high above his head. Keith gulped, watching the movement of Lance’s shirt riding up across his stomach. Keith tore his gaze away pretty quickly the moment he realized what he was doing, scolding himself for the hundredth time. He was not allowed to check out his teammates. That was like rule number one of being stuck in outer space with only six other people. It would get awkward fast.

“Yeah, why?” Keith asked, hands buried into the pockets of his jacket. Lance looked so tired as he relaxed back against the couch, Keith had to wonder what he was doing here to begin with. It was clear that he was actively trying to stay awake, and for what? Just to spend time with Keith?

That was… a thought.

Keith chuckled, trying to ignore the route his thoughts were taking. “You’d rather I stay or somethin’?”

“Yes.” Lance answered, not a single hint of sarcasm evident in his tone. Keith blanched, caught entirely off guard yet again. This Lance was so different from the usual one he dealt with during the day, so uncharacteristically gentle about things. “I want to spend more time with you.”

“You do?” Keith squeaked. He didn’t even allow himself to make an active decision, only fell back onto the couch next to Lance. The blue paladin grinned so big that Keith couldn’t even find it in himself to regret the impulsiveness. He just smiled dazedly back, accepting the corner of a blanket Lance was holding out to him. “We’re gonna be tired tomorrow.”

“Yes, you’re worth losing sleep for.” Lance answered offhandedly, his head whipping around to stare at Keith the moment the words left his lips. He looked almost scared, like he was worried Keith might react poorly to the compliment or something. Keith wasn’t sure what to make of that, only that Lance must not have been paying very close attention to him these past few minutes because Keith hadn’t been reacting poorly to any of this.

He was selfishly, shamefully… into it. All of it. He was basking in all of the direct attention and he was surely gonna feel the loss tomorrow when Lance went back to his usual self. Tonight though, Keith allowed himself to indulge for once in his life.

“What’s gotten into you lately?” He laughed, playfully shoving Lance. “Don’t answer that. I don’t care how it happened, whatever it is, I’m just glad it did. I like this Lance, he’s nice.”

“I like this Keith too.” Lance mumbled in response, shifting closer so they could both fit comfortably under the covers. It could be argued that they were less comfortable, considering how hyperaware Keith was of Lance’s side pressed against his, but that didn’t matter.

“What do you mean “ this ” Keith, as if I’ve changed?” Keith groaned, rolling his eyes at Lance’s poor attempt at redirecting the compliment. “I’m the same as always.”

“I know.” Lance answered simply, sounding almost smug. Keith opened his mouth, then promptly closed it again. He turned to peer at Lance out of the corner of his eye, then hurriedly looked away. He groaned, turning and burying his face into Lance’s shoulder to hide it from view.

Stop it.”

--

Alright, the curse sucked, that wasn’t open to debate in the slightest… but… could Lance really bring himself to hate anything that had him waking up with his crush of the past four years plastered to his chest? Something he’d only dreamt about countless times and had resigned himself to never being able to experience in reality? The answer was no, damn it.

Lance was feeling stupidly, idiotically thankful to the witch that had rendered him unconscious and forced him to guzzle a gallon of truth juice.

Even more-so, Lance was feeling unbearably, overwhelmingly in love with the boy in his arms who had rendered him with an arm full of pins and needles.

He groaned softly, head falling back against the armrest as he desperately tried to untangle himself without waking Keith. He couldn’t fully remember how they’d ended up like this, stretched lengthwise across the couch with Keith settled between Lance’s legs, head resting on the blue paladin’s chest. He wasn’t about to question it though, he just wanted to have the feeling back in his arm.

He managed to dislodge it from where it was squished between Keith’s side and the couch cushions, but not without jostling the sleeping boy on top of him. Keith grumbled angrily, small indistinguishable words as he shifted around in his sleep, growing closer to waking up.

Lance grinned, using his newfound arm-movement ability to gently lay a hand atop Keith’s head. He earned another sleepy protest at that, though it trailed off into something equally as rumbly but more pleasant (a purr of sorts), as Lance began to trail his fingers through Keith’s hair.

Minutes passed by like that, both of them basking in the closeness until the sound of footsteps heading down the hall outside had them both blinking into a fully-awake state. Keith lifted his head, yawning as he warily eyed the door. When it didn’t open and the footsteps faded away, Keith’s head collapsed weightlessly back onto Lance’s chest, knocking the breath from his lungs in a huff.

“Hey, sleeping beauty.” Lance managed, voice coming out strained with the added weight on top of his body. Keith bolted upright suddenly, so quickly that his hands scrambled across Lance’s chest for purchase and sent his entire shirt askew. Lance pouted in protest, propping himself up on his elbows to fix it so it covered his stomach again.

After he’d confirmed that he was once again modestly covered, he looked up through his lashes at the boy who had launched himself across the couch to sit between Lance’s feet. Keith was staring back at him with wide eyes and frazzled hair, looking so adorable sleep-mussed that Lance had to fight the serious urge to pull him right back down for more cuddles. Keith looked a little mortified though, so Lance decided to give him some distance. How he hadn’t noticed he was sleeping on someone until that moment was a mystery.

“Hi.” Keith responded eventually, voice shaky and uncertain. Lance nodded, scrambling to sit up and pull his long legs back under himself. He cleared his throat, sitting on his knees on the opposite side of the couch from Keith, the both of them falling into an awkward silent staring contest.

Keith was the one to break it. He got up and started toward the door without a word, turning around last second. “I gotta go train.”

“Is that it? No goodbyes?” Lance teased, mostly because he couldn’t possibly not comment on how noticeably flustered Keith was. It took a lot to break that boy’s composure so thoroughly, normally his default was anger… not this blushy, nervous mess. It was an interesting change of pace. Lance dared to hope that maybe, maybe it wasn’t the only thing that’d changed last night.

Keith hesitated in the doorway, looking between the keypad and Lance. He turned back suddenly, taking a deep breath.

“Uh,” Keith started, coughing into his fist, “last night was nice. I liked it. I liked talking to you. We should do it again sometime, if you wanna.”

Lance hadn’t expected a genuine response, much less one so adorable and endearing. He blinked, a wry little smile curling his lips as his heart thudded demandingly in his chest. Keith was trying so hard, just the thought made Lance’s hope skyrocket even further into the sky.

