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1.

Four of the five paladins sit in the secondary lounge on the main floor they occupy in the Castle. Secondary, because it's a little out of the way from their rooms or the dining room, and because the couches are more for sprawling than sitting in a circle for Team Time.

Hunk and Pidge sit on one couch, Keith on another. Lance is draped over the back of Hunk and Pidge's couch, talking to Hunk about the various pros and cons of an old film that was apparently going to have a reboot made while they were in space. Pidge watches the debate with mild interest, while Keith eyes them in mild confusion.

"Pidge, pal, buddy, dudette," Lance says, turning his head in Pidge's direction. "Give me your opinion on it."

She shrugs. "I don't know the original, though it sounds pretty cool the way you describe it." With a wicked smile she adjusts her glasses. "Though, I'm thinking you may be embellishing it as usual, seeing as it's one of your favourites."

Lance gasps in mock hurt, and clutches at his heart. "The audacity-! You, you little gremlin, have no room to talk about embellishing favourites! I still feel betrayed about how utterly shit your favourite film was."

Pidge squawks in outrage--"it's a classic!"--and tries to hit Lance with a couch cushion, but Lance merely cackles and dances out of reach. He lopes over to Keith's couch and flops down, head nearly landing in Keith's lap.

"What about you, Mullet Man?" Lance asks, grinning up him. "Any thoughts on whether a masterpiece like this should be rebooted?"

Keith frowns. "I don't actually know what film you're talking about it."

Lance gapes at him, and turns on his stomach. "Wait, seriously! Oh, man, you haven't lived till you've seen Rage of Mars. It's, like, the best film ever made?" Then he grins cheekily and taps his bottom lip with a finger. "Though...given you lived in the desert for a year, like a dusty hobo, I'm not really that surprised you haven't heard of cinema's greatest work of art."

Keith splutters and Lance pushes himself upright with a low laugh.

"Oh my god!" Keith says. "Let that go!"

"Never!"

Lance manages to dodge the smack Keith aims at him, but only just. He seems about to open his mouth to say something else to rile Keith up, when the Castle intercom system goes off.

"Number Three, can you report to the decontamination chamber, you're on the chores list with me today!" Coran's cheery voice calls out.

Lance groans and attempts to flop back over to Hunk and Pidge, but they both jeer at him teasingly. Instead, Lance sniffs at them and stalks out with his chin in the air.

"Fine, hasta la later, assholes," he says as he leaves.

The other three snicker as the door closes after him.

After a few moments to appreciate the quiet, Hunk and Pidge start a conversation about favourite films, which somehow meanders all the way through three genres (with politics slipping in there somewhere) before they end up talking sci-fi, which naturally leads to their current space adventure. From there they talk about the latest ideas they have for modifications for the lions or tech around the Castle, leading to a debate about which should get the cloaking upgrade first: the rest of the lions, or the Castle. As this happens, Keith lets their talking become low background noise as he sinks back into the couch and gets lost in his thoughts.

Talk of the films has him thinking back to the few times he went to the cinema with other foster kids, and once on a shitty date where he spent most of the film making out with a guy he was only vaguely interested in at the time. This leads him to thinking about dating. Which leads him to think about Lance. And dating Lance. And going on dates with Lance. And making out with Lance at the back of a run down movie theatre while some shitty horror film plays that neither of them are paying any attention to.

Unconsciously, he crosses his arms, and his face falls into what Lance calls his Resting Bitch Face. Keith thinks about what it would be like to hold Lance's hand, and stare deep into his shining blue eyes, and caress his soft cheeks as they kiss. Meanwhile, Pidge and Hunk wrap up their debate, with Pidge grudgingly agreeing with Hunk that it would make sense to cloak the Castle first, then add it to the lions.

As their conversation winds down, Hunk looks over to Keith, who has been quiet for a long time, to find him frowning into the distance.

"Oh, jeez," he whispers to Pidge. "Keith looks really angry."

Pidge looks over and snorts. "He's just being emo." She gets to her feet and brushes off her shorts. "Let's leave him to brood in peace."

Hunk raises an eyebrow at Keith, who seems to have startled a little when Pidge got up, and is looking at them with some disgruntled bewilderment. Hunk shrugs and gets to his feet as well, deciding he might as well go poke at some of Yellow's inner workings for a bit.

"See you at dinner, Keith," he says as he leaves, and Pidge throws something similar over her shoulder as she walks away.

"Oh, sure," Keith says in reply, watching them go.

After the door has closed, Keith sighs and tips his head back to rest on the couch. While it isn't cool to be emo, like Pidge suggests he is, it is better than Pidge, or any of the others for that matter, knowing what he is really thinking about. He groans and rubs a hand over his face, before scowling up at the ceiling.

He feels so wildly pathetic, getting lost in daydreams like that. About Lance, of all people! His self-proclaimed rival, the guy who couldn't help but constantly try to piss him off and goad him into doing stupid shit with him. The guy who...has one of the nicest smiles he's ever seen, and one of the sweetest laughs and...

Wait, fuck, no!

Keith groans again and presses his hands harder into his face. Thank god the others have already gone, he doesn't want to know what kind of face he just pulled. At least he had his resting bitch face earlier, given the others thought he was brooding. He can use that to hide his gross, gooey feelings, at least until they go away. And they will! He will make them go away.

With a huff he gets to his feet and storms out of the lounge and heads towards the training room, hoping it is empty so he can fight some gladiators and work off some energy. Maybe beating the crap out of some stuff will take his mind off Lance.

The thought that training harder to be a better fighter could help him sweep Lance off his feet one day suddenly occurs to him, and he nearly smacks himself in the face to stop himself from thinking it. No, nope, not happening. He is going to work through a few level threes, and not think about Lance for one fucking vagra.

Thankfully, the training room is empty, and he is able to work through training exercises for a few vagras. He has actually managed to purge Lance from his mind for once, and just focus on the push and pull of a fight.

At least until the door to the training room opens and Lance himself saunters in.

"Hey, Keith!" he calls cheerfully from just inside the doorway, smiling and waving.

Keith calls off the gladiator, and looks over to Lance, panting and wiping sweat from his brow. "Hey, what's up?"

Lance puts his hands in his pockets and meanders further in. "Oh, just thought I'd check in to tell you dinner's nearly ready."

"Oh," Keith says. "Hunk sent you?"

Lance laughs. "Nah, I just figured if you were training, you'd probably lose track of time, and I didn't want you to miss dinner. Didn't want Shiro or Allura to rag on you for tardiness."

Heat blooms in Keith's chest, and his heart flutters. "Oh," he says again, rather stupidly. "Thank you."

Lance shrugs and turns on his heel. "Don't mention it, buddy." At the door he stops, and gives Keith a teasing smile over his shoulder. "By the way, you should definitely shower before you head to eat, you kinda stink." Then Lance runs off with a cackle before Keith can do anything but gape at him.

Well, that was a thing. One moment Lance makes him feel special, tells him he came to check on him just to make sure he was going to dinner, then insults him.

Keith places a hand over his heart and curses himself. At least Lance isn't here anymore, though he could play off the blush on his cheeks as being from exertion. Maybe this crush isn't going away. Maybe he actually has to admit to himself that he...has feelings for Lance. Of the romantic variety. He clutches at his shirt, and feels like the heroine from a romance book. There are worse heroes to have than Lance, he supposes. Then he groans loudly and presses the heels of his hands into his eyes for such a terrible thought.

