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Tongue of Gold

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You know how when you were a child, you believed in magic?

 

Before you ask, no, not the abracadabra bullshit magicians pull on Youtube or long-dead Vine-- Lord rest it's soul-- and at live performances in Vegas or some shit. What I mean is your belief in Santa and his flying reindeer when you were young or the stubborn belief that Wizards of Waverly Place was a reality show. Yes, being sixteen does not diminish this belief and no, it is not an immature train of thought, how dare you.

 

Well, Lance believes in magic. Always has, ever since he was a little kid seeing glimpses of movement gone when he turned to look, and changes in the air only felt by him. And that wasn’t quite where his indulgence in magic ended, exactly. To him, everyone had a little bit of magic in them. His mami had her cooking, delicious no matter what she makes. Pidge had her ability to stay up for three days straight on nothing but pure spite and caffeine alone. And Hunk had Lance’s favorite type of magic-- kindness. Hunk’s smiles could light up anyone’s rainy skies, and just a word from him always put Lance in a good mood. Which left himself, void of any visible magic seen by his small comprehension on such a complex subject. So he convinced himself that it was his brilliant aim in shooting galleries, a skill that won him many bets. He thought, alright, so he might have a super insignificant type of magic, but he’ll be damned if he doesn’t take full pride in it. And maybe, just maybe, he theorized, I wouldn’t be the only person with such a small shred of magic.

 

And then he met Keith for the first time, magic made into man, and threw that theory out the goddamn window.

 

Lance had been on the way to Hunk’s dorm as his best friend’s knight in shining armor (with McDonald’s in hand), listening to a very vivid retelling of how it came to be that the dorms were on lockdown due to Lotor being a little fucking snitch, when he had been thrown through a storefront window by an impact too sudden and strong to be by a human body slamming him, but too weak to be a car gone rogue or someone getting swing-happy with a bat. At the time he didn’t know exactly who, or what, had done that, and wouldn’t know until much later. All he knew was that he was going to need a hospital as he crashed to the ground with a yelp.

 

“Dude?” Hunk asked in his earbuds, seeming so much more distant as Lance shifted, glass crunching beneath him and a groan escaping past his lips in a mangled sound. He took in plants covering every nook and cranny. Whatever wasn’t covered by herbs and flowers, were crystals and candles. Only then did he acknowledge the most familiar heat settling over him, scorching like a flame. He had felt it several times before then at school, the heat suffocating and very unlike this peaceful warmth.

 

Great, he thought to himself, ignoring the heat, I’m going to die in some white girl’s hipster store.

 

“Buddy, I’m gonna call an ambulance if you don’t answer me in the next three seconds--” Hunk threatened, drowned out by boots crunching in the glass next to Lance. His earbuds were torn from its jack and phone stolen from his pocket, the person clad in black next to him crouched down with his phone to his ear. The appearance of this man was an intense impact on Lance, overwhelming his senses in every good way possible. He thought he said something along the lines of ‘ I wouldn’t mind dying if you’re the last thing I see, Guapo ’, though his mind barely registered it. And from what he recalls, the man didn't even hear him.

 

“Don’t do anything. He’ll be fine,” a voice said, calm and collected. His shaking hands and wild violet eyes spoke otherwise. He eyed Lance briefly. and his eyes landed on Lance’s ribs. He made a visible sort of wince almost as if he saw something Lance couldn’t. Then a searing fire burned in his lungs and inched up his throat as if the mysterious man had set a fire in him with a glance alone.

 

The last thing he saw before his vision went dark was the man radiating with magic seeing Lance’s deteriorating state, his captivating eyes widening as he cursed and yelled over his shoulder for help.

 

He later woke up in Hunk’s dorm, Mcdonald's untouched and in a neater bag than the one Lance had carried balled in his fist, with Pidge and Hunk talking to each other in indistinct whispers. Then they saw him stir and immediately dropped their hushed conversation in order to acknowledge their friend. Both of them pretended that whatever happened in the store didn’t happen, despite the fact that Lance wasn’t stupid and knew that they knew something.

 

So Lance doesn’t ask questions.





________________


And then months go by without any mentioning of the incident. Fall turned into winter, and with it, the preparations of Christmas in both the Mcclain residence and Garrison. The mysterious magic man had entirely slipped Lance’s thoughts, but never really faded due to the occasional waves of overwhelming warmth.

 

“I,” Lance announces on a Monday morning at the asscrack of dawn, slamming a box filled with various Christmas decorations on the kitchen island, “am going to make the Garrison the most festive fucking college you heathens will ever have the privilege of seeing.”

 

“I’m thrilled,” drawls Pidge the freeloader, pushing up her glasses as she nurses her second cup of coffee in an extremely aged Dumbo mug.

 

“Didn’t you do that last year in Emeline’s class?” Abella asks from her perch on the counter, sad and desolate toast in hand.

 

“Yes. It looked like Santa Claus barfed up all his milk and cookies in there.”

 

“It was festive! And Emeline loved it!”

 

“That’s because you’re her favorite sibling. Everyone knows this, Lance. Even her dog knows,” bites his elder sibling, “The poor guy must live in fear that he’ll be ditched in favor of you.”

 

Lance gasps as if he was scandalized, dramatically and with a flourish. “I would never leave sweet old Cement Block to kick dirt. He’s helped our family through some dark times.”

 

“Threatening people in a mall parking lot on Black Friday does not count as helping us through dark times.”

 

“It can be,” Pidge theorizes, “I mean, Matt did get me a new computer because of Cement Block scaring the living shit out of some buff dudebro.” To empathize this, she gestures to her expensive-looking laptop with the skill of an infomercial host.

 

“I’ve never seen someone climb a street lamp that fast before,” Lance grimly says, staring unblinkingly ahead. “It was beautiful and terrifying.”

 

“Like a shark growing legs and walking on land for the first time.”

 

“ . . . Pidge?” Abella asks.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“What the actual fuck is wrong with you?”

 

“Sleep deprivation,” Lance and his smaller friend say in unison, both stopping to glare at the other over cups of coffee.

 

“This is why you should have listened to Marco when he told you the advanced courses weren’t worth it,” Abella chastises, holding herself all high and mighty like she doesn’t parade around the advanced sector of the Garrison with pride. Pidge makes some snarky remark that sets the two into a deep and heated argument, leaving Lance to stare absently at the open cabinet filled with a plethora of old mugs. There were six ‘#1 dad’ mugs scattered throughout the shelves. Lance had been the only one to make a ‘#1 mom’ mug.

 

“Papa should be up soon,” Lance says to no one in particular with a hand absently fiddling with his azabache dangling around his neck as Abella and Pidge continue their argument. Then, with his eyes still trained on the mug cabinet, Lance puts the coffee pot over low fire and pulls out two mugs.