“Yeah, of course.” He agreed hurriedly, jumping to his feet and nearly tripping over himself in the process. He laughed it off, swooning pitifully when Keith giggled as well. He crossed the room hurriedly, propping a hand up on the doorframe high above Keith’s head and nodded down at the other boy, eyebrows raised. “I definitely want to.”

What was he doing?! Trying to be smooth?!

Keith looked up at him, skepticism written across his features. He smiled despite himself though and Lance considered that a success, his own grin mirroring Keith’s as they broke off into laughter. Keith shook his head, shoving Lance back a step.

“Okay.” He huffed, turning and slipping out of the room before Lance could say anything else. That was probably fair. Lance leaned back against the wall, still smiling as he thought back on how much things had changed just in the past twenty-four hours. That witch might have been onto something. Maybe.

He didn’t bother standing around too long and decided to keep himself busy by going to hunt out some breakfast. He headed straight to the dining room, not expecting to find the table occupied. Normally everyone ate breakfast separately, they only ever ate one meal of the day together. This morning though, both Pidge and Hunk were settled at one end of the table eating some kind of creation, while Shiro was settled at the other end reading something that resembled the news on his tablet.

Shiro looked over his shoulder to the doors as the opened, nodding in greeting when he spotted Lance.

“Morning Lance, when was the last time you saw Keith around?” He asked conversationally, setting his tablet aside. Pidge and Hunk looked up from where they’d been whispering to each other, waving eagerly at Lance when they saw him. Lance grinned, stepping confidently into the room and heading straight for his usual seat.

“This morning when we woke up together.” He answered distractedly as he sat down, freezing with his hands gripping the edge of the table. He was supporting himself with the table so harshly that his knuckles had gone ghost white, the realization of what he was implying dawning on him too late. Pidge and Hunk were looking at him in awe, Shiro looked borderline murderous.

He collapsed into his seat, exhausted by the day already. “Ugh, it’s not like that.”

“What’s going on?” Shiro asked, using his signature dad voice. Pidge shifted anxiously, dropping their fork in favor of using their hands to shrug.

“Lance’s curse.” They stated simply, as if that held all the answers in the world. Shiro turned to Lance and shot daggers in his direction, his eyes filled with so much threatening hatred that Lance could almost feel the physical hurt of it. Lance made a mental note to self that Keith’s approval wasn’t the only one he’d need to pursue anything with the red paladin.

“Lance lies to Keith more than anyone else, so now he’s been cursed to be honest to and about him. You ask about Keith, Lance will give you a truthful answer.” Hunk explained, protectively standing and moving to the seat next to Lance. Lance breathed a sigh of relief, leaning his head on his best friend’s shoulder.

“What does he lie to Keith ab-”

“No, no, no.” Lance interrupted with a whine, grabbing a balled-up napkin and tossing it at Shiro to get him to stop talking before it was too late. Shiro didn’t look pleased by that. He opened his mouth as if to finish asking the question anyway and Lance had no choice but to take drastic measures, so he collapsed across the table, moaning woefully. “Please, I am begging you, don’t ask.”

A few short seconds of silence followed, only to be broken by an awkward cough.

“Hey.” Keith greeted as he walked into the room, coming to a stop behind Shiro’s chair and resting his hand on the black paladin’s shoulder. Lance lifted his head, unsurprised to see the confused way Keith was staring at his pathetic state. “What’s up?”

“Only my heartrate since you walked into the room.” Lance blurted, hissing the air out through his teeth in regret when Shiro stiffened in reaction. Keith seemed oblivious though, too focused on the line that’d just been dropped on him to notice the intimidating big brother stare Shiro was directing toward Lance.

His appetite thoroughly gone, Lance rose to his feet and scurried out of the room. “I’m leaving.”

Lance speed walked down the hallway then, hoping with all he had that no one would follow him and demand anymore answers. He didn’t make it very far, as expected, before a hand grabbed onto his wrist and forced him to stop.

“Lance!” They panted, doubling over to catch their breath after chasing after him. Lance was too panicked to even register who it was, didn’t even look back at them before curling in on himself and lashing out protectively.

“What do you want?!” The last thing he wanted was to talk about his crush with Shiro, or have Pidge try to pry and find out what’d happened last night, or-

“I’m sorry.” Lance blinked his eyes open one at a time, recognizing the much quieter and meeker voice that answered. He straightened up, turning to Keith in concern. He was kicking himself now for not realizing who it was sooner.

Keith had crossed his arms over his chest and was stubbornly refusing to make eye contact. He looked like a wounded animal, a puppy who had just been kicked, and regret sunk settled heavy on Lance’s chest in an instant. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. I just thought, last night, we kinda… you know, connected.”

“We did.” Lance insisted immediately, stumbling forward. He wasn’t sure exactly what he planned on doing, it wasn’t like he could just pull the other boy into a hug or anything, that wouldn’t be normal for them. He just wanted to be closer to Keith and reassure him.

“Yeah?” Keith pried, looking up from the floor to stare warily at Lance. He looked so guarded, eyes cold and distant as they studied Lance’s expression. Lance watched as Keith’s bangs fell into his face again, hiding his dark violet eyes from view. Before he could stop himself, Lance was nodding, hand darting out to brush the stray strand of hair back behind Keith’s ear.

They both paled the moment Lance’s hand returned to his own side, an uneasiness settling between them. At this point, it was clear to them both that changes were in store, they just weren’t quite sure of what exactly.  Lance chuckled nervously, kicking his foot against Keith’s.

“Yeah, Keith, of course we did.” He mumbled, burying his hands into his pockets. Keith seemed to be slowly relaxing against all odds, apparently not as off-put by Lance’s touch as expected. “Did you want something?”

“Oh, um, yeah.” Keith laughed, scratching at the back of his neck. He tilted his head back, staring up at the ceiling as a bunch of words left his mouth in one hurried breath. “ I was wondering if you’d want to train together ?”

“No.” Lance answered immediately, shocked by his own bluntness until he realized it was the truth spell kicking in again. Keith seemed equally as shocked, even took a stumbling step backward, so before he could make a run for it Lance grabbed both of his hands and held him in place. “Sorry, it’s not you, it’s the training. I’m tired and lazy, I just woke up, I don’t want to work out right now.”

“But you do wanna hang-out with me?” Keith asked slowly, his voice a low drawl as he took his time forming each word. Lance nodded eagerly.

“Yeah.” He breathed, a smile finding his face as Keith’s lit up with excitement. “I always do.”