He needs to shower and clear his head. And not think of Lance. Yes, good plan.

(He does not follow this plan. He goes to bed and thinks of rushing in to save Lance from sentries, and whisking a swooning Lance off his feet, and carrying him off to his lion while Lance proclaims his everlasting love and devotion.

He buries his head under his pillow and blames the romance books he read as a kid.

He misses those books.

He resolves to look for equivalents in the Castle's vast library.

He goes to sleep, and dreams of Lance.)


2.

The planet they choose to search for new processor parts has the biggest single market place Lance has ever seen in his life. Pidge and Coran split off from the rest of them to seek out this processor. Shiro wanders off by himself, looking for who knows what. Lance drags Hunk with him, and notices Keith tagging along with them, and graciously says nothing teasing.

Lance pulls Hunk along with him, glancing at all the stalls they pass in awe. There are so many different races in one place, all trying to buy or sell different things. Clothes, jewelry, spare parts, furniture, foods, art, weapons even. It's the kind of place Lance could imagine you never fully know. Every time you think you know all the stalls, you find a new sector you never knew about. It's loud, and boisterous, and exciting, and everything Lance loves about being in space.

Hunk looks curious, staring at everything with the same awe as Lance. Keith looks a little overwhelmed, bless his knife-loving heart, but also somewhat astounded. Lance grabs Keith's arm and pulls both him and Hunk close.

"How cool is this?" Lance breathes. "Look at all this stuff!"

Hunk hums and whistles in awe, and Keith nods.

"We all have our allowance, right?" Lance asks, and receives nods. "Good, let's treat ourselves, and get something cool. Person with the coolest thing, is the winner."

Keith scoffs. "That's entirely subjective."

Lance grins at him. "Sounds like an excuse to me, Red."

Keith huffs and frowns and grumbles, but gives in to the challenge after receiving little more than a wide, shit-eating grin from Lance.

"Just so you guys know," Hunk says, with a sparkle in his eyes. "I have way better taste than either of you, so just, y'know, prepare to lose."

Lance laughs and thumps Hunk on the back. "Sure buddy. ReadysetGO!"

Keith yelps as Lance dashes off, leaving them in his dust. Hunk just laughs and gives chase. After brushing himself off, Keith follows at a more sedate pace, taking the time to look at all the stalls he passes. It'd suck to miss something truly awesome just because he wanted to chase after Lance. Not that he wants to chase after Lance, of course. That would imply feelings, which he has gone back to denying, for the sheer sake of his own sanity.

Keith passes stalls with displays of sparkling jewelry, stalls draped in colourful fabrics, stalls nearly collapsing under the weight of bottles upon bottles of sweet- smelling perfume. He stops for five minutes at a stall that has a wide variety of knives, some clearly functional while others only ceremonial. He is almost tempted by a small one, that looks very similar to a flip knife he once owned, though this one disguises itself as a broach-like thing, but the thought of the others teasing him for being so predictable makes him back off.

He does ask the seller to hold onto it though, at least for another three vagras. If he doesn't find anything, he'll come back for it, fuck what the other's say, that's a really cool knife. He could carry it around when he wanted to leave his dad's knife on board.

A vagra later, and he's looked at several stalls he thinks he could buy 'The Coolest Thing' from, including a stall of metal statues, a stall with things that look like snow globes but with star systems swirling in them, and a stall with flowers made of glass that still actually grow and bloom like real ones.

He's looking over a stall of jewelry that seems to specialise in blue gems (and specifically not thinking of anyone at all, that'd be crazy), when he hears an alien that looks like every terrible traveller stereotype from earth shaking a row of bells announcing that "the Mystical Morella knows all! Come and have your fortune read!"

Keith glances around and sees that absolutely no one is paying attention, except for a group of aliens who look like teenagers exiting the tent this announcer stands in front of twittering excitedly to one another.

He snorts under his breath. He's never believed in fortune telling or other stupid things like that. People who claimed to read palms, or auras, or see in the future were scammers looking to make money off of naive schmucks who should learn to watch their wallets better.

But...since being out in space, he has seen a lot, some of which he hadn't believed in before. He pilots a semi-sentient robot lion that merges with four other robot lions to form a super robot to take down a tyrannical dictator who is fueled by rage and something Coran insists is just science far beyond human understanding, but is pretty much straight up magic. Coran even admitted one time that is was pretty much magic, when Lance pressed him.

Lance...

Keith spares a look at the sign outside the fortune telling tent. If he pays for a session, he'll have enough money for a small star system globe, or that cool knife, but he could kiss that glass plant goodbye.

He shifts on his feet for a moment, glances at the jewelry and all their blue gems, and thinks fuck it.

He approaches the announcer and says, "I'd like to have a go."

The alien looks surprised for a second, then smiles easily, takes the required amount and shooes him inside the tent.

The heavy fabrics of the tent block out the light from the market outside, leaving it dark, only dimly lit by glowing orbs hanging from the ceiling. It smells sweet and the air feels smokey, like a flowery sort of incense.

A rounded alien sits behind a low table, draped in multiple colourful and sparkling fabrics. Rings adorn their pudgy fingers and necklaces hang around a bulging neck.

"Ahhh, young one, you have come to have your fortune read?" the alien, presumably the Mystical Morella, says. Their voice is high and creaking, like that of an elderly woman, but since the disastrous incident on Taurana a few weeks ago, he knows better than to assume he's talking to an alien that is either old or a woman.

"Yeah," Keith says simply.

Morella smiles widely, showing off their teeth, some of which have been replaced by glittering gold ones. "Then sit, child, and we will begin."

They gesture to a cushion on his side of the table, and he approaches, and sits.

"Give me your hand, child," Morella says, holding out one of their own, skin a faded red. When Keith pushes his forward, they add, "Without a glove, if you will."

Flushing a little, he yanks his glove off, and offers his hand. Morella takes it, and uses the fingers of their other hand to trail across his palm, tracing the callouses, scars, and lines.

"You've lived a hard life," Morella says, and Keith just about bites back a snort.

Yeah, no shit.

Morella looks at him dryly. "You doubt my abilities?"

Ah, must not have bitten it back that well.

"I've never really believed in it before," Keith says truthfully.

"And yet you paid for a reading," Morella says with a smirk. "Perhaps less skeptical than you thought you were."

Keith shrugs, trying to keep his face neutral.

"I've seen a lot of strange things lately. I'm feeling more generous these days."

Morella chuckles and looks back down at his palm. "Yes, I suppose you have, young one. Your quintessence bares the scars of magic, but seems to be stretched in many directions, though not unkindly. You're part of something much larger than yourself I see."

Keith eyes Morella. "Are you only going to tell me things that have happened to me?"

Morella laughs outright. "We must know where we have been in order to know where we are going. There are many gaps in your past, yes, young Keith?"

Keith startles, nearly yanking his hand out of Morella's hands, but they tighten their hold on him.

"Be at peace, child," Morella says gently. "You paid for this session, did you think I would not know such trivial things, like your name? Or occupation, little paladin?"

Keith stiffens, and thinks about how hard he will need to pull on his hand and how fast he'll need to go to get a decent head start.