 

And soon leaves the house, two mugs filled with coffee and adjusted to their tastes (his papa, much like Pidge and Lance, kills his coffee with creamer. His mama drinks a monstrosity left untouched) remaining on the kitchen island.


Pidge doesn’t tease Lance for the small smile on his face.





________________



Garrison Chat Log- Students Only


Placematt (to all): Okay, who the hell decorated the halls before morning classes?

Black (to all): Not me, dealt with a problem at home. But it does look a little disconcerting, now that I’m able to see it.

Hunk’a’love (to all): I think we can all take a guess

Lotor (to all): Wasn’t me this time.

Aux cord (to all): It looks like America collectively got over their religious tensions and came together temporarily. Also, wasn’t the health students. We had to “bond”.

Plaxum (to all): Marine biologists are out too. Slept in through our alarms.

Placematt (to all): Alright, I’m calling it. Pidge--

Pidgey: (to all): I neither killed the king nor know the killer.

Placematt (to all): Oh my god

The Tailor (to all): Hi.

Rolo (to all): You know, I can’t even pretend to be surprised by this.

Placematt (to all): Oh my god

Lotor (to all): Alright, that’s it, i’m leaving. I’ve seen everything. I bid you adieu, go fuck yourselves

Lotor has logged off

Placematt (to all): Oh my god

Placematt has logged off

Black has logged off

Pidgey (to The Tailor): Lance, tell your sister I can help her grade the essays if she boosts my grade

The Tailor (to Pidgey): She said that you can’t get higher than a hundred. She offers a day with Cement Block as payment

Pidgey (to The Tailor): Dammit. Aight, tell her to meet at home base and I’ll help her.

The Tailor (to Pidgey): kk




________________





The second time Lance saw Keith, the man who he rather envied in the case of magic, was during a rehearsal for the drama department’s next musical. Of course, he always thought that theatre was kind of … magical. It was only common sense that he should pursue it as a career, with eyes set for Broadway and all of its glory. Even his papa, dead set on sending his children to profitable careers such as law or medical school, gave in to Lance without any argument.

 

So when he felt another wave of heat, sudden in the heavily air-conditioned stage, he had nearly paid it no mind. That is, if it hadn’t been for the way that this heat sent a fire through his lungs and crawling up his throat. At this Lance was tearing his sleeping mask off of his face, ignoring the chiding ‘so you decided to wake up’ from Adina in favor of asking his cast members if they too felt it. As he expects, he’s met with a chorus of ‘no’s, met by a sole ‘kinda’ from Estella.

 

“Alright, so it’s just me,” Lance says with an easy laugh, bouncing to his feet with script in hand. He drags Estella to center stage with him, rambling about practicing his vocal cues since he only had part of his lines memorized. “I mean, you do know every song,” He says, giving her a sly little glance. Estella turns crimson, burying her face in her script and wild hair sticking up in every place.

 

“Don’t bring that up,” she murmurs, peeking at him over her script. “Mr. Arden’ll move me up from ensemble if he finds that out.”

 

“What?” says Lance, his shocked expression entirely sincere as it shifts to a proud grin. “But everyone should know!” He cups his script around his mouth, facing the empty audience (save for the few crew members lingering about) and taking a deep breath to belt his next words--

 

“No!” cries Estella. She lunges at Lance, tearing his script away as if it was a football, landing on the floor clumsily with her leg outstretched behind her and arms spread wide. Fiercely glaring at the cocky actor before her, she steadies herself and stands up straight. And watching the smirk growing across his lips, Estella can only stand in shock as he whispers his next words of,

 

“Personwhoknowsthebeautyandthebeastbyheartsaywhat.”

 

“What?”

 

“Ha!” Lance shouts, a victorious grin spread across his face. “I got you! You just admitted your secret to everyone here!”

“I did no--” Estella cuts herself off, running a hand through curly hair and fixing her half-circle glasses with a perplexed look before she connects the dots, only glaring pointedly at him. “Lance, you’re so childish.”

 

“I am not , I’m very clever and you’re just in denial about I--”

 

“Okay, shut up and come hither!” Shouts Professor Alden, or as his students knew him, Caldwell. “I’ve got news!”

 

“Is Lance going to be recast as Gaston?” Asks Adina. She gives him a sly little look out of the corner of her eye as she continues, “I mean, he’s narcissistic enough.”

 

“Red is so not my color, and Finn can vouch for me.”

 

“Lance, Adina, stop arguing,” hisses Hyun from his perch on stage right.

 

“Thank you, Hyun,” Caldwell says, stack of papers in hand as he rolls up one of his sleeves. “Okay, so, I’ve asked the health department if they can employ us their highest scoring students to join us on some of our rehearsals and at the show after … last production’s incident.” He says this vaguely, but from the way that heads turn to Lance and Estella, it’s painfully obvious they’re the source. The incident had been informally dubbed ‘fight club’ as no one allows themselves to speak of it.

 

“And? Did they say ‘fuck off unless you’ve got test subjects for us to fuck with’?” prompts Finn, a toothy grin on his lips.

 

“Surprisingly, no. We got everything cleared today, and Regina’s letting me take those students for our rehearsal tonight,” Caldwell says, his bright blue eyes shining with some sort of excitement, though Lance couldn’t fathom why. It was just health students. “So, here they are! Introduce yourselves,” he chirps, gesturing to the sound of shuffling feet. Lance feels the burning wind once more, intense and fierce all the while.

 

Of course, almost none of the students are familiar to Lance. As per his luck. He recognizes Acxa, who is not in the least bit excited to see Lance, and can see Jiang from a mile away. Other than that, Lance is lost. That is until he catches a glimpse of black hair so familiar Lance was convinced that he was hallucinating.

 

And then his breath is catching, and a fire is building up within Lance until tears form in his eyes. Violet eyes meet his once more, widen, glance quickly to his chest, and back to his face like it never happened. Then, as quickly as it came, the fire in Lance is extinguished.

 

One by one, the health students introduce themselves. All the while, the man so intertwined with magic Lance could hardly look away speaks urgently with Caldwell. He seldom turns to Lance, only continues speaking in a low hissed voice, anxiously drawing his patterned clothing around himself.

 

“Lance has a cruuuussh,” whispers Finn, making dramatic kissing noises to join it.

 

“I do not ,” responds Lance, cheeks crimson and brows furrowed. He gathers an excuse as to why he’s gaping at Keith that wouldn’t make the chat think him to be mad. “I know him. I think.”

 

“You think?” asks Wendy.

 

“Mhm. No one acknowledges that that day actually happened, though.”