“We could, uh, watch a movie or something?” Keith suggested, clearly at a loss. Lance nodded, thrilled to finally be spending one-on-one time with Keith that didn’t involve physically fighting each other. That had to be a step in the right direction toward a romantic relationship, right?

“I’d like that.”

“Me too.” Keith breathed, soft and sweet, almost tooth-rottingly so. Lance’s grin must have been the goofiest most-satisfied looking expression in the world, but Keith didn’t make fun of him for it. He simply dropped one of Lance’s hands and held onto the other, leading them both down the hall toward the lounge that held the projector for old Altean movies.

They were almost there by the time Keith spoke up again.

“Hey, if you hate training so much, why’d you stop by to spar with me all those times before?”

“It was all you ever did, I needed an excuse to spend time with you somehow .”

Keith hit him for that, but Lance couldn’t bring himself to care as he watched Keith dissolve into laughter.

--

Lance practically danced into the main lounge that night, unsurprised to see Hunk and Pidge hard at work at a new project they were building. He gave it a curious once-over, then promptly collapsed onto the couch with a lovesick sigh. No one commented on it. He lifted his arm from where he’d thrown it over his eyes, glaring over at his two friends. He sighed again, for good measure.

Pidge huffed and scooted backward, leaning back against the couch from where they sat on the floor between it and the coffee table. They tilted their head back, trying to catch a glimpse at Lance’s face from the odd upside-down angle. “How was your night with Keith?”

Amazing .” Lance answered without hesitation, resisting the urge to giggle. He grinned, rolling over to squeal into a throw pillow, which he then hugged to his chest instead. Pidge groaned aloud.

“Did you put your arm around him?” They sing songed, clasping their hands together at their cheek and batting their eyelashes dramatically. Hunk stifled a laugh at the sarcasm that was leaking out of them in buckets. Lance chose to ignore it.

“Yeah.” He answered proudly, partially because he genuinely wanted to brag, but mostly because the curse prohibited him from lying. Pidge lit up like he’d just thrown gasoline to a flame, their eyes going comically wide.

“I was teasing you!” Pidge gasped, spinning around so they were facing Lance. “You really did?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think he understood what it meant.” Lance explained quietly, uncertain whether he was speaking out of his own free will or due to the curse. He did kind of want to talk to them about this, it was a big deal for him. He wasn’t usually one for talking about his serious crushes… but he had a really good feeling about the turn things had taken between him and Keith. “It’s fine though, it was more than enough just to be that close to him and spend so much time together.”

Pidge stared blankly at him and then turned to Hunk, a single eyebrow quirked.

“Hunk, did you hear that? Tell me you heard that.”

“I heard that, our dear friend Lance has gone full romantic on us.” Hunk sighed forlornly, though his smile showed through as he spoke. He shook his head, pushing their experiment further back on the coffee table and finally coming to circle the couch Lance was sprawled across. “You really like him, huh?”

Lance nodded, biting his lip. Pidge and Hunk crooned at him, even going so far as to give each other high-fives. They turned suddenly serious out of nowhere though, Pidge turning to Lance with a look of total concentration.

“If you really care about Keith, you should tell him.” Pidge suggested, sounding surprisingly encouraging instead of mocking for once. Lance groaned, uncertain how to tell Pidge just how much he’d been thinking about doing just that recently. He wasn’t sure if it was the curse talking or what, but for once in his life he felt that it was worth the risk of rejection just to have an earnest reaction. He wanted to know how Keith would feel if he knew how Lance was feeling.

“Tell me what?” Lance jumped at the third voice. Keith sounded smug, though Lance couldn’t really blame him for that when he’d just walked in on the gang talking about him. The question caught up to Lance after the initial shock and the initial awe of seeing sleepy pajama-clad Keith sitting right next to him on the couch, but Lance hurried to answer it once he realized.

“Oh, just that I have a cr-”

“No!” Hunk screeched, having given up on all hope of being discreet at this point. There was no tray to subtly throw this time, no reasonable excuse for him to interrupt. If there was, Hunk was too panicked to consider it. He launched forward, collapsing on top of Lance and shaking his shoulders. “Get it together, man! I promised you I wouldn’t let it happen if it wasn’t on your terms, I’m going down with that promise!”

“What’s up with them?” Keith asked, speaking just loud enough to be heard over the chicken-like squawking of the two fighting boys. Lance squirmed out from beneath Hunk, holding up a single finger of truce. He turned to Keith then, panting and disheveled.

“No clue.” Pidge answered him, sitting down on the coffee table across from where Keith was sitting on the couch. They placed their hands on their knees, leaning forward like an interrogator. It was Lance’s turn to panic now, wondering what Pidge was about to say and how much it would incriminate him in front of Keith. “How was your day, Keith?”

“Good.” Keith answered easily, surprisingly chipper compared to his usual self. He paused, smiling almost as if an afterthought, and continued in a softer voice. “I spent most of it with Lance.”

“We heard.” Pidge groaned, rolling their eyes. Lance shot a glare in their direction, hoping they wouldn’t discourage Keith from sharing.

“Yeah? From who?” Keith questioned, brows deeply furrowed together. Lance did his best to squirm free of Hunk’s bear hug of shame, desperate to contribute to the conversation.

“Me.” He interjected, scooting closer to Keith on the couch and further away from Hunk. “I came in here specifically to brag about how much time I got to spend with you today.”

“How is that bragging?” Keith grumbled, though he didn’t protest as Lance grew nearer and nearer, not even when the blue paladin collapsed to lean into his side. Pidge and Hunk exchange a look as they watched the two boys essentially start cuddling, but neither of them said anything. “They could have joined us if they’d wanted to, you idiot.”

“Yeah, but they didn’t.” Lance argued, ignorant to the perplexed way Keith was looking at him as he continued on. “They weren’t there, so I got you all to myself.”

Lance wasn’t even sure exactly what he was saying, only that he couldn’t bring himself to stay silent for so much as a second around Keith. Every moment he spent speaking was another chance at making the other boy laugh, making him smile that sweet little smile that he seemed to reserve specifically for Lance. Lance wouldn’t dare miss a chance at that.

As it was, this time he got the pleasure of watching Keith’s confusion fade into sheepishness as he realized he was being complimented, flirted with. He scoffed, shoving Lance away playfully only to pull him right back, an arm settling securely around Lance’s shoulders. Lance beamed, utterly in his element.

“You’re blushing.” Pidge spoke suddenly, breaking them both out of their moment. Pidge giggled, holding up a finger and pointing to Keith’s face. “Keith’s blushing .”