"I said, be at peace, I am no friend of the empire," Morella huffs. "And besides, all my sessions are confidential, nothing said here will be repeated to another unless you yourself share it."

Keith swallows dryly.

"You came for your future, yes?" Morella asks, looking up at him, and Keith nods stiffly. "I am obligated to tell you that what becomes known cannot be unknown. You should chose what you wish to be revealed very wisely, young Keith."

Morella rubs their thumbs across his palm.

"I could tell you that there are great struggles ahead of you. Dangerous battles against terrible foes. Suffering and torment. Loss and anguish. War." Morella smiles wickedly at him. "But you already knew that, didn't you? You came with something else in mind, yes? Ask, paladin, and be answered."

Lance immediately flashes in his mind. He could ask about his future with Lance--if he even has a future with Lance. That immediately strikes him as desperate and awful, and instead he blurts, "Tell me about my family."

Morella is given pause. "Beg pardon?"

Keith forces a glare. "Tell me about what my family looks like in the future? Will I find my father?"

Morella blinks. "Well, that entirely depends on a choice you make--which is coming up in the near future. One path leads to knowledge, the other to death. I cannot see which one you will take, it is a choice for you alone."

They sigh. "As for the rest of your family, the little foundling one you have, their future seems much like yours. War torn. However, there are bright sparks of happiness, that will guide you through that darkness."

"Huh," Keith simply says, tone neutral.

Morella hums. "Indeed. Some of that happiness is reserved for you, little kit. You need only reach for it."

Keith is aware that he is probably giving her a strange look, but he can't really help it.

"Do you wish to know anything else?" Morella asks. They give him a cheeky grin. "You have an interesting love line, you know."

"Uh," Keith says. He thinks about what Morella said, about knowledge that can't be unknown. He's not saying he wants to know about his love line and how Lance fits in it, but he also...doesn't want to know that Lance definitely isn't included in that love line. Not that Lance would fit in it...but...

"No," he says, tugging his hand away, just about keeping his composure. Just. "I don't think I want to know any more. Thank you."

Morella lets him go and gives him an indulgent smile. "Of course, it's my pleasure to glimpse into a future as fascinating as yours. You have a lot to look forward to, really."

Keith gets to his feet, and moves to the tent entrance, shifting one of the drapes aside a little.

"Oh," Morella calls, giving Keith pause enough to look at them over his shoulder. "You should definitely keep that knife of yours close, little kit. Heirlooms like that are a true rarity."

That is nearly enough for Keith to turn back and change his mind, demand more answers, but he thinks he hears Lance's voice shouting at the end of the market aisle and decides it'd be better to leave while he could. Before he was seen and mocked for doing something as silly as speaking to a fortune teller. No matter how...insightful they had been.

He gives Morella, and then the announcer a nod, then darts off.

Time to buy something.

Back on the ship, two vagras later, Keith shows off his mini star system globe proudly. He found one that looked like earth's solar system, and decided he might as well go for it. Morella's words about his knife stuck with him, and the idea of getting a new one, no matter how cool, didn't sit well with him.

Hunk bought a swiss army knife type thing, but one of the tools was an actual, fully functional mini blow torch, which was honestly pretty awesome.

Lance bought a shawl the colour of the sea, which shimmered and changed colour like actual moving water.

While Lance and Keith both vehemently say that their purchases were cooler than the other's, they both concede to Hunk, whose purchase is both cool and functional.

Though, Keith doubts Hunk will keep hold of it very long, once Pidge hears about it.


3.

In the aftermath of liberating a planet called Alja, a party is held in Voltron's honour. It's not a particularly formal affair, the Galra had decimated a lot of the planet, so the party happens on the streets. Lights are strewn between damaged buildings, lighting the evening with soft colours.

Keith stays with Hunk and Pidge for a while, before Pidge peels off to chat with a couple of the young rebels who had helped them get into the captured capitol buildings. Hunk is quickly distracted by some citizens who wanted to thank him for his role in their rescue. Keith watches from the sidelines, smiling a little behind his drink as Hunk gets flustered by the earnest and enthusiastic words of the people.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees movement, and when he turns his head to look, Keith sees Lance gesticulating wildly, surrounded by a number of people, all of them watching him very keenly, all of them laughing at his jokes, and all of them very pretty. It...doesn't really surprise him to see Lance at the centre of things.

Lance is kind and funny and charming when he actually wants to be. He's easy to talk to and quick to smile, and he does his best to make people feel at ease. Sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth, but it's been happening less now that he's getting the hang of the whole 'saviours of the universe' thing. This doesn't stop petty jealousy bubbling up in Keith's stomach.

Because yes, he needs to finally acknowledge that he likes Lance. Like likes Lance. Lance has his back, Lance makes him laugh, Lance makes the whole shitscape of a galactic war he's managed to dedicate his future to livable. Lance means a lot to him, and to see him like this, not only does it screw his feelings up and toss it around in his stomach enough to make him queasy, but it confuses the hell out of him.

How is it that Lance can flirt and tease so-so-so carelessly? It's not like his flirtations will lead to anything except maybe a single night (which brings up a whole other set of feelings, which are both unfair and unjust to Lance, really), so, why does Lance do it?

He's aware that he's probably scowling, and definitely aware that he's holding his cup a smidge too tight, but Keith kind of doesn't care.

Is it too much to ask for Lance to talk and flirt with him like that? With him it could actually mean something. These people couldn't possibly see how incredible Lance is, how selfless and brave on the battlefield, but goofy and caring off it he is. The people they save can't see past the superficial, would only see Lance as the Blue Paladin when Lance is so much more than that. But Keith knows Lance--maybe not as well as Hunk, but that's a tough bar to meet, since he can't go back in time and add years to their friendship--knows what Lance is like away from the clamour of battle and the dazzle of parties. Lance would never have to worry about Keith getting bored or looking elsewhere, because how could he ever look away from someone as beautiful as--

There's a soft snort beside him and Keith startles back to reality.

Shiro stands beside him, giving him a fondly exasperated look. "Are you trying to set Lance on fire with that glare, buddy?" he asks, smiling.

Keith looks down and away. "No," he says petulantly.

Shiro huffs a little laugh. "We all unwind in different ways, Keith. Let Lance unwind in his own way."

"What, by flirting with everything with a pulse?" Keith mutters.

Shiro sighs. "Look, you may not like it, and you may not approve, but you can't control what Lance does. None of us do." He puts his hand on Keith's shoulder, and when Keith looks up, he see Shiro is smiling softly at him. "But you and I both know that Lance would never put his--distractions before the team." His smile becomes a cheeky grin. "At least not a second time."

It's Keith's turn to snort. Then he scuffs his boot on the ground and mumbles, "Yeah, I know."

Shiro ruffles his hair, and laughs when Keith bats his hand away. "I know you do, buddy. Now, relax and enjoy the party." He looks at him knowingly. "And try not to set Lance on fire again, OK?"

Keith shoves Shiro away, and Shiro leaves, snickering. He watches Shiro wind his way to where Allura is talking to one of two council members left alive after the occupation, and sees the little look Allura and Shiro share for a moment.

Keith's gaze flicks back to Lance, who seems to be regaling his audience with a story, likely an embellished version of one of their missions. Keith scoffs and looks down at his drink, before downing it and pushing away from his spot to find Pidge. At least her crowd will actually have interesting things to talk about.