 

“Oooh, mysterious,” Hyun gushes sarcastically as the last of the health students introduce themselves briefly, leaving the mysterious man with what seemed to be an intricate wand stuck in his hair the only one unnamed. Finn, nothing this, devises a plan of his own.

 

“What’s ya name?!” Shouts Finn, wide violet eyes snapping to him. He clarifies in a lower voice, “Just asking for a friend.”

 

“It’s Keith!” Shouts the mysterious man with his fiery gaze, the mystery of him not at all fading.

 

“Nice!” Finn turns to Lance. “It’s Keith.”

 

“Thanks, buddy. What would I ever do without you?” Lance sarcastically inquires, finding himself inching closer down the stage bit by bit.

 

“Perish to the terrible clutches of calamity.”

 

“He’d still do that even without you,” Acxa comments from the audience, pulling herself onto the stage while health students filed up the stairs.

 

Lance, however, doesn’t hear her chiding comment or the way that Estella turns crimson at the sight of her, giving a stuttering compliment about her purple hair. All he sees is the way that Keith chews on his left thumb whilst nodding solemnly at whatever Caldwell tells him, the other hand behind his back nervously twitching. In between his twitching fingers is a small fire, heating up the room in ways unnoticed to those around Lance. The only other person who seems to feel anything is Acxa, who sends the fiery student a brief glare.

 

“Backstage aid is better, yeah,” Keith was saying as Lance drew as close as possible to the edge of the stage. “I just don’t think I can be much help to the main cast.”

 

“Your peers would argue otherwise, but if that’s what you want-- Lance! Great, just the person I need,” Caldwell cuts himself off, eyes brightening at the sight of the actor lingering a little too close for comfort. Keith starts at the sound of his name, turning tense and alert. Intriguing. “Keith here needs someone to show him the ropes.”

 

At this, Lance is alight. A grin spreads across his face and he turns to a now rather terrified Keith. He ignores how violet eyes dance from one tiny scar made by glass on their first encounter to his chest, only blinking instead of wincing like before. “With pleasure, Caldwell!” Chirps Lance, as Keith persists in trying to sway the two grinning men with a stuttering ‘no-- wait-- I’m fine, really--’.

 

“Good. I knew I could count on you, Lance. Now! Estella! Show these geniuses what’s goin’ on!” Calls Caldwell, the crimson doe-eyed girl on stage all but jumping out of her skin at the command. All the while, Lance begins to drag Keith backstage.

 

“Okay, so, I’m Lance, as Caldwell was saying, and I’m gonna be a lead in the play,” Lance begins, rambling and searching for ways to make Keith feel comfortable. Though he envied how he conjures magic with ease and how entirely perfect he is, Lance has the sense to know that rehearsal is not the place to prod. At least, openly, that is. “Isn’t that amazing?”

 

“Uhhh … sure?” Keith says, hesitant and seeming to search for an exit.

 

“But last year we fucked up big-time, and so here you are!” Lance chirps, slamming open the backstage door once they had descended a flight of stairs. A few of the men inside squeal with fake embarrassment and cover themselves with their hands (despite being fully clothed), a hairspray bottle thrown directly to Lance. Thankfully, Keith seems to have a habit of saving Lance from danger, and is catching it a few inches from his face. “... This is the men’s dressing room. Are you guys going over lines?” Lance continues as if the hairspray had never been thrown. He’s met with a mix of ‘totally, man’ from one of the few, the rest still screaming and whooping at a very confused Keith, who sets down the hairspray like its poisonous.

 

“They’re in the ensemble,” He explains to his unwilling tourist, still grinning to the ear. “And don’t actually know their lines.” Another door is shoved open, passing through rows and rows of costumes and props, Lance only pausing to show off his costume in progress, the blue and gold only a blur to Keith before he’s swept away to a hall. “The girls’ changing room is right there,” He explains with a vague gesture to the door behind him, chalkboard reading ‘piss off, dudes (except Lance)’. “I think they’re really getting into it. Don’t wanna interrupt.”

 

Upon closer inspection, Lance is proven to be correct, as there’s a burst of laughter behind the door, someone barking at the group to focus. Then a melodious chorus drifts through Keith’s ears and follows him down the hall, the man in front of him bouncing to the beat. And deep in his flaming heart, Keith feels the urge to join him though he can’t fathom why. Dancing was never a fancy of his. “We keep tech and some orchestra in here,” Lance calls from an open door, gesturing to a pile of consoles, laptops, and wires on his left. Someone seems to be half buried beneath the wire pile, two students playing a mournful tune on violins for their friend on the right. “And apparently Dean, too. You alright, man?”

 

“No,” whines the tech-kid. “I’m going to die before the day is up.”

 

“He tripped and fell on an exposed wire, I’m guessing,” Keith says, eyes unblinking at Dean’s buried hand. Lance feels a brief heat settle over the room, and is far too wise to attribute it to all the running tech. “A minor shock, if you decide to actually move away from the source.”

 

“I’d rather die. Did you know that Lance and Adina look best in colored lighting? I didn’t. I wish I never did,” rambles Dean, as his bystanders of friends seal away their instruments and force the poor kid away from his pain.

 

“ … Anyway, that’s it for down here,” Lance continues, leaving a hysterically sobbing Dean in his wake, dragging Keith by an unnaturally warm wrist. Especially taking the gloves into consideration. “Upstairs is stage left, right, and behind the stage is where the stagehands start betting pools on who forgets their lines first.”

 

“Is it you?” Keith curiously inquires.

 

“Pssh, no!”

 

“It’s Lance,” says Vanessa, her head poking out of the girl’s changing room.

 

“Vanessa! I trusted you, dude!”

 

“You can’t trust any of us, beanpole. Not even Estella.”

 

“Not even Estella? But she’s so damn cute!”

 

“Cute until you piss her off,” says Vanessa in a solemn voice. She ackowledges Keith with a nod, and promptly shuts herself back behind the locked door.

 

“I like her. She, too, would betray you even with absolutely no benefit,” Keith comments.

 

“She does that. Once told the entire crew here my deepest, darkest secrets for one pringle and a pat on the back.” Lance sighs wistfully, leading Keith up to the left wing.

 

“And? What were they?”

 

“That I sometimes wake up at 3 AM to eat cereal without milk, I almost killed someone in kindergarten by sitting on them in a pool, and I’m a firm believer in magic.” He lists off his three darkest secrets as if they were nothing, counting them on his fingers. He gives a sparkling, knowing glance to Keith, a smug grin on his lips. “Thankfully, they think I outgrew it.”

 

“Outgrew the cereal thing or trying to drown your enemies?” Keith asks, having easily schooled himself into an apathetic facade before any sort of shock could have been shown. But the growing smile on Lance’s lips, white teeth baring, does not ease his unease.

 

“You of all people would know I’m talking about neither of them, Guapo .”