“Am not!” Keith snapped, leaning heavier into Lance.

“Lance, is Keith blushing?” Pidge asked, turning their attention to the blue paladin. He swallowed harshly, knowing he couldn’t possibly lie. He turned ever so slowly, ignoring the way his heart raced, trying with all of his might to ignore just how close they were. Sure enough, by the time their eyes locked, their faces mere inches apart… Keith’s cheeks were the brightest shade of pearly pink that Lance had ever seen. And, oh, how proud he felt knowing he’d put that there.

“Yeah.” He breathed, subconsciously leaning even closer. Keith smiled gently, looking almost eager as the space between them grew smaller and smaller.

“What do you think of that?” Pidge asked loudly, pointedly. Lance blinked, realizing what he was doing and jerking backward. He coughed, spluttering into a fit of nearly choking on his own tongue. It didn’t help that Keith—naive and beautifully caring Keith—took to patting him on the back with concern as if he was actually choking on something physical rather than just air.

“It’s…” Lance inhaled shakily, trying to find the right words rather than the ones that were on the tip of his tongue just waiting to be spoken. He swallowed them back, fighting against the curse with everything he had and trying to manipulate it. There were other words he could say that would be truthful. He wasn’t lying , just not being as honest as he could be. “It’s really... cool.”

Keith pulled a face, scrunching his nose up skeptically. Lance bit his bottom lip, fighting the urge to just kiss that dumb look right off his face.

“And?” Pidge pressed on, knowing full-well that that hadn’t been what Lance wanted to say. He grit his teeth together, craning his neck in the opposite direction from Keith despite how reluctant he was to look away.

“Cute.” He croaked out, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. “Really cute.”

“Is that so?” Pidge chuckled deviously, their expression practically devilish as Lance slowly turned back to gauge the damage he’d caused. He turned further, until he was nervously facing Keith again, the air between them heavy with tension. Keith didn’t seem upset though, just… lost.

“Are you making fun of me?” He asked suddenly, bottom lip jutting out into a pout. Lance couldn’t help it, that was just too cute, he burst into laughter right alongside Pidge at that one. Keith gave a disgruntled angry noise, shoving Lance away from him.

“No!” Lance whined, hand darting out to grab Keith’s and squeezing reassuringly. Keith paused, settling back against the couch rather than continuing to run away. Lance took a deep breath, forcing himself to pull it together. “I promise, not making fun of you.”

Keith stared at him for a long moment, eventually rolling his eyes and swatting Lance’s hand away. It didn’t go far though, just settled on Keith’s knee instead and rubbed soothing circles into the black denim that covered it.

“You guys are acting so weird lately.” Keith concluded bitterly, shooting a glare at everyone in the room for good measure. Hunk looked genuinely hurt, considering he hadn’t contributed to anything that was going on.

“Fine, if I’m such a weird friend, then you guys can’t have any of the cake I made!”

“Cake?” Keith asked, eyes wide and excited. Back when Shiro was missing and Keith had reverted so far into himself that he was a living black void of angst aboard the castle, the rest of the gang had made it their mission to find something to cheer him up. After a lot of trial and error, it’d been entirely by accident that Hunk had made something that resembled chocolate cake one day and Keith had taken to it like a moth to a flame. They’d been making it regularly ever since and the red paladin wasn’t nearly as sick of it as everyone else was starting to feel.

It didn’t take much for Keith to convince them all to drop the project they were tinkering with and come to the kitchen with him, especially not when Hunk was eager to show off his newest creation himself. He took his time decorating the cakes, it gave him something new to expand his baking skills with, without having to collect a bunch of different ingredients each time for a new recipe. He was getting pretty good at decorating.

While Hunk and Keith walked down the hallway side-by-side, rambling on to each other about food, Lance fell into line beside Pidge. Pidge who had been staring at him with a twinkle in their eye ever since that almost-kiss that’d happened back in the lounge. They were planning something, Lance could tell.

So when Hunk and Keith disappeared around a corner, Lance was hardly surprised to find himself plastered to the wall with a tiny Pidge holding him in place. They looked up at him, glasses sliding down the bridge of their nose.

“Tell him!” They demanded, landing a flimsy punch to Lance’s chest. “It’s so obvious he likes you back.”

Lance shifted nervously, beginning to chuckle to cover how torn up he really felt inside. He wanted more than anything to believe what Pidge was telling him, but he’d been rejected more times than he could count. No one had ever… liked him back before. He’d kind-of come to accept that they never would.

And to think that someone like Keith, someone so fierce and passionate… would feel something like that for him? It was almost dizzying.

“There’s no way. He’s-”

“Lance!” They both whipped their heads toward the corner and Pidge jumped backward just as Keith leaned around it, gesturing wildly for them to come closer. He lit up when he saw Lance too, frantically waving him over. “You’ve got to see how Hunk decorated this cake before I eat it whole!”

“Coming!” Lance called, smiling widely until the moment Keith disappeared around the corner. He turned back to Pidge then, mouth already opened to protest because surely they had another argument to give after watching that exchange.

“Look at him, he wants to share his life with you, he wants to be around you all the t-”

“He doesn’t like me.” Lance insisted stubbornly, stomping ahead before Pidge could catch him and pull him aside again. He managed to make it all the way to the kitchen unscathed, Pidge toting along sourly behind him. He walked into the room and immediately Keith was greeting him, grabbing his sleeve and tugging him over to the counter.

Lance had to admit, Hunk had really outdone himself this time. The decorating was gorgeous, little space flowers like they’d seen on their many adventures decorated the vaguely chocolate-like cake. He grinned, giving Hunk a certified Lance-approved thumbs up.

“Isn’t it the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen?” Keith enthused, grabbing Lance’s face with one hand and forcing him to turn back to the cake. Lance rolled his eyes, shrugging Keith’s hand away.

“Nah, it’s not even the prettiest thing in the room right now.” Lance replied absentmindedly, leaning closer to the cake to get a better look at it. Keith had gone suspiciously quiet next to him though, so he straightened back up and quirked an eyebrow at him. Was he back to blushing already? What had Lance said this ti-

“Rude!” Hunk screeched in outrage, walking over to swat at Lance with a wooden spoon. Oh, right, thinking back on it Lance could totally see what he’d done wrong in this situation. He yelped, running around the kitchen island to evade Hunk. Meanwhile, Pidge walked up to Keith and propped an elbow up on his shoulder, leaning their weight onto him.