(He tells himself he doesn't continue to watch Lance throughout the evening.

He is a liar.)


As they make their way back to the ship in the early hours of the morning, Keith finds Lance falling into step with him.

"Man, that was a good party!" he says, stretching his arms up into the air.

Keith hums, exhausted from fighting and mingling with so many people. He would really like to just fall into bed right about now.

"And so many babes, y'know?" Lance continues, nudging Keith a little with a smarmy grin.

Keith grunts and swats at him. It doesn't matter how cute Lance is--and fuck it, he is too tired to deny it right now--but he doesn't particularly have any energy left to banter right now. Lord knows how Lance is still so exuberant.

"Meet anyone who caught your eye, Samaurai?" Lance asks.

Keith snorts. He keeps himself from blurting "only you have caught my eye" and instead says, "We don't have time for that kind of shit."

Lance laughs, though quietly. "Yeah, but it's, y'know, fun?"

"But it can't ever go anywhere?" Keith can't stop his thoughts from earlier bubbling up and out of his mouth. "Why do you just--just throw away your affections like that? Why not wait for someone--" he stumbles over the next words but can't stop them "--so-someone who means something?"

Lance throws an arm around Keith's shoulders. "Keith, my man, I want you to know that I understand that you don't have a romantic bone in your body, and that I love you regardless of your romantic ineptitude. But it doesn't have to always mean anything." Lance shrugs. "Like, sometimes it's just nice to bask in the attention? Everyone can pretend that they're wanted and desirable, then we go on with our lives."

Keith squints up at Lance, thoroughly confused. "What?" He doesn't mean it to come out as sharply as it does.

Lance gives him an incredulous smile. "You know what? Don't worry about it. It's not a big deal."

Then Lance pushes off him and catches up with Hunk.

Later, in bed, Keith thinks about what Lance said. About wanting to feel wanted and desirable, as if he isn't anyway. The thought that Lance might not think he's desirable sticks out and refuses to leave, which is ridiculous. He scowls up at the top of his bunk.

Lance is self-assured, cocky, and flirtatious pretty much all the time. He has to think that he's desirable, it wouldn't make sense otherwise.

But...

He rolls onto his side and tugs his blanket up to his chin. Lance doesn't need to go elsewhere for that validation, Keith could give it to him, would gladly--

He stops himself there and thumps his head against his pillow, cursing lowly. He goes to sleep, feeling like an idiot. Lance doesn't need any ego stroking. And he wouldn't give him any anyway, he wouldn't.

(To reiterate: he is a liar.)


4.

Allura looks around the control room at her assembled paladins. "I've called you here to talk about our newest recruit to the Voltron Coalition: the plant of Tyma. In half a movement they'll be holding a ball in honour of this alliance, so naturally we'll be attending."

Lance fist-pumps the air, and nudges Hunk with a grin, who looks equally excited. Pidge seems a little exasperated, and Keith looks almost pained. Shiro smiles back at Allura when she meets his eyes.

"It will be a...slightly more formal affair than the parties we have previously attended," Allura continues. Then she sighs and clasps her hands in front of her. "Well, actually, much more formal. Coran and I will help provide you with suitable clothing, as we are aware your current choices are your casual clothes and your paladin armour, which is unacceptable in this situation."

"Yessss," Lance cheers. "Will there be dancing?"

Coran bounces into the conversation, grinning rather madly. "Indeed there will be, Number Three!" He twirls the end of one of his moustaches. "I was once considered a truly accomplished dancer in my youth, you know! The Princess as well, as is befitting a member of the Altean Royal Family--we can teach you all if you wish!"

Allura coughs delicately, and Coran backs off sheepishly.

"Yes, Lance, there will be dancing, and we will be expected to participate at the beginning," she says.

This pulls a long and loud groan from Pidge. "Do I really have to wear a dress and get dragged around a dance floor?"

Allura gives her a little bemused smile. "No one is going to force you into a dress, you know. While I choose to wear a dress, suits are--were perfectly acceptable for Altean noblewomen, and so will be perfectly suitable for Paladins of Voltron." She swallows around the lump in her throat and sighs. "As for the dance floor, I'm afraid I must insist on this."

Hunk raises a hand, but before Allura can call on him, he says, "Um, will we be paired up with people? Or can we just be paired up with each other? I can sort of dance, but I don't want to be paired up with aliens--uh, other aliens, I mean."

This pulls a few chuckles from the rest of them, but Hunk flushes a little before shrugging, embracing his own honesty.

"I think pairing you paladins up with each other should work well enough," Allura allows. "If Coran doesn't mind dancing with someone else, of course."

Coran beams. "But of course, Princess! I'll be more than happy to dance with some of the members of the Tyman court." He leans in and theatrically whispers, "I think the Honourable Lady Hinkable was giving me--as Lance says--the eyes earlier, if you understand me." He wiggles his eyebrows dramatically, sending the paladins into laughter.

Allura smiles, but sighs a little at her advisor's antics.

"Well, then. I think Shiro and I should go together, then Keith and Pidge, then Lance and Hunk. That way we have a nice balance, I feel," she says.

Shiro's face flushes for a moment. "Oh, of course, Princess."

Hunk and Lance high-five.

"It'll be like the good old days, huh," Lance says, clasping Hunk's hand, grinning.

Hunk merely laughs and doesn't provide any explanation.

Pidge looks to Keith with a skeptical expression. "Can you dance, Keith?"

Keith grimaces, tearing his eyes from Hunk and Lance's exuberance to look at Pidge. "No. You?"

Pidge pulls her glasses off and polishes them with the hem of her shirt. "Sadly, only a little. This is gonna be a mess."

Coran bounds over to them, exclaiming that he will be more than happy to teach them. Allura watches as Pidge grudging accepts the offer of a few lessons, just so she "doesn't trip all over her feet into someone else".

As Coran leaps into a detailed explanation of Altea's colourful history of dance, Keith's attention wanders. Between talking with Shiro to determine if he knows any dances (he can only "sort-of waltz", whatever that is), Allura catches him staring over at Lance and Hunk, who have begun to twirl around the control room.

As the other two move, Keith's expression sours, until he's glaring fully at the two boys. Allura glances between them and Keith, trying to determine what it is about seeing them dance that has disturbed Keith so much.

Shiro, in turn, catches her observing Keith.

"Ah, I can imagine what he's thinking right now," Shiro says quietly, looking at the younger paladin with something like pity.

"Oh?" Allura asks.

Shiro hums. "He's never been fond of parties like this. There were a couple I took him to when we were back on earth--as my brother and a rising star in the school, he got attached to my invitations to functions." Shiro sighs and shrugs a little at Allura. "I think we'll be lucky to keep him on the dance floor for two minutes, never mind two dances."

"Ah." Allura looks over to Hunk spinning Lance, who is laughing freely.

The explanation doesn't feel quite right, but she can't think of anything else it could be. Disdain for the event, mixed with envy of the other two's enjoyment might just be it.

Coran claims Keith's attention for dance lessons. Allura watches Shiro join shortly after when it becomes clear he has absolutely no knowledge of the Altean style of dance. As Coran demonstrates a Helanian spin, which Shiro clumsily copies, Keith's expression clears. Whatever it was about Hunk and Lance's dancing or the event itself that displeased Keith, it seems to have passed. Soon enough, Allura puts it out of her mind, more amused by the fumbling of the paladins, and she suppresses a giggle at Shiro's toddler-like attempts at dancing.