 

“Oh! Lance is back! How was the tour?” Caldwell calls, interrupting Keith’s stunned shock.

 

“I think it went brilliantly!” Chirps Lance, spinning and hoping to center stage, much to the exasperation of Acxa. He stops at his destination and turns to a Keith hesitant on the left wing. “Might have even gone so beautifully Keith might reconsider his decision to be the backup first-aid for backstage. Wouldn’t you say so?”

 

Keith struggles for a bit, an internal battle Lance is currently blind to. Unbeknownst to the grinning man, Keith is stuck at a crossroads of allowing this person that isn’t at all capable of magic have a chance to be exposed to danger or shutting himself away from what might just be the most entertaining experience of his life. Then he’s nodding contemplatively, giving no smile for fear of it showing too earnest or too constipated. “I’d say so,” he quietly says.

 

Then everyone gathered in the theatre is cheering, whooping, and chest-bumping. Caldwell says something to Lance unheard to Keith, but the grins they share is enough for him. This was planned. Caldwell was aware that Lance could persuade anyone to do his bidding with a simple question and a blinding smile. And used it for reasons even Lance was unaware of.

 

“You monster ,” Keith seethes to a Lance who only grins.

 

“Leave all complaints with Professor McClain in the neuroscience department. She’ll probably give them to Pidge, who will then burn them with me as an act of solidarity at around 1 AM.”

 

“Maybe I will.”

 

Lance doesn’t expect that sort of response. Instinctively, as if his envy went on autopilot, he marches until he’s a few inches from his face and responds with:

 

“Bring it, hot stuff. Give me some entertainment in my boring life.”

 

Then Keith gives Lance a smirk, wicked and showing all the ways Lance is absolutely fucked. Because, of course, he decides to challenge the goddamn magician who won’t acknowledge his own magic. Or Lance’s beautiful pun.

 

“It's on.”





________________

“Lance, what the actual fuck did you do?” Emeline is later saying as she bursts through the door of the McClain residence, only to be met with a Lance strewn dramatically across the stairs. He doesn’t glance at her, only remains with his head tilted to the ceiling. His phone continues buzzing on the staircase beside him. His mami mumbles something about the Evil Eye in the living room.

 

“I challenged Keith.”

 

“To what?! And who the hell is Keith?!” A door slams overhead. Lance thinks it’s Pidge’s, but isn’t very sure.

 

“Being nuisances to each other. And he’s this really cute health major that makes me feel fire, in a literal way, that I kinda met before.”

 

“That explains … so much,” Emeline says with a sigh, slumping down next to Lance and holding out a folded up piece of paper. “Keith left this in my complaint box.”

 

Lance reads it without lifting his head from the carpeted stairs. “‘Lance is a conceited, selfish asshole who would do fucking fantastic in retail’. Nice. You probably have more than one of those.” He takes the complaint, allowing his hand to lazily fall to the stairs.

 

“We’re gonna have to get back at him. You know this, right? And not just Keith. I know this dude’s brother if he’s who he says he is. And this means war.”

 

“I heard Keith, complaint box, and war,” Pidge says, slamming a hand against the railing as she comes to a screeching halt. “What did you do.”

 

“He called me a monster for convincing him to rejoin the main cast emergency first-aid, so I told him to file a complaint with Emeline. He said he would. Long story short,” Lance says, holding the complaint inches from Pidge’s face, “We’re considering waging war for the sake of dignity, and your help will be greatly appreciated.”

 

“Sounds brilliant. Lemme talk to you first?” asks the smaller freeloader, gesturing to the kitchen. Groaning all the while, Lance pulls himself off of the staircase and trudges through the doorway. Emeline excuses herself to get Abella for further planning.

 

“Okay, tiny child filled with hate, what’s so direly important that you just had to drag me from my newfound home on the staircase?” he asks, already dramatically strewn across the island stools.

 

“Alright. One, Matt needs you to help him sometime in the future to get a better deal on some new equipment,” Pidge says, counting the list on her hand and pacing the kitchen once or twice. Then she stops, quirking a brow at Lance. “Two, why’re you really messing with Keith?”

 

“Do you want the Lance answer or what I’m gonna tell everyone else who asks that?”

 

“Lance answer.”

 

“Alright.” he hums, sitting upright and drumming his fingers on the tiled table. “So, Keith kinda saved me a couple months back. You ‘n Hunk just ignored it so I’m not gonna go into details, but this dude is loaded with magic.”

 

“Oh, God, this again?” Pidge groans, beginning to turn away from Lance. Her interest was gone from the moment Lance mentioned his first meeting with Keith, and only further solidified at the mentioning of magic.

 

“Nope you’re gonna listen because there’s no way I'm telling Abella or mami ‘bout this,” Intervenes Lance, only continuing when she’s frozen and stuck glaring at him. “All they’re gonna know is that Keith’s the hottest person I’ve seen next to myself.”

 

“Fine, I yield entirely. Just tell me why you’re fucking with Keith so I can go help your sisters.”

 

“I’m trying to get something out of him so someone will acknowledge that day in the shop instead of my closest friends ignoring it. Either through this stupid war or normal conversation,” he explains, easing himself from the table and bringing himself to the doorframe where Abella and Emeline near, giving a mischievous sort of look to his friend. “And I don’t like losing.”




________________

Beauty and the Beanpole


Stella [11:30 PM]: You… Started an inter-garrison war? With Keith?

Lance [11:30 PM]: Not my brightest Idea but ya

Adina [11:32 PM]: Seriously? We can’t even leave you alone with someone for ten minutes without shit like that happening

Finn [11:33 PM]: But Keith is super attractive. You sure it’s not some underlying sexual tension?

Lance [11:33 PM]: Oh no I’d totally bone that dude first chance I got and there’s no shame in that

Lance [11:33 PM]: It’s a matter of honor and smacking that smug ass grin off of his face

Vanessa [11:34 PM]: Woah TMI Lance

Finn [11:35 PM]: That’s like the most G-rated shit he’s ever said in here Nessy.

Vanessa [11:36 PM]: Yeah but most of the time I don’t know what the other person looks like so I don’t get visuals

Stella [11:37 PM]: Please stop talking about who wants to fuck who, it’s too late for this

Lance [11:37 PM: This coming from the girl that was just a couple hours ago mooning over Acxa?