“To answer the question you forgot to ask,” they started, watching as Lance doubled over to catch his breath, holding up his hand in truce, “yes, you should punch him for that. What a terrible line.”

Lance looked over at them with a glare, but Keith didn’t look annoyed. He was staring fondly back at Lance, the corners of his lips twitching with the effort he was putting into fighting off a smile.

“I’m not feeling particularly punchy right now.” Keith admitted, looking down at his feet. Pidge gasped, clapping him on the back.

“Dear God, Keith’s a changed man .”

--

Things had been going pretty well for Lance recently, suspiciously so with all curse-related things being considered. So, when he was awoken at the ass crack of dawn merely an hour after stumbling the short distance from Keith’s room back to his own to go to sleep… he wasn’t really all that surprised. Was he angry? Yes. Surprised? No.

“Paladins! Get to your lions!” Shiro screeched through the intercoms, in a way that made it impossible to decipher whether it was a genuine threat or another drill to test their skills. Lance groaned, cracking his back before rolling out of bed, thankful when his blankets cushioned the fall. “We just received a distress call from a nearby planet, they’re under attack!”

He hastily untangled himself and jumped to his feet, blearily blinking to register his surroundings. Keith hadn’t been kidding about how tired they would be after staying up half the night together both the night before and this night, Lance was exhausted. He’d have to suggest an even more leisurely activity than movie-watching next time, maybe they could enjoy each other’s company by mutually napping in the same vicinity. Cuddling. Lance wanted to cuddle.

He pouted the whole way to the ziplines, only relaxing slightly once he’d made it to Red and settled comfortably into her cockpit. He cracked his knuckles, pulling back on the controls and veering her out into open space. He wasn’t exactly surprised to see that the other four lions were already there waiting for him. The red lion may have been the fastest of the lions, but its current pilot was certainly not the fastest of the paladins.

“You guys ready?” Keith asked, voice crackling through the comms. Lance swallowed harshly, trying not to dwell on the gruff sleepiness still present in Keith’s tone. He flew Red over to flank Black, hovering protectively at Keith’s side.

“Hell yeah.” Lance affirmed, grinning excitedly now that he was certain this was an actual mission and not some dumb training session. “I’ve got your back, buddy.”

“Thanks, Lance.” Keith mumbled, something that sounded suspiciously close to fondness present in his tone. Lance preened under the attention, the strangest urge to show-off overtaking him, in a way that hadn’t been there since the beginning of their space travels when he’d been hell-bent on getting Keith to look at him through any means possible. He forced himself to stay on task, not willing to put anyone at risk just so he could do a few tricky flips to impress his crush.

They didn’t have to travel all that long to spot the planet the Galra were after. It was a large planet, rings circling around it and bright almost toxic-looking colors dotting the surface. That wasn’t what drew Lance’s attention at first though, instead it was the swarm of Galran squad-fighters circling the surface and intermittently diving down to land on it.

He heard the audible gasps and hitches in his teammates breaths, all of them expressing varying levels of apprehensiveness to the large numbers of enemies.

“What do you guys see out there? Is it bad?” Shiro asked through the comms, likely still settled comfortably in his bunny slippers and housecoat back in the castle’s control room. Stupid Shiro with his stupid early retirement induced by a magical space lion.

“There’s gotta be a hundred Galran ships out here, I don’t know if we can take ‘em.” Keith answered quietly, none of his usual eagerness for battle present in his words. Lance wasn’t liking the situation to begin with, but hearing hothead Keith Kogane sound so negative before the battle had even begun was something deeply unsettling.

“Come on, Keith, where’s our fearless leader when we need him?” Lance laughed playfully, not a trace of sarcasm present. “If anyone can figure out how to handle this, it’s him.”

“Hey!” Shiro shouted into the comms, clearly taken offense to that comment. The quiet sound of the rest of the paladins attempting to stifle their laughter followed, Allura in particular struggling with the task. In an instant, Lance had managed to lift everyone’s moods from the rock bottom they’d settled at. He breathed a happy sigh of relief.

“Okay, new plan.” Keith informed them all, slipping easily back into his role as the leader. “We still have the element of surprise on our hands. If we come up from the bottom of the planet and hit them from underneath, it’ll take the others longer to lock onto us as targets.”

“Good thinking!” Lance praised, noticing that traitorous fondness seeping into his own voice as well. Oh well, at this point he’d mostly accepted that he was going to confess one way or another before the week was out. If the rest of the team hadn’t figured it out by now, they clearly weren’t paying attention.

After that, they all swerved off in different directions to get beneath the planet unnoticed. Once they were all in position and ready to charge the ships from underneath, Keith gave the final order for them to head out. It was a blur of laser-fire and metal crunching after that, ships sailing haphazardly across Lance’s vision every few seconds as one of the other paladins would take them out.

The odds considered, they were doing a pretty good job of fighting off their enemies. For a while there, it almost seemed like they were going to come out of the fight without a single scratch on their lions. That was when Lance realized the absence of Galra ships in front of him wasn’t a coincidence and it didn’t mean the majority had been wiped out. Instead, almost every remaining soldier from the opposing side had gathered around Keith’s lion, circling him ominously.

The moment Lance picked up on what was happening, he darted away from the few ships he’d been helping Pidge fight and soared straight toward the scene. He had no idea what he was going to do when he got there and he was sure they’d have time to do some serious damage before he made it to Keith’s aid, but it didn’t matter. He had to try. “Keith, watch out!”

No matter how fast Red was and how hard he pushed her to be even faster, there was simply no way for him to get there in time. Instead he was forced to watch as all of the ships fired at once, shooting at the Black lion from all directions and sending bullets ricocheting off the surface. The lasers weren’t quite so harmless, cutting into the lion’s surface in multiple places until it started to tip heavily to one side.

Keith flew downward in an attempt to evade them, but instead he only brought himself further into the planet’s atmosphere as he began to spiral. He cursed, voice low and unsteady.

“I just took a pretty heavy hit, guys.” Keith bit out, the sound of his frantic shuffling coming through the mic in a way that had Lance’s heart racing. He soared forward and took out a good quarter of the ships pursuing Keith in one broad sweep, his hands shaking on the controls.

“What’s the damage like?” Shiro asked, straight to the point.