Keith adjusts the cuffs of his suit and glances over his reflection. He can admit that the Altean fashions are rather flattering.

His shirt is the same shade of red as his lion and paladin armour, the torso a single block of red with the white Voltron sigil spread across his chest. It reaches his hips, with a white belt around his waist. The collar is tight around his neck, and he barely resists the urge to tug on it. His sleeves are white and loose, tightening at the wrists with red cuffs. His pants a darker red and form fitting, tucked into boots that are such a dark red they might be mistaken for black.

He twists his body slightly to look at himself at all angles, then sighs. He picks up the little cape, the same shade of red as his pants, that sits on his bed and throws it over one shoulder. Much like their suits, it magically seals to his shirt. It only reaches his elbow, and swishes as he twists again. Keith tightens his ponytail, shifts his bangs a little, then leaves his room.

Outside he finds Pidge, standing around looking bored. She gives him a quick once-over as he looks over her suit as well. Hers looks more like a green version of Coran's usual outfit, though with a short cape over both shoulders.

She grins and pushes herself off the wall. "You don't scrub up too badly," she says.

He scoffs, and pushes her shoulder lightly. "Gee, thanks."

She snickers, then joins him walking down the hallway to the main foyer to meet the others.

"Have you seen what the others are wearing?" Pidge asks as they walk.

Keith hums. "No, actually."

"Huh, me neither."

Keith's heart flutters in his chest he thinks about what a specific other will be wearing. He swallows dryly and fidgets with his cuffs again.

The past three days have been hellish on his nerves. Between training and dance lessons, he's had to listen to Lance go on and on about how much dancing he's going to do at the ball, how many pretty people he's going to meet, how much fun he's going to have--and then there's all the dancing Lance has been doing with Hunk. No matter where they are, they'll start twirling around and a truly ugly envy will rise up in Keith's chest.

Keith wants to dance with Lance, rather badly as it turns out. He wants to, but he can't see a way he'll be able to get what he wants without giving himself away. So he'll likely have to spend the whole night on the sidelines again, watching Lance charm his way through the room while longing, pathetically...being completely--

"Woah, you really aren't happy about this, huh," Pidge says, pulling him from his thoughts.

Keith swallows again. "I don't like fancy parties," he says, the partial truth.

Pidge shrugs. "Fair enough. Allura said three dances and we're free, and since we're paired together, it doesn't matter how terrible we are, because we'll be equally terrible." She started snickering. "I actually feel a bit sorry for Shiro, he's paired with an actual princess, he needs to perfect to not make a total fool of himself."

That makes Keith laugh a little too, and makes him feel better about the whole thing.

Until they get to the foyer anyway, and he sees Lance.

Oh sweet fuck.

Lance looks like a fucking disney prince. Crisp, deep blue shirt that shows off how broad his shoulders are, cinched at the waist by a white belt to emphasise how slim it is in contrast. His sleeves a matching blue, tighter and straight down his arms, high collar around his neck. Across his chest is the same white sigil of Voltron, and a white cape is draped down his back, clipped at the shoulders. His pants are a midnight blue, tight (oh Christ, help him) and tucked into black boots. He's even wearing white gloves. He's all angles and straight lines and it's killing Keith.

Lance is fixing something on Hunk's shirt, some sort of issue with some buttons, Keith isn't really paying any attention.

God, he wants...

Pidge calls out a greeting, and Keith mechanically follows her to the others, eyes still desperate to drag over Lance's form. He forces himself to glance at Hunk (dressed in oranges and yellows) and Shiro (in blacks and dark purple accents), just so he's not so obviously fixated on Lance.

Only a cough from the top of the stairs pulls everyone's attention up to Allura, descending in a pale dress that has shimmering pink designs. Coran follows in a slightly more ornate version of his normal outfit.

Keith glances at Shiro, sees him flushing as Allura approaches. He glances at Lance, expecting to see much of the same, but instead briefly catches his eye. Lance flashes him a small smile, before turning to Hunk.

Keith blinks even as his heart tumbles around wildly.


The party is, perhaps, not quite as bad as Keith had feared. The speeches are blessedly brief, and the food is tolerable. He and Pidge managed to survive their first three dances together, and then mutually agreed to never dance together again, just to save their own feet. Pidge was then swept up by a twirling Lance, while Keith retreated to the side, picked up a glass to lightly sip at, and stayed put.

He has not moved from that spot for quite a few dances now. Allura and Shiro are still going surprisingly strong. Coran is flittering between different dancers, chatting up a storm. Hunk is now spinning Pidge around, damn near throwing her about as easily as if she were made of paper, both laughing loudly. Keith rises on his toes to try and find Lance, who appears to have disappeared.

Last Keith saw, Lance was dancing with a pretty young girl. Something sour twists in his stomach, worrying where they ran off to, but before he can sink into shitty thoughts, Lance materialises.

"Hi," Lance says cheerfully.

Keith startles so badly he nearly drops his drink, and scowls as Lance laughs.

"Where'd you disappear off to?" Keith asks.

Lance gives him a sly grin. "Watching me, were you?"

Keith flushes and splutters. "O-only to make sure you don't embarrass us all!"

Lance laughs again. "Sure, whatever. I went to get some food." He holds out the plate Keith had apparently completely missed in his hands. "Want some?"

"Oh," Keith says. "Uh, sure."

He takes one of the little biscuit type things with some sort of pate spread on it. It's similar enough to entrees on earth that he can stomach it--to be honest it doesn't taste all that bad. Lance grins easily and eats some of his findings as well.

After a moment of silence, Lance asks, "Having fun?"

Keith grunts. "Not really my thing."

Lance smirks and nudges him. "That's just because you haven't found a good enough dancing partner yet." He puts down his plate on a nearby table and holds out his hand. "Dance with me."

Keith's stomach drops out. That--was that all he could have said to get Lance to dance with him?

He looks between Lance's outstretched hand and his eyes, which are watching him with a playful twinkle.

"Are you sure?" Keith asks slowly. "I, uh, I kinda suck. At this."

Lance's mouth curls up into an honest smile. "You don't suck that bad, you just need a good leader."

Keith raises a brow. "Good leader?"

"Yeah." Lance shrugs, now looking a little bashful, Keith notes with interest. "Y'know, someone to lead the dance?"

Keith hums in thought for a moment, then slides his hand into Lance's. His heart starts beating harder, even though they aren't moving yet.

"OK, then," he says, and swallows as Lance's hand tightens around his. "Lead away."

Lance grins and pulls him onto the dance floor as the band takes a pause before a new song. Once they reach a point Lance deems suitable, Keith is tugged closer by the hand Lance is still holding. Lance settles his other hand on Keith's waist, and rearranges their clasped hands to a more traditional hold. Keith hesitantly put his hand on Lance's shoulder.

Lance squeezes his hand gently. "Hey," he murmurs, dragging Keith's attention back to his face. "Don't look so scared. Trust me?"

Keith swallows and takes a deep breath. "OK."

Lance gifts him with such an incredible smile at that, soft but faintly playful, and Keith feels the world stop spinning under his feet.

"Follow my lead, yeah?" Lance breathes.

Keith nods mutely, voice stolen by Lance's attention centred solely on him.