Lance [11:37 PM]: Don’t think you’re slick

Lance [11:37 PM]: We see you

Stella [11:38 PM]: ahsadhsajdh

Stella [11:38 PM]: That is TOTALLY unrelated

Lance [11:38 PM]: Lil pining lesbian ass

Adina [11:39 PM]: Don’t rewire the conversation to Estella, she’s done absolutely nothing wrong and even if she’s got a little crush on Acxa that’s no biggie, all of us do except for Hyun, probably

Finn [11:40 PM]: Can confirm, Hyun hasn’t liked a girl since the first grade when he thought she was a cool knight from one of his books

Finn [11:40 PM]: Like Animorphs style

Lance [11:41 PM]: I kinda hate Acxa tbh

Lance [11:41 PM]: Mostly because she’s associated with Lotor and FUCK that guy

Adina [11:41 PM]: Not this again

Lance [11:41 PM]: Probably really nice when you get to know her but fuckin L’oreal Paris’ cover boy ruins everything

Vanessa [11:42 PM]: We get it Lotor sucks

Vanessa [11:42 PM]: You want to fuck Keith and beat his ass in some stupid competition

Vanessa [11:43 PM]: Anything else?

Lance [11:43]: The inter-garrison war is now a family matter.

Adina [11:43]: Family unity is important, but won’t Emeline lose her job?

Lance [11:44]: Nah, apparently a higher-up student is gonna make sure nothing gets out of hand

Hyun [11:45]: Ihate allof you

Hyun [11:45]: People trying to sleep

Estella [11:46]: Oh shit, sorry Hyun!!!! Goodnight, guys!!!

Lance [11:46]: Night my dudes

Adina [11:46]: Sweet dreams

Finn [11:46]: Are made of memes

Vanessa [11:45]: Literally die

________________



Lance flops around in bed for a couple of minutes. He finds no swift relief and instead casts dejected glares to both his phone on his sad little nightstand covered in pens and his desk covered in papers and musical playbills. Finally, he settles for laying on his back, glaring at his barren ceiling. Lance had once attempted to put posters in the empty space, only to swiftly be attacked by Heather, Heather, and Heather at approximately two-thirty AM the next day. He took no further risks after the assault and had promptly removed all other residents of the Sad Poster Ceiling (trademarked by Abella July twenty-third, 2017) the morning after.

 

Then an idea hits Lance in the department of getting Keith to speak, and hopefully, to open up to negotiations, as he reminisces about his barren ceiling. Granted, this idea is something only he can be stupid enough to think is anything close to a good idea, but an idea nevertheless.

 

And Lance would be damned if he didn’t go through with this idea.

Chapter Text

Keith can’t exactly explain what it felt like seeing Lance for the second time. It was mostly frustration, really, because of course they had to cross paths again and of course it had to be under the only circumstance where Keith couldn’t back out.

 

But despite the momentary shock in the human’s wide blue eyes, he schools himself into a look of perplexity and whispers to one of his crooning friends. By the look of the friend’s reaction, it wasn’t at all why he was truly surprised. He remembers thinking, good. He knows how to keep his mouth shut , without really processing that the invisible fire wasn’t normal for Lance, but experiencing something similar was.

 

He then spent the next five minutes speaking in a low voice with Caldwell about how he had suddenly changed his mind and wants to opt out of the production and no it isn’t because he’s intimidated, kindly fuck off, professor. In the end, Caldwell had met Keith in the middle and suggested backstage. Then, with a silent conversation with Lance, the plot to convince Keith to stay with the main medical staff ensued.

 

And went off without a hitch.

 

“I fucking hate this,” Keith is complaining three days later, glaring at the barely visible sun. “He keeps trying to get something out of me, and Pidge won’t do jack shit to shut him up. And it’s all your fault, Shiro!” He jabs a finger into the nape of his brother’s neck, earning no immediate response as Shiro focuses on unlocking the door, a problem only he seems to have. In a minute the glass door is unlocked, a bell chiming overhead. Keith is given a tired look from his brother who stops temporarily at the recently-patched up storefront.

 

“He was going to find you eventually, Keith. You’re friends with his housemate and go to the same school as him,” he says in that flat voice of his. “Besides, if you reveal us, you can make him pay for the energy it took us to fix everything he broke.” The two shiver in unison at the memory.

 

“Yeah, but,” Keith says, flipping the ‘closed’ sign to ‘open’, scratching at an arm hidden beneath writer’s gloves.“He has no potential. Having someone that can feel magic but is unable to cast anything riding our tails is only hindering.”

 

“We could have him run errands,” Shiro suggests, stalking around the shop and surveying the supply. “Put him on candle duty.”

 

“Oh, candle duty,” says Keith, releasing a barking laugh. He drifts behind the counter and to the back room, where a table sits with a binder of records. With a wave of his wand, a light bursts to life in the small room, revealing the outline of a door. He pauses briefly, before chuckling at the thought of Lance dipping candles for some kid who wants to fuck with things they shouldn’t fuck with to buy and saying, “that would be fantastic .”

 

“See? Useful for something, even if it’s just your own amusement,” Shiro adds, smiling and greeting the first customer of the day-- a short girl with frizzy hair.

 

Meanwhile, in the back, Keith gets the true first customer of the day, having walked through the back door with ease. From then on the room changes, all muffled sounds of Shiro assisting the customer drowned out. She’s tall, muscular, and obviously frazzled. Wide yellow eyes filled with tears blink at him rapidly, dark skin covered with jeans and sweaters.

 

“I’m in the registry,” the frazzled girl says, settling her wand on the table. It’s unlike Keith’s in every way- whereas his replicates flames spiraling up the oak wood, her’s is made from a cherry wood and looking more so like a stone than anything. And yet, the two still come from the same wandmaker. As do all wands in San Rosa. “Shay Balmer.”

 

Keith flips through the binder easily. It says that she’s a student in the “Right. What’s your case?” He asks, barely sparing her a glance.

 

“I need--” Shay twitches, an eye flashing a bright yellow throughout its entirety, the skin surrounding it turning to stone. She takes a rattling breath. “I need a counter-spell to this curse.”

 

“Shit. Alright, hang on,” Keith says, flicking his wand in a swift motion as he rises from the table. In a split second, he’s walking through a swinging door, Shiro’s attention still remaining on whatever task he has set before him.

 

“Already?” He asks monotonically. Keith nods, arms folded and his back leaning against the doorframe. They exchange a brief fist-bump as the elder brother goes to the back room, younger headed for the cash register. Keith knows this schedule by heart; go to the back room until someone has a high-powered spell to counter, and spend the rest of the day in the front room. It’s a routine that is always constant and never changing.

 

That is, of course, until Lance appears for the first time and fucks everything up.

 

Keith felt his entrance, more than witnessed it. He felt a coldness surround him, like an ocean breeze. The same coldness felt the second time they met.

 

“Get out,” Keith had immediately barked, pointing sternly to the door. With a small apology, another customer moves to leave, kept in place by their partner who chastises them quietly.

 

“But I just got here!” Exclaims Lance, quite literally putting his foot down. Keith continues to glare at Lance nevertheless until the latter begins to sweat uncomfortably.