“Comms are still working as of right now, but I’m going down fast and who knows what that hit will do to the system. You’ll have to finish the battle without me.” Keith explained hurriedly, determined to say everything he needed to before he lost the ability to. Lance grunted in acknowledgment, soaring forward and crashing through another line of ships murderously.

“Don’t you dare die, you asshole! I need you!” Lance yelled, hitting his hands against the steering handles in a fit of frustration. Silence transferred back over the comms and for a moment Lance had to worry that Keith had already crashed that quickly, but then he recalled the words that’d just left his mouth. He chuckled awkwardly, ignoring Pidge’s exasperated sigh. “Er, this team needs you?”

Lance knew damned well no one was going to believe that terrible cover-up. No one called him out on it though, and Keith sounded so shaken when he replied that Lance was irrevocably glad they’d just allowed him to be his emotional self for once. He needed Keith to know how much he cared right now.

“It’s all on you now, Lance.” Keith assured him, sounding breathless. “Don’t let us down.”

The fight went much quicker after that, mostly because Lance was being reckless. He knew that if Keith was still in the skies right now, he’d be lecturing him relentlessly for being so careless with Red. Lance had come to know the lion quite well over the past few months though, knew that she would give anything to make sure Keith stayed as safe as possible. Her and Lance had that in common.

It was almost comparable to the first time he’d flown the red lion. His control was better by now, but he was so determined to take out every enemy as quickly as possible that sometimes that meant compromising things like checking his surroundings first or respecting his fellow paladins that were already on the task. He could apologize for all of the almost-crashes later, once he’d safely gotten Keith back home.

“We got him! That’s the last one!” Hunk cheered triumphantly, the yellow lion spinning in a circle after its own tail. Lance barely paused to join the celebrations before jolting into action, steering Red to exactly where he’d wanted to head the entire time. “Lance? Where are you-”

“Let him go, Hunk.” Pidge interrupted, a knowing lilt to their words. “He’s got some gay shit to take care of down on the surface.”

“I can’t believe you just referred to Keith as “gay shit”, you really did that.” Shiro exhaled loudly, sounding downright exhausted. Lance opted to ignore all of them, turning his comms off as he watched the colorful surface approaching rapidly. He pulled up at the last second, effortlessly landing Red a few feet from where Black was collapsed to the ground.

Lance tumbled out of Red in record time, reassuring her that he’d do everything he could before he was off as fast as his long legs could carry him. He all but pried the black lion’s mouth open in his haste to get inside, knowing that the sluggish movement was due to all the systems that were surely down inside of it.

Lance hadn’t accounted for the fact that the lion was on its side until he was inside the cockpit, walking on a wall with his eyes glued to where Keith was sitting horizontally in his pilot’s seat. The only thing keeping him from tumbling out of it and succumbing to gravity was the heavy straps of his seatbelt.

Lance bit his lip, rushing to his side. Keith’s head was lolled slightly to the side, but as Lance approached he lifted it to assess the intruder. Lance froze in his tracks, relief flooding through him as Keith cast a weary smile toward him. “Keith!”

“How’d it go?” Keith asked, wrapping his arms around Lance’s neck as he went about undoing the seatbelt straps holding Keith in place. The moment they gave way, gravity pulled Keith down and he collapsed onto Lance, who sheepishly caught him despite the ache of protest from his tired muscles after being jostled around in his own lion so much.

He lowered them both down until they were sitting, Keith sprawled kind-of awkwardly in Lance’s lap as he was checked over for injuries. Other than a lot of bruises and a gash on his leg where something in the cockpit (Keith’s sword, probably) had flown into him while they were spiraling around, Keith seemed to be in good condition. No broken bones and he was completely conscious.

Lance collapsed forward, pulling him into a hug the moment he’d confirmed the other boy would be able to handle the embrace.

“We did it.” Lance exhaled shakily, voice cracking and exposing just how close he really was to tears. He huffed, burying his face into Keith’s shoulder to hide the wetness gathering in his eyes. Keith’s arms looped around Lance’s neck fell to his shoulders, pulling him closer.

“We are a good team.” Keith replied softly, under his breath. Lance wasn’t even sure if he’d been meant to hear it, but he couldn’t help but start smirking at the reference. He lifted his head, not expecting to be quite so close to Keith. He gulped, lifting his hands from Keith’s sides to chuck his helmet to the side.

“That’s my line.” Lance replied, reaching out to carefully lift Keith’s helmet from his head as well. The red paladin seemed appreciative of the tender treatment, until he registered what Lance had actually said. A flame of recognition sparked across his features and he let out a noise akin to a growl, outrage causing his jaw to drop.

“Wait a minute, you remember?!” Keith hissed, shoving Lance backward. Of course, Lance bounced right back because hell if he was going to allow Keith out of his sight or out of his arms for the rest of the day, but it was the thought that counted.

And Lance, he wanted to lie. For the first time since the curse had been placed on him, he wanted with his whole entire being to have his free-will back. He still wasn’t sure why he’d lied to cover up their bonding moment in the first place, mostly because he’d been terrified of what it meant for them if he admitted to it. But then he’d just dug himself a hole so deep he’d vowed to never even attempt crawling out of it. He’d live a lie for the rest of his life.

Except now he couldn’t , because Keith was staring at him like that and Lance could feel the confession crawling up his throat. Damn it. Damn it all.

“N-Of course I do! Do you have any idea how many times I’ve relived that moment? It was the best thing that’s happened to me since all this crazy shit started.” Lance rambled on, cringing in on himself more with every single word. He scrambled backward, pushing Keith gently off his lap so he could bring his knees up to his chest and then hide his face in them. “Oh no.”

“What?” Keith breathed, crawling closer and lifting a hand to trace the outline of Lance’s face. He leaned into the touch despite himself, lifting his head so Keith could brush his thumb along his jawline. Keith wasn’t about to let this one go though, no way. He’d been demanding answers for far too long. “ Explain .”

“Keith motherfucking Kogane was cradling me against his chest, I’ve only thought of what that might be like... oh , a million times!” Lance laughed obnoxiously, trailing off into genuine wheezing as he struggled to breathe after realizing what he’d said. He spun around, scrambling away from Keith and doubling over to curl in on himself in horror. “Shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, sh-”

“No, don’t.” Keith insisted, following after him and settling at his side again. He placed a hand on Lance’s back, rubbing soothingly between his shoulder blades. “What’s been up with you lately? What aren’t you guys telling me?”