He barely hears the music start, and then Lance is pushing and pulling him along with the beat. Lance's hand feels warm even though he's still wearing his gloves. Keith is so conscious of Lance's hand on his waist, slowly slipping around to small of his back as they move. Keith can't bare to look away from Lance's face, unwilling to look at any of the people around them. In Lance's arms the whole galaxy has faded away.

Lance isn't looking away either, and Keith feels ready to swoon, feels like Lance could ask anything of him in this moment and Keith would be unable to do anything but give it to him. He wants, he wants, he wants, because he loves Lance. And God, being here? In this moment? It feels unreal.

"See?" Lance murmurs after a few minutes. "This isn't so bad, right?"

"No," Keith says softly. "This...this is good."

Lance spins him suddenly, and reels Keith back into his arms. "Only good?" he asks, smirking.

Keith swallows, but forces an equally obnoxious smirk onto his face. "Trying to impress me, McClain?"

"It's not trying if it's working, Kogane," Lance replies easily.

Keith can't help but laugh. "You're terrible."

Lance laughs as well, and spins him exaggeratedly. "Only the worst for you, Red."

When Lance pulls him back in, and hooks his arm around Keith's waist to pull him much, much closer than they had been before, the universe stops. Keith's heart thunders in his chest, and his breathing sounds too loud in the close space between them. The moment is intimate, only a few inches between them. Keith can feel the heat of Lance's body and it lights him up.

Lance becomes the centre of the universe in that moment. He is the be all and end all for Keith in that glittering breath they're so close and yet so far. Between heartbeats Keith expects Lance to pull away, but he doesn't, he doesn't. He only breathes the same air as Keith and stares straight into his eyes.

Keith is ready and willing to do something exceptionally stupid--like kiss this fool who has a hard grip on his heart. Ready to throw himself at Lance and damn the consequences. Thankfully, before he can make such a mistake, the music stops and the crowds applauds.

Keith startles a little, suddenly pulled back to the real world. The real world where they are surrounded by a crowd of people he doesn't know, and now would definitely be the wrong time to make such a move. If there even is a good time to make a move on Lance.

Keith pulls back, feeling a flush start to crawl up his neck.

"I'm going to get a drink," he says, and runs away before Lance can say anything. Like a coward.

He manages to avoid the dance floor and Lance for the rest of the evening, which is mercifully over quickly. It's only once he's locked away in his room that Keith is able to really process what's happened. And promptly swoons onto his bed, presses his face into his pillow, and makes truly embarrassing noises. It's like he's some kind of cringey high schooler freaking out about a crush smiling at them.

(Though maybe that's not so inaccurate.)

He loves Lance, and he wants Lance, and Lance is so much, it's going to drive him completely mad.

Keith sighs into his pillow and relives the feeling of Lance's hands and Lance's arms and Lance's eyes all over him. It's almost too much for his pathetic little gay heart.

(Almost.)


5.

Coran whistles a jaunty little tune as he carries the cleaning solutions into the cryo-chamber. Keith follows after him, a lot less cheerfully.

"Come on, Number Four," Coran says, handing a scrubber and a bucket to Keith, "Chin up! The sooner we get to it, the sooner we can finish and you can get back to mercilessly beating training bots!"

Keith restrains a smile, and takes the scrubber from him.

They start making their way through the pods at a steady pace, though Coran can safely say he is cleaning them a tad faster than the Red Paladin. As usual, Coran starts talking at he works, recounting stories from his youth. In the privacy of his own mind, Coran can admit that he's holding back on his stories, only telling the more respectable ones--they may not be his most exciting ones, but if Allura were to over hear, they are the more appropriate ones for royal ears.

On pod three, Coran pauses and turns around to Keith.

"You're awfully quiet, Number Four. I hope I'm not boring you," he says, keeping his tone light and free of accusation, he only wants to make sure his young friend is happy after all.

Keith pauses too and looks back at him. "Um, no?"

Coran beams. "Oh, good! Feel free to share any stories of your own, you know, don't let me monopolise the conversation."

Keith returns to his work and lets out a little snort. "I'm not sure I have any stories worth telling."

"Nonsense!" Coran scoffs. "All stories are worth telling, no matter how meaningless they may first appears. Why, my mother's favourite bed time story to tell seemed so boring to me as a child--the tale of the Warrior Held who went to fight the mighty river spirit Strom and was convinced not to by the plant witch Hexe. I always thought it was annoying that he never went to defeat the terrible river spirit, it's only as an adult that I realised the point was that violence is not always the answer."

Coran sighs and pushes down the old grief for his mother. "Anyway, please feel free to share."

Keith is silent for a few moments. "...I really don't think I have anything worth sharing."

"That's alright, you don't have to," Coran says gently. "Lance is always very keen to share stories with me, you see, I'm afraid I may have become used to hearing other stories while I clean."

"What kind of stories does Lance tell?" Keith asks.

Coran feels a prick of interest at Keith's curious tone. "Oh, all sorts! Mostly about his family--he has quite a few older siblings, some with children, and a large number of cousins it seems. Family dinners sound very eventful from what he's told me."

Coran glances over his shoulder at Keith who has paused again.

"Really?"

Keith's poor attempt at a casual tone brings a grin to Coran's face.

"Indeed, that boy's full of colourful stories about his nieces and nephews in particular," Coran says. "You should ask him about them, I'm sure he'd be very happy to talk about them with someone other than old Coran."

From the corner of his eye, Coran sees Keith's face flush a little. "You--you think so?"

Coran turns to observe Keith properly, extremely curious about what brings this sort of reaction out in Keith. Is it truly the idea of Lance sharing some of his family's memories with him? The idea of spending time with Lance? Coran's smile becomes a little devious. Is that possible that young Keith...?

"Definitely!" Coran says, perhaps a little overenthusiastically, and bounds over to Keith to get a closer look at his expression. Keith turns to Coran and hesitantly meets his gaze as Coran adds, "And if he doesn't feel like sharing, he'll probably just appreciate your company in general."

Yes, that's definitely a flush working its way across Keith's face! Keith hurriedly turns back to his pod and scrubs furiously.

"Lance is loud...and obnoxious!" Keith says. "And he's always got something to say about my hair, or my hobbies, or my interests." To Coran's ears these excuses sound a little...forced. "Why would we want to hang out?"

Coran barely restrains a giggle. "Because you're friends of course, why else?"

Keith turns back around, face pulled into a deep scowl. "Well, yes, I guess. When he's not calling me his rival." His flush clears away. "Not sure he'll be so willing to share with someone he routinely claims as his arch-nemesis in whatever story he's built up in his head."

Coran gives pause as he listens to Keith speak. Ah, perhaps he was mistaken. Keith's glare is rather formidable when aimed at him. He had thought that Keith had gained some feelings for Lance, but either he is simply shy about being Lance's friend, or he is in the dark about how he truly feels. Coran gives Keith a level look, thinking quickly.

"I suppose that is true," Coran allows, putting on a cheerful smile again. "Nevertheless, I think Lance is keen to talk about his family, he'll probably appreciate talking with someone else, if you ever feel like broaching the topic."

Keith nods and turns back to his pod. Coran backs away to his own pod and resumes his work. Keith's first reaction merits further observation, Coran decides as he cleans, filling the room once again with mindless chatter. Perhaps Lance can be prodded to at least be more accepting of Keith as a friend, and from there Coran can observe if further feelings develop.