 

“Fine. Buy something, then get out.”

 

Keith regrets saying this the moment the words leave his mouth, having already caught the mischief in Lance’s smug grin. Sauntering up to the counter with a clasped hand, Lance opens it on the counter in front of Keith. Agrimony falls out. “I’ll take this,” he chirps, watching the sheer look of horror on Keith’s face.

 

“You can’t do this,” he says, trying to find some way to foil the grinning human’s plans.

 

“And yet here I am, hot stuff. Doing it,” Lance says, pulling a penny from his pocket and sliding it across the table. Without breaking eye contact, he brushes his small pinch of agrimony into his hand and backs out of the store. Unsurprisingly, he bumps into two display cases on his way out but stubbornly refuses to turn around until he’s outside. At this point he mouths ‘top that’ with a curling smile.

 

Keith angrily mouths back a suggestion as to where he can shove that handful of agrimony.




Lance returns an hour later.

 

“Honestly, though, I’m surprised I even found this place again.”

 

Keith doesn’t respond.

 

“I mean, granted, you’re the only fucking witchcraft shop in town.”

 

“Buy something and leave,” Keith repeats, handing change to a customer.

 

“Aww, C'mon, dude! Is it the inter-garrison war? I can call a truce on that for like thirty minutes,” whines Lance, deciding to make a scene in the middle of the store. Silently, Keith thanks the spell that keeps the back room separate from the front. “I swear it on my mami’s empanadas.”

 

“Talk to him,” a customer urges quietly, “If he’s swearing on his own mom, he’s legit.”

 

“It’s his punishment,” Keith explains, just loud enough for Lance to hear, “for prying into matters he shouldn’t be meddling in.”

 

“Yo fuck you, man!” Shouts Lance. With the blessing of the chatty customer, Keith flips him off with a cold glare.

 

“Buy something and leave!” Shouts Keith in response. And so Lance marches up, slams one (1) bay leaf on the counter with another penny on top.

 

“Have a nice day.”

 

“Back at ya.”



“Dormammu,” Announces Lance in a loud, declarative voice as he barges through the door, “I’ve come to bargain.”

 

Keith almost allows himself to mumble a response. Instead, he snaps his head from the customer he’s helping and points to the door. “Buy something and get out,” he says in the same dull voice. Lance’s face crumbles, no longer smug and waiting for some sort of smile.

 

“Aww, C'mon, hot-head! That’s gotta be at least a little bit funny to you!” Cries Lance as he plucks a leaf off of a passing plant. Keith doesn’t admit that yes, it was a little bit funny to him. Instead, he gestures once more to the door and resumes his low conversation. The penny slams on the counter with a loud clink . Keith doesn’t look up.



“Did you know that female kangaroo have three vaginas?” is Lance opener the fourth time he enters the shop.

 

“The fuck?” Keith is saying before he can school himself back into his repetitive cycle hence dubbed ‘dealing with this Lance fuckfest’.

 

“I know, right? I like to think that like, the first kangaroos got cursed,” he says, grimacing at the price of the crystal balls. Keith takes pride in knowing that he’s counting up his debt to the Black Lion Witchcraft Amenities, despite half of those immaculate orbs being the same ones he shattered months ago. “And if that’s the case, I want to make curses like that. Not vagina-spawning, though. Like being able to arrange Pidge’s freckles to say ‘dingbat’ on her forehead.”

 

And that’s the last straw for Keith to have him storming into the back room.

 

Shiro’s head whips up from where he sits, his necklace of runes splayed out on the table in front of him. Concern is written on his face, and with a good reason for it. Keith broke their clockwork schedule.

 

“I was going to wait until later to bitch, but Lance is here,” Keith begins in a voice shaking with frustration.

 

“Oh?” Shiro says, unaffected.

 

“But I can’t take it anymore. He keeps buying minuscule amounts of our herbs with a penny because I told him to buy something and leave, and then coming back an hour later and doing the same thing. He’s trying to get a rise out of me in every way possible.”

 

“Smart.”

 

“I know - but he just walked right on in and told me female kangaroos have three vaginas. Shiro, I could go my entire life without knowing that and die happy. Now I can’t because that bastard has to ruin everything.”

 

“Take my runes,” Shiro lazily offers, a sarcastic facade of comfort over his words and face. The runes clack together in his hand. “To protect you from the cute boy that’s got you all hot and bothered.”

 

“Shiro.”

 

“Keith.”

 

“I will shove those runes where the sun doesn’t shine if you make another god damn pun again.”

 

“Alright, geez,” Shiro says, raising his hands in defeat. His blank expression, however, shows no fear. “No need to be so heated about it.”

 

“You know what? Fine. You can stay here,” Keith bites, backing into the swinging door. Once on the other side, he turns around and freezes at the sight of Lance perched on the counter, legs crossed and seeming much too at ease. Despite knowing fully well that Lance is a parasite as well as a pain in the ass (exhibit A, him sitting on the counter so casually), Keith still finds himself saying,“You’re still fucking here?”

 

“Never left, gorgeous.”

 

“ … Whatever. Look, you’re only going to be able to do this two more times before we close. So either tell me what the hell you came here for or continue this game of yours,” Keith says, leaving his security from behind the counter to go assist a very overwhelmed boy at the crystals.

 

“Oh, I’m not actually here with a purpose,” Lance chirps, trailing him around the store. He changes his mind and word choice somewhere in the midst of the crystal section. “I just wanted to know why you run this place. It isn’t very… fitting for you.”

 

“One, exploitation of people who think we sell things that ‘cleanse their chakras’ or believe that they can cast spells on people. Two, people find reassurance in the form of finding comfort in objects and symbols,” Keith explains, handing Rose Quartz to the boy without any prompting. “And three, there are a surprising amount of scam-artist fortune tellers that buy from us.”

 

“Waaiit a minute. Did you sell to the one off of Birch?”

 

“Oh, yeah. She’s amazing at scamming people.”

 

“Goddammit!” Shouts Lance, angrily pounding on an empty shelf, “that son of a bitch told me that I was gonna die in six years! Hunk and I were preparing a bunker to hide in!”

 

“Sucks to suck. If you claim to believe in magic, you would have known she’s the biggest fraud there is in San Rosa.”

 

“I-- you--” Lance stutters, at a loss for words for Keith’s simple statement, leaving the magician grinning smugly as he plucks herbs from their immaculately green family. “Fuck you.” The human with no capability in magic kicks an invisible rock, arms stubbornly folded and head cast downward.