“I have no filter around you because a witch cursed me to be truthful to the person I lie to the most.” He blurted out, hands curling into fists in his hair and tugging at it. He was setting himself up for disaster here, the moment Keith found out he was going to ask The Question™. The one that Lance had been evading for years now.

“You lie to me?” Keith asked quietly, sounding so vulnerable that Lance caved in a moment of utter, total weakness. He sat up, fully aware that his hair was a wild mess and his cheeks were red as beets with tear tracks trailing down them. And Keith didn’t seem to judge him in the slightest, only reached out to gingerly brush the salt water away. “About what? You’ve always seemed like such an open book.”

“Everything.” Lance choked out, silently pleading with himself to just leave it at that terribly vague answer and move on quick before- “Mostly how I feel about you... r mom .”

“No, nuh-uh, not falling for it.” Keith chuckled, picking up on that terrible diversion in an instant. He leaned closer, staring at Lance critically as if trying to see how the curse was affecting him. “So, you’re cursed to be honest with me?”

“Or about you. Anything to do with you, I’ve gotta be truthful about it.” Lance explained quite gleefully, wanting to die the entire while. He groaned, reaching up to slap a hand to his face. “Damn it! Stop asking me q-”

“How do you feel about me, then?” Keith interrupted, looking poised on the edge of deciding whether he was going to be angry or not. He was probably expecting the worst right now, maybe waiting for Lance to say he’d been filled with a genuine, burning hatred for him all along. That wasn’t the case and Lance wasn’t sure how exactly to go about telling him as much.

“Good.” Lance answered simply, looking down and picking at his nails. He bit down on his tongue, eyes narrowing in pain as he tasted blood. He refused to say anything more, he couldn’t possibly throw himself under the bus anymore than he already had. He just wouldn’t, there was no way he’d willingly sign himself up for-

“How good?” Keith whispered, his tone so unreadable and unfamiliar that Lance had no choice but to put himself out on the edge and make eye contact. He looked up and immediately regretted it, floored with affection so strong it nearly knocked him back down to the ground. Keith was staring knowingly over at him, a hint of a smirk tracing his lips and eyes sparkling with mirth. He knew . He had to know to be looking at him like that.

Lance started nervous-laughing before he could help himself, his words coming out slightly distorted in his rush to get it all off his chest.

“I’m pretty, uh, in love with you. Ah-ha, if you catch my drift.” Lance managed to get out, throwing up a pair of finger guns for good measure because good God, this was not how he planned on his confession going after all these years. Keith didn’t make it any easier on him either, simply sat there with this big shit-eating grin plastered onto his face.

Lance groaned, reaching blindly toward where Keith’s bayard had ended up thrown to the floor during the crash. “Please, I am begging you, pick up your bayard right now and stab me in the chest. Oh my god, I literally want to curl up and die right fucking here.”

Love ?” Keith repeated slowly, as if testing the word out. “You’re in love with me?”

“Mhm.” Lance hummed uneasily, drumming his fingers against the metal beneath them in a mockery of a familiar melody. “I never planned on telling you about it, though. This is like something out of a recurring nightmare for me.”

“You’re in love with me and you never wanted me to find out?” Keith repeated again, as if the idea sounded totally ludicrous. Maybe it was, Lance hadn’t really stopped to consider while desperately trying to hide how he felt all this time, the threat of brutal rejection looming over him.

Keith shook his head, tilting it to the side and looking at Lance from a different angle. He looked almost amused. “You just… weren’t going to do anything about it? You were going to ignore your feelings for, well, forever?”

“Didn’t wanna make you uncomfortable.” Lance managed to grit out, deciding that if there were ever a time to emphasize that it would be now. It was the moment of truth, if he was going to be brutally rejected it was about to happen and he didn’t want Keith to feel obligated to sugarcoat anything.

He looked down at his own lap and shrugged. “It’s not a big deal—except it really is to me—but please don’t feel like anything’s changed between us because it really hasn’t, I’ve felt like this for years.”

Years ?” Keith repeated yet again, beginning to sound a bit parrot-like with how much he was voicing the way he was processing all the new information. Lance nodded begrudgingly, mostly because he didn’t have a choice not to.

“Fuck! Yes! Years!” He whimpered, reaching over to grab his helmet and pulling it onto his lap. He cast Keith a look making sure he wasn’t going to say anything, then turned the comms on. They crackled to life quickly and before anyone could bombard him with questions about whether Keith was alright, Lance jumped right into the important business. “Pidge? Can you hear me? Save my dignity and beam me out of here or something!”

“Sorry, no can do.” Pidge answered immediately, the hint of laughter detectable in their voice. Lance scowled, chucking his helmet haphazardly back into the corner. He turned, taking great interest in staring at the seat Keith had just been strapped into. If it meant not looking at Keith, Keith who had been newly informed of exactly how Lance had been feeling all this time, then it was a great thing to occupy Lance’s time with.

“Lance, look at me.” Keith demanded, reaching out to shove Lance’s shoulder. Lance did his best to ignore it, staring determinedly ahead even as he began to blush at the thought of Keith touching him, now that he knew .

“I have to be honest with you, doesn’t mean I have to listen to you.” Lance informed him, stubbornly refusing to even risk a glance back at the other boy. He would just have to sit right here and stare off into space until their teammates grew worried enough to come and rescue him.

“Fine, two can play at that game.” Keith grumbled, the hint of a challenge behind his words. They’d bickered and fought like petulant children enough for Lance to know when he was about to be thrown into the deep end, way over his head. Keith had one hell of an advantage over him right now.

Keith’s hand settled on his thigh and squeezed, Lance did his best to remember to breathe. “What do I have to do to get you to look at me?”

“N-Not brutally reject me.” Lance stuttered out lamely, face aflame with embarrassment. “A kiss probably wouldn’t hurt.”

“And if I’m offering neither of those things? You’re never gonna look me in the eye again?” Keith asked, sounding genuinely curious as to how Lance planned to deal with that scenario. Lance shifted, shrugging indifferently.

“I’m going to try very hard not to.” He confirmed with a nod, already debating how he was going to survive the rest of his life without looking at Keith. What a cruel life it would be. Maybe that witch had meant to make him suffer after all.

“Get up.” Keith instructed, using that deadpan voice he called upon every time he had to give orders as a leader. For once, Lance made absolutely no effort to listen to him. This earned him a kick, Keith’s boot landing against his thigh where his hand had been moments before. “I’m gonna kiss you, get up.”