Keith's internal screaming calms somewhat by the time he reaches the last pod. That had been so unbelievably, disconcertingly, and frankly terrifyingly close. Coran had very nearly seen straight through him, straight through his poker face, and right into the gooey, messy feelings he has for Lance.

His heart still thunders in his chest. Christ, it's getting out of control. He needs to get a goddamn hold of himself before he finishes the last pod and he loses his excuse for hiding his face from Coran's probing gaze.

Keith takes a deep breath as he finishes with the last pod. He turns to Coran with a forced casual smile. "Did you need help with anything else?" he asks, desperately hoping Coran says no so he can run the fuck away.

Coran grins and takes the scrubber. "Oh, no, that's quite alright, Number Four. You are free to get on with your plans for today."

Keith nods. "OK, see you at dinner."

He forces himself to leave the cryo-chamber at a normal pace. Once he hits the corridor though, he bolts. Keith sprints all the way to Red's hangar and is so grateful that Red feels him coming and lowers her head to let him in. He slumps in his chair and covers his face with his hands.

"Oh gooddddd," he groans loudly.

He feels Red's faint amusement and warm affection at the back of his mind, and he easily ignores her for more important thoughts. Thoughts like Lance telling him stories about his family. Thoughts like Lance gesticulating wildly as he tells these stories, expression open, and eyes twinkling with mirth. Thoughts like Lance grinning wide enough his dimples are visible.

Keith's face flushes terribly as a new thought occurs to him: what if Lance says he wants Keith to meet his family when they get back to earth? What if Lance invites Keith into his family home? Into his family itself?

He slides down in his chair, aware of a faint and disgustingly high pitched noise escaping him. God that's a dangerous thought, but such a good one too.

Red's amusement grows to levels Keith can't ignore.

"Don't laugh at me!" Keith snaps, pulling his hands from his face. "This is terrible!"

Red only seems more amused.

He groans. "This is awful," he says, this time to himself.

The worst part, Keith thinks to himself when he manages to gather his shit enough to not look like a tomato (or the Red Lion), is that getting invited into Lance's family is...kind of everything Keith wants. That if Lance ever reciprocates these feelings, Keith could maybe get everything he ever dreamed of: someone he could truly be himself around, some form of permanency, a family. It's kind of terrifying how much his want increases as he comes to this realisation

He no longer just wants Lance, he wants everything.

If only it is possible for Lance to feel this way too.


+1.

Keith swears colourfully as lasers hit the wall above the crates he's taking cover behind, and send sparks raining down on him.

"I'm pinned down!" he nearly yells into the coms.

Shiro curses under his breath. "Keith, I'm sorry, we can't get to you right now. Hang tight."

More sparks rain down and Keith curses some more.

"Wait, I got this!" Lance says and Keith hears Hunk start to protest before Lance cuts him off. "Hunk, you're doing great here, I'll just stop by and help Mullet before he gets himself killed."

"Hey!" Keith snaps.

Lance ignores him. "I'm on my way!" he says cheerfully.

Keith tries to peek around the crates to count how many sentries have him pinned, but he has to duck back quickly as they open fire again. His thigh complains, burning from where a shot grazed him as he ducked for cover earlier.

Like an idiot, he got himself separated from the others, and then overrun by sentries. In his own defense, he's running on fumes, exhausted, hungry, and likely dehydrated. That said, it's unlikely the others will let him live this down--especially Lance. Who is now on his way to save him.

It makes Keith's heart flutter wildly, but damn if he isn't also majorly embarrassed.

Keith curls in on himself as the barrage increases, waiting for the moment Lance will announce himself and give Keith a chance to run for new cover or attack. Presuming he can run on his leg of course.

Instead of a triumphant cry from Lance, however, there is only an increase in gunfire and the stomp of sentries, and Keith thinks any moment now he will be overrun.

Then, it falls silent very suddenly.

Keith blinks and slowly uncurls, hissing lowly as his leg throbs. Cautiously he pokes his head around the crates, and instead of seeing lines of sentries, he only sees their sparking remains.

"Are you alright, Keith?" Lance asks over the coms.

Keith swallows. "Yeah." He pauses. "Was that you?"

Keith can pretty much hear the smirk in Lance's voice as he says, "Impressed?"

Swallowing, Keith contemplates his answer. After a second or two of silence, he says in a low voice, "Yeah, kinda."

That seems to shut Lance up, surprisingly.

"Where are you?" Keith asks, pushing himself to his feet using the crates and scanning the hangar he was corralled into by the sentries. He can't see any of Lance and his blue armour.

"Look up," Lance says, and Keith does.

Perching on a walkway, fairly far above, Lance crouches, cradling his rifle in his arms. Keith blinks up at him, and breathes a small "woah".

"OK, I'm coming down," Lance says, and jumps. His uses his jetpack to slow his descent, and he lands neatly in between Keith's crates and the mass of fallen sentries. He flashes a bright smile at Keith. "What's up, man?"

"Hi," Keith says, stupidly.

Lance gives him a pleased look and strikes a pose. "Aren't you glad I...dropped in?"

Despite himself, Keith snorts at that, endlessly endeared by Lance's antics. Lance looks back in a way Keith rather desperately wants to call fond, but is likely only just amusement.

"C'mon," Lance says after Keith reigns himself back in. "Let's go regroup."

Keith hums and makes to walk after him, but without the support of the crates, he nearly falls on his face as his leg crumples under him. Keith hisses loudly in pain, and throws himself back at the crates to stop himself from falling.

"Keith?" Lance asks, appearing at his side. "You said you were alright, what's wrong?"

Keith grimaces. "I got shot--"

"What! Where!?" Lance exclaims, hands immediately grabbing his arms to turn him so Lance can look him over.

"In my thigh," Keith explains, and swallows dryly. "It's just a graze though."

Lance drops to his knees and inspects Keith's leg. Keith's face flushes when Lance looks back up at him, an image permanently seared in his brain. It's so ridiculous to focus on something like that in a situation like this that he feels almost ashamed.

"That's not a graze dude, you were shot right in the leg," Lance says lowly, seriously. His expression darkens. "No wonder you can't put any weight on it, why didn't you say?"

Keith clears his throat. "I didn't think it was that bad."

Lance sighs and rises. "You're a reckless idiot, you know that?"

Keith's hackles rise in response. He's about to give Lance an incredibly clever and snarky reply, when all thoughts are wiped from his mind as Lance wraps his arms around his waist and under his knees, and lifts him clean into the air.

Keith lets out a little squeak of surprise and latches onto Lance's shoulders. Lance's lovely broad shoulders, and wow, he picks Keith up like he was nothing.

"What are you doing?" Keith yelps. "Put me down, I can walk!"

Lance snorts and starts walking away through the hangar, back down the hallway Keith had originally come through, back towards the team.

"Uh-huh, sure," Lance says, unconvinced. "I'm not gonna make you limp along when you've been shot, dumbass."

Keith stares at Lance's face, surprised by the vehemence in Lance's voice. Lance stares straight ahead, expression calm and serious.

"You don't have to carry me like this," Keith mumbles.

Lance glances at him and Keith's stomach flips as their eyes catch on each other. "It was either this, or the fireman carry, and I figured you probably wouldn't want to be slung over my shoulder like a sack of flour," Lance says dryly.