 

“I’ll pass. Now,” Keith says, his handful of herbs and flowers vanishing under the table, only to reappear in a paper bag with a Black Lion sticker on it, the little-damned thing wearing an adorable witch hat. Lance only blinks at the strange act, not at all taken aback but seemingly in awe. Rolling up the bag, Keith slides it across the counter to Lance. “That’ll be seven sixty-five, and your last purchase of the day.”

 

“Everything in me is telling me not to take this offer of yours.”

 

“It’s tea to retain memories,” Keith begins, ignoring Lance’s comment, “especially useful for studying for finals and memorizing lines. And if you promise to leave me alone until given explicit permission to return here, I’ll throw in a second bag for free.”

 

“... I’ll take it,” Lance says, albeit hesitant. He reaches across the counter, only to pull his hands back again.

 

“Relax. I’m not poisoning you.”

 

“But you have every reason to.”

 

“I do,” agrees Keith as he wanders from behind the counter and back to his plants. He takes a glance at Lance and, beyond his stress and a fragment of a pain in his chest, sees nothing. So, going off of a whim that Lance is some sort of closeted hopeless romantic, he plucks some chamomile and grabs a handful of cinnamon. The rest is randomized and doesn’t particularly matter; Keith charms the tea regardless. Of course, that deal is only available to those who purchase from the back. The humans from the front of the shop almost never feel the effects of the tea, so Keith had eventually… stopped. But what Lance didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. “However, I want you to leave me the hell alone before the facts get weirder.”

 

“Hey, that fact wasn’t me,” Lance complains, hands raised in faux surrender. He pulls out his phone for proof while Keith feels the heat radiating from his hands go in an instant. Lance then shoves a message board in his face, showcasing the beauty of the Garrison chat log. And, sure enough, a user by the name of ‘Placematt’ (Matt. Of course it was, because who else besides the Holts know this weird shit?) had displayed the fact for all to see. Beneath it, was a solemn message that if he had to know this, so did the rest of the Garrison. Then he surrendered his blessing to tell whoever the hell didn’t know this wondrous fact so the burden would pass on.

 

“Glad to know I was the poor man cursed to being informed of this anomaly,” deadpans Keith.

 

“Honestly, I’m surprised you hadn’t seen it earli--” Lance cuts himself off, eyes narrowing at the chat log. “You’re not in here,” he says with the most shocked look Keith had ever seen him wear-- even beyond the look of surprise upon crashing through the Black Lion’s storefront.

 

“Never needed to. My brother told me everything worth knowing from the group chat,” he simply says, focusing on the small paper bag in front of him.

 

“This is … an injustice?”

 

“It really isn’t.”

 

“But it is,” Lance insists, leaning across the counter until he’s only a few inches from Keith’s face. Thankfully, he keeps a facade of cool and only quirks a brow, pressing on Lance’s chest with his index finger until he’s back on the other side of the counter.

 

“For the love of God don’t start this again before I ban you from the store indefinitely.”

 

“Oh Jesus, please do. I’d want nothing more,” Lance drawls, leaning on the counter with his phone held up to his face. “Finn said ‘pics or it didn’t happen’. How do you feel about selfies.”

 

“Send him this,” Keith says, promptly raising a middle finger proudly in Lance’s face, even wagging it left to right. “Then remove yourself from the premises. I’ve seen three customers enter before thinking we were actually spending time together and exit immediately.”

 

“Or,” Lance suggests, photo taken and text messages typed and sent, “they were so floored by my beauty that they just kept walking on.”

 

Totally,” Keith says, shoving Lance away from the counter and looping a bag with the tea around his wrist. “Which means you have to leave so I can meet the goal for today.”

 

“Alright, alright,” surrenders Lance, spinning around on his way out with a cocky grin, “got any last words before my wonderful presence leaves you, hot stuff?”

 

“Yeah,” he says, folding his arm and giving a condescending look to the charming, annoying, and abrasive person that is Lance. “When are you gonna fight back?”

 

“Oh, trust me,” he chirps as he pushes the glass door open with his elbows, cocky and smug in every way imaginable. “We’re fighting back. Just be patient.”

 

And then, with one last toothy grin in the storefront window, Lance is gone. Keith lets out a deep sigh, a knot in the pit of his stomach unraveling with it. He can finally return to his clockwork schedule without interruption, order to resume over the Black Lion with Lance’s presence now void.

 

“So Lance can make puns about your magic but I can’t?”

 

“Shut up, Shiro.”

 

“Okay, but seriously? Is it because he’s hot? If that’s the case, entirely understandable. If not, I’m going to make you close up shop and refuse to help you counteract against Lance.”

 

Shut up, Shiro .”




_____________________

 

Shiro, ever true to his word, had forced Keith to close up shop. He had left an hour early at that, claiming that he needed to assist Matt with a project. The truth, however, was that Shiro just didn’t want to listen to Keith rant about Lance. He would later claim that he got enough of it at home through a bag of Cheetos, and just couldn’t handle another hour of it. His peace offering would be the opportunity to lick Cheeto dust off his prosthetic. Keith would be too disgusted to respond.

 

Keith made a brief mental checklist as he strode to the center of the shop, glaring momentarily at how the setting sun was reflected off of the crystals overhead. He had his bag thrown over his shoulder, which was just a given. Overcoat and patterned cardigan on to reduce the chances of his fingerless gloves shifting further up his arm. Wand shoved haphazardly into a tiny half-ponytail that grew with every day. Phone in his back pocket, blowing up with texts from Pidge. And finally, no Lance in sight. Though the last item on the checklist is debatable, as Keith often feels eyes on him only to see the streets entirely absent. Even a quick seeking spell turns up empty.

 

So, with a sigh, Keith pulled his wand from his hair. He could almost hear Shiro teasing him for not having at least improved this magic to the point of no longer needing his wand. Keith ignores this chiding imaginary voice, however, and focuses on the plants lining the ceiling, the walls, and taking over counters. A cool air takes over the warm room, and the glowing orange in his wand is replaced by a comforting blue. Then a mist settles over the shop, windows entirely unaffected by it (thanks, Shiro). Twirling his wand, Keith watches with a ghost of childish wonder as the mist shifts, swirling around the room with the movement.

 

That, of course, is when Keith hears a crash outside.

 

Mist dropping in an instant, Keith is spinning around to the source, peering for something or someone to pop up. But nothing appears. Even after a second seeking spell, he can’t even find a rat or a stray cat that might have been the source. “Okay, what the fuck? There’s no way whoever this idiot is has a counterspell, or I wouldn’t be able to hear them,” Keith is complaining to no one in particular, having already continued locking up the store normally and without worry. If the unknown idiot did have a counterspell, Keith would still be able to defeat them.

 

Lance only reveals himself once the shop was officially closed.

 

“Have a good night, hot stuff,” he crows from his hide-out in the alleyway, blowing a kiss in his general direction. “See you on the flip side.”