Lance opened his mouth to continuing protest, before the words caught up to him. He slowly closed his mouth, furrowing his eyebrows together contemplatively. Ever so slowly, he turned to look at Keith. No visible signs of sarcasm, he most likely didn’t have a concussion, he hadn’t inhaled any wonky space flower dust… did that mean he was being serious? No jokes? He wanted to kiss Lance after that trainwreck of a confession?

Damn, that boy had some low standards.

“Wait, what, really?” Lance blurted out, eyeing Keith like he’d just grown another head. Keith simply sat there, calm and composed, a smile still playing at his lips. Lance took a risk and slowly shuffled closer to where Keith was sitting. “Why?”

“Why not?” Keith asked casually, clearly having forgotten that he’d be getting an answer whether he wanted one or not.

“Woo, boy, here we go.” Pidge’s voice sounded through the helmet lying a few feet away. Lance rolled over, stretching out to grab it and turn them off before the urge to reply got too strong. He looked back to Keith almost apologetically, knowing from the heaviness in his chest that it was going to be one of those rants. The kind of rant he normally saved for 3am Hunk who was all soft praise and reassurance because surely no one else to be dragged down with his insecurities.

Keith had asked though, even if it was unintentionally.

“You deserve so much better than me.” Lance started with the obvious, pulling his hand back and beginning to list his reasons off on each of his fingers. “I’m whiny and obnoxious and I don’t know how to express my emotions for shit. I overcompensate in every way that I can to hide how insecure I really am and it drives everyone insane, I know it does, but I can’t stop and I-”

He didn’t get to finish, a finger pinging him abruptly on the nose. He went cross-eyed in his attempt to look at the assault weapon, before looking back up at Keith. Keith was looking at him with his softest look yet and for a moment, Lance had to wonder if maybe 3am Hunk and all-the-time Keith were just as good at listening.

“Lance.” Keith whispered, reaching out to settle his hands gently on either side of Lance’s face. Lance didn’t try to pull away from the touch this time, instead leaning into the embrace and even allowing his eyes to flutter shut. “I know. You don’t have to tell me all that stuff.”

How ?”

“I know because I’m the same way.” Keith answered easily, as if this was common knowledge. It wasn’t at all, but Lance didn’t find it all that hard to believe that Keith could be hiding some insecurities behind that stone cold exterior of his. Lance knew all about never judging a book by its cover by now.

Keith continued, running his thumbs over Lance’s cheek bones. “I don’t hate you, I’ve just never known what to do with just how much I don’t hate you. You’re not the only one with walls up or a fake persona to hide behind. You’re not alone out here, you don’t have to deal with this stuff on your own.”

“What are you suggesting?” Lance asked, hesitant, hopeful .

“We can deal with it together.” Keith responded easily, a smile stretching across his face so bright and earnest that Lance didn’t have any choice but to believe him. The relief was so tangible in Lance’s chest that he felt giddy, overwhelmed by how light he felt for the first time in years. He realized that maybe, just maybe, all those lies he’d been telling and secrets he’d been keeping had been weighing him down.

Surprisingly enough, after all of his waiting, Lance wasn’t even the one to make the first move. By the time the thought of kissing Keith came back to his over-excited, shocked mind… Keith had already surged forward and pressed their mouths together. Lance gave a startled noise, hand darting to Keith’s chest to try and get his bearings.

Once he’d steadied himself though, that hand slid higher to the back of Keith’s neck, fingers winding through the shaggy hair at the base of it. Keith hummed appreciatively against his lips, leaning closer and swiping his tongue across Lance’s bottom lip. The kiss got heated quickly and Lance silently thanked the stars that he’d thought to turn off the comms, that the quiet little pleased noises Keith was making in the back of his throat were for his ears only.

By the time they pulled away, they were both wearing matching stupid-big grins on their faces. They looked like two kids who had just stumbled into a candy store and eaten the entire stock. Lance leaned back against the wall, panting to catch his breath.

“That was sweet and all, but I’m going to have to ask you to not start a relationship with me until this curse wears off in five days, because you have a huge advantage over me right now.” Lance suggested jokingly, smirking over at Keith who looked even more debauched than Lance felt. His heartbeat seemed to stagger in his chest, the days of rhythmic even thudding long gone. How the hell was Lance supposed to exist when Keith was over there looking like that ? Looking at him like that ?

“Really? I have no idea how I could use this to my advantage.” Keith teased, shifting closer to Lance again.

Keith .”

“Do you wanna kiss me again ?” Keith asked, mischief glinting in his dark eyes. Lance groaned, throwing his head back and looking bitterly toward the ceiling.

“I wanna kiss you so badly, you have no idea.” He complained loudly, voice teetering on the edge of becoming a whine. Keith simply giggled, all too pleased with himself and his newfound power over the other boy. “Keith! Cut it out!”

“Honesty suits you.” Keith managed between his laughter, grabbing Lance by the front of his armor and yanking him forward. Their lips met again much softer this time, none of the desperation or pent-up tumultuous emotion from before present. It was just that, a kiss, filled with so much love and admiration that even Lance’s embarrassment started to ebb away.

They separated and Lance leaned forward, chasing after Keith’s lips. “You’re actually a pretty decent guy underneath all those lies.”

“You like this me better? The lame one?” Lance groaned, giving up on stealing another kiss. Keith was looking at him as if he was genuinely perplexed, like he couldn’t understand the question. He attempted to answer it anyway.

“You’re always lame?” Keith explained, earning a gasp of protest immediately from Lance (who definitely wasn’t always lame, thank-you very much). Keith dodged Lance’s attempt at a shove, grabbing his hand instead and pulling it closer. He held Lance’s hand to his chest, over the scraped and scuffed breastplate of his armor.

Lance couldn’t help but feel extremely thankful all over again that things had worked out so well. He gave up on trying to salvage his dignity, instead falling forward and burying his face into Keith’s neck with a relieved sigh. He hugged the other boy closer and closer still, breathing in his familiar comforting scent and relishing in the knowledge that he was allowed to do this whenever from now on. “It’s all this sweetness and vulnerability that’s come as a surprise to me.”

“I am very sweet, you’re not wrong.” Lance mumbled, voice muffled by Keith’s skin. He wasn’t all that surprised when Keith retaliated against his cockiness by pulling at his hair.

“Vulnerable, too.” Keith reminded him, the harsh tugging dissolving into soothing petting that only had Lance leaning even closer. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to take advantage of that.”