Keith tries to swallow. "Uh, thank you, I-I guess," he manages to croak out.

Lance huffs a little laugh through his nose, and his lips curl into a smirk. "No need to thank me, what else are heroes for?"

Keith's face flushes again, hotter this time, and he wants to hide his face. The only place he can do that, however, is in Lance's neck and that's...that's something else.

"Shut up," Keith mutters, looking away from Lance's dumb, smug, handsome face to stare at his shoulder.

Lance snickers. "Is that any way to treat your hero? What do I get for rescuing you, fair maiden?" he asks, voice light and teasing. "Endless gratitude? Foot massages? You doing all my chores for a month?"

Keith scoffs, but a smiles tugs at his lips anyway. "You're terrible."

"Only the worst for you," Lance says, and Keith's stomach drops, mind flashing back to the dance weeks ago.

They walk in silence for a while, and Keith adjusts his arms so they hang around Lance's neck. His heart thumps harder in his chest, he's just waiting for the moment that Lance will call him out on his bullshit. It never comes however.

Instead he gets: "What about a kiss, instead?"

Briefly, Keith wonders if he hit his head. Surely this must be a dream, one of his many fantasies about Lance, some sort of hallucination. No way Lance just suggested they kiss, that just--Lance has only just started liking Keith as a person, never mind as a potential boyfriend!

However, Lance shifts Keith a little in his arms, and the pain in his leg convinces Keith this is real, even if it still doesn't make sense.

So, Keith merely stares at Lance uncomprehendingly for a long moment before he says, "What?"

Lance glances at him nervously. "No? OK, nevermind, forget about it, I'm just being an idiot." Lance starts to laugh awkwardly, obviously forced, and looks pointedly away.

Suddenly Keith feels like an opportunity is slipping through his hands. If he doesn't act quickly, some door will shut and a future will no longer be available to him.

So, with this in mind, Keith shuts off the part of his brain that tries to control his impulses (it was never very effective in the first place) and leans in to give Lance a quick peck on the cheek.

Lance stumbles and they both squawk, Lance in surprise and Keith in fear of being dropped.

"OK!" Lance shouts as he gets his feet back under him. "OK, cool, that's a thing, awesome."

Keith chews on his bottom lip, and imagines that his cheeks must be very red right now. He looks away from Lance's face, only seeing it in his periphery.

"You asked," he murmurs.

Lance nods. "I did, yes." He clears his throat. "But you didn't have to do it, if you didn't want to."

"I did," Keith blurts. Quietly, he adds, "I do. Want to."

Lance sighs, and his arms flex a little around Keith. "Cool." After a pause, he continues, "I want to kiss you too, but I don't want to drop you. Also you need a pod, like, now."

For some reason, that's what makes Keith look back at Lance's face, and there he sees the beginning of a smile growing on Lance's face. In return, Keith smiles back helplessly, a lot in love with the boy carrying him so carefully. Lance is endlessly caring, ridiculously kind, stupidly funny, and for once Keith can't stop his face from reacting.

Lance glances at him, and his smile becomes a stunning, beaming grin, that reaches all the way up to his eyes that sparkle. God, Lance has such pretty eyes.

"You think my eyes are pretty, huh?" Lance says, cheekily, grin tilting into a lopsided smirk.

Fuck, he hadn't meant to say that out loud. However, instead of denying it, like a dam finally bursting, he blurts, "I think all of your face is pretty."

Lance looks even happier, if that were possible. He actually starts laughing, but it isn't mocking in the slightest. "Yeah?" Lance says.

Keith hums, embarrassed but also pleased to make Lance look so happy. "Yeah. I--I like your face."

Lance looks ecstatic. "I like your face too. What else do you like about me?"

A laugh bursts out of Keith--damn this man and his ego. "Enough, I guess."

Lance turns his head so his helmet knocks against Keith's slightly. His gaze is so warm Keith is overwhelmed.

"Your laugh," Keith continues lowly, hesitantly. "Your selflessness. Your optimism. Your empathy." Lance's expression melts into something so soft and tender Keith is left raw. "There's a lot to like about you, Lance. I like a lot about you. You're kind of amazing."

Lance opens his mouth but whatever he is about to say is cut off but a loud "awwww" over the coms.

They both startle, Keith more so than Lance.

"Aw, Keith!" Hunk exclaims. "I didn't know you were a closet romantic! That's so sweet! Your bad boy exterior hides a gooey centre."

The rest of the team starts chortling, Lance included, and Keith gives in and hides his face in Lance's neck. His secret is out, his reputation ruined. Lance tightens his arms around Keith for a moment, almost like a hug.

"OK, I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but someone mentioned a pod earlier?" Shiro asks after he stops chuckling.

"Keith got shot in the leg," Lance explains. "If we're done, I'll take him back in the Blue Lion."

"Yeah, we're all good," Pidge says. "We'll meet you love birds back at the Castle."

Keith grumbles under his breath, which only inspires more chuckling.

"I'll let Coran know you're coming," Shiro says once the laughter dies down again. "Stay safe, you two."

As they reach the Blue Lion, Lance whispers, "I like a lot about you too, you know. You're incredible Keith."

Keith wants to swoon and tell Lance to kiss him, passionately and desperately, to cradle Lance close and never let go. He settles for hugging Lance tight and letting out embarrassing squeaky noises.

After a brief stint in a pod, Keith wants to hide from Lance and regain some of his composure. This would have worked of course, if Lance hadn't stayed outside Keith's pod waiting for him.

Keith falls out of the pod and straight into Lance's arms. Lance gives him a glowing smile, and Keith's knees go weaker than can be explained by a case of 'the old sleep chamber knees'.

"Hi," Lance whispers.

"Hi," Keith breathes back.

"Move," Pidge grunts, wiggling in between them to hug Keith.

Lance merely sighs and moves aside to let her in. Hunk and Shiro gives Keith hugs as well, even though he was only out for a few vagras. Shiro also gives him a look that suggests they'll be having a talk later about running off on his own.

Then Lance sidles back up to him and wraps an arm around his shoulders.

"I'm glad you're OK," Lance says, squeezing him closer.

Keith's heart spasms, and his face flushes anew.

Hunk gasps at the side dramatically. "How did I not see this!" he cries, throwing his hands up in the air. "It's so obvious!"

Pidge adjusts her glasses. "I never saw any evidence to say Keith was a gooey loser inside, so at least you're not on your own there."

Keith huffs indignantly and Lance nudges him.

"Ignore them," Lance says. "You're my gooey loser."

"I hate you," Keith says with a pout, looking away.

"Sure, Mullet." Then Lance pecks his cheek.

Keith actually feels his face spasm with his heart this time, mouth turning up into what must be the goofiest smile to ever exist, without his permission. His face burns hotter, and he can't control his face even if he tries. Goodbye Resting Bitch Face, it is gone too soon.

Lance cooes and presses a kiss to his temple, while Hunk continues to protest the unfairness of being kept out of the loop in the background. Pidge laughs at Hunk, Coran chatters with Shiro, and Allura watches on, amused. OK, maybe it was time to stop hiding his feelings so much, especially when Keith feels happier than he ever has before.

He settles into the feeling of belonging, with Lance, and the rest of their team. His grins unabashedly and laughs freely.

Is this what home feels like? Keith is willing to find out.