 

“Piss off,” is the only response Keith can manage over the paralyzing shock of a human being able to avoid his seeking spell. Not one of the Galra wizards come to fuck with him like he had previously suspected. A human . And that human being Lance, no less! The one person who Lance found the least competent in any sort of magic! Hell, even Pidge showed more magical competence than him!

 

This was it, Keith thinks to himself as he storms in another direction, now keeping a sharp eye out for Lance, this was his punishment for saving that shithead.



_____________________

 

 


Pidge (7:32 PM): Hey, edgelord

Pidge (7:33 PM): Just a heads up

Pidge (7:33 PM): Lance hasn’t come home like

Pidge (7:33 PM): at all

Keith (7:34 PM): I’m aware. You need to put a leash on him.

Pidge (7:36 PM): Shit shit sorry dude I didn’t think he’d actually go

Keith (7:37 PM): It’s fine. Or was, until he passed on your brother’s lovely fact of the day. Just… make him come home, okay? He doesn’t want to end up where I’m going, and I don’t think I can bring myself to yell at him.

Pidge (7:38 PM): The council of Pidge has been made aware of your very ominous text, and elects to listen to your advice without any questioning, as it does with the rest of weird shit you do.

Pidge (7:58 PM): He said he’ll come home after he makes a pit-stop for the Garrison dorms to gossip with Hunk

Pidge (7:58 PM): You’re in the clear my dude

Keith (7:59 PM): Thank you, Pidge. I’ll talk to you later.

Pidge (8:00 PM): Don’t die or whatever

Keith (8:40 PM): I won’t.

Chapter Text

Lance thought himself to be rather clever on this fine Saturday night. He had gone the entire day without being punched in the face by Keith and wasn’t promptly thrown into the path of the nearest passing car once he revealed himself from his hiding spot.

 

So, it was only a given that he would follow Keith on his night-time journey through San Rosa. With every step Keith took, Lance took one in perfect timing. And for the most part, this plan worked, with Keith staring down at his phone entirely enveloped by his phone, other hand resting alert on the nape of his neck, that intricately carved stick of his all but teasing Lance through dark hair. The only time it didn’t, was when Lance’s mind changed from nonchalant thoughts of how he was going to weasel his way out of being out of the house so late to thoughts of just where Keith was going since he left the joint rehearsals in an entirely different direction.

 

And when Lance’s thoughts wandered and Keith found himself looking over his shoulder with narrowed violet eyes, he was met with an empty sidewalk while Lance silently drummed his fingers on a dirty wall, counting the seconds until Keith’s footsteps resumed. Rinse and repeat for about ten minutes.

 

Then Keith glances up from his phone, the device vanishing into his pocket with a single motion. Across the street bass and music reverberates to the two’s ears, a group of giggling girls in heels clambering down the steps to a lower building. Lance is almost taken aback, expecting him to cross the street then and there with the way he inclines his head to the music with an inquisitive wonder. Instead, Keith takes a sudden and sharp left down the stairs beside him, right hand trailing along the wall the entire way. Lance doesn’t even hesitate in following Keith, even going the length to reenact the hand against the wall.

 

They walk like this for a short sum of time, until Keith throws open a door with ‘The Coalition’ spelled in vibrant neon lettering across the front. He steps in without hesitation as if it were the Garrison or a second skin.

 

And Lance, stunned for a brief tick of a second by a rush of magic throwing itself at his chest, allows himself to be enveloped by his own adrenaline and feeling.

 

Stumbling, Lance glances to and fro once inside the Coalition. He finds Keith to be already gone, no mullet or cursed stick in sight. Instead, he’s met with unfamiliar faces all pausing their chatter to quirk a brow at the out of place newcomer. Bouncing away from preening faces, he put on his best smile and has the gall to wave and greet strangers as he shoves his way through an unfamiliar building far too large to humanely be a lower-level shop in San Rosa.

 

The Coalition is awe-inspiring. Lance knows this from his first second being there, yet he continues to be stunned as he stumbles and bullshits his way through the crowds filling up staircases and through rust-colored halls. He feels magic coursing through even the basic structure of the building, overwhelming to his senses yet welcomed like an old friend all the same. After bumping into yet another terrifyingly powerful feeling person and mumbling another apology, he sends himself bouncing up another staircase with hands in his jacket pockets. And when he finally spins around to face forward, he finds himself inches away from a really buff dude’s chest.

 

“Hi,” chirps Lance as he takes half a step back, craning his neck to meet his stern face. He takes one glance over the man’s shoulder to see a VIP sign, beyond it a golden and white room with overly and underly dressed people alike. And Lance immediately wants in . He points gingerly at the intimidating dude. “You’re in my way.”

 

The man-- security, of course. How could Lance be so stupid -- only grunts. “Show me your pass.”

 

“Oh! My pass,” Lance says, feigning some sort of shock. Quick, thinks Lance, How are we gonna bullshit our way through this one?

 

A shred of an idea forms and, having no other plan, is executed without much thought to it. “I don’t seem to have one. But I can assure you, I have one. So if you could just --”

 

“Show me your pass.” Lance freezes in the middle of trying to shove his way past the security guard. So, instead of freezing up and stuttering as most would, Lance decides to put his damn foot down.

 

“--Let me in.” His voice comes out more of an order than anything as he cuts in, giving a blank stare to the security guard. A stiff silence falls over the room for a brief moment, with Lance quirking a brow and impatiently tapping his foot, and the security guard froze up. All conversation ceased in favor of staring at the spectacle in awe.

 

And then, as if Lance had the will to move God, the security guard steps aside. He’s almost taken aback at first, blinking in shock for a few seconds at the opening before him. Then Lance is confidently striding past, head held high as if he deserved to be here. But when he confirms the security guard has moved onto more important tasks, Lance’s confident air is momentarily gone as he furrows his brows at the floor, a ‘what the fuck’ mumbled before he’s grinning at his hands and the power they hold.



Beautiful men and women file around Lance, having no interest in speaking to him in any sort of way, their conversations having resumed the moment the security guard had stepped aside. He sees silk rub against skin and more of those fucking sticks in conspicuous places. The only person who seems to lack one of those fucking sticks is a white-haired woman seated on a couch facing a viewing window, a water glass in hand and head covered by a large black hat. He doesn’t have to get a glance at her to know that her aura was the strongest in the room.

 

“What’s that down there?” Lance asks a purple-haired girl who stands attentively with a cocktail in hand. She cocks her head in his direction, her green eyes frightening as they are breathtaking. Instead of giving him a look like he was the stupidest person in the entire universe, she stares down at the gathering people with a glossy look.

 

“We call it the dueling floor officially. Unofficially, it’s the Pit. Everyone who can’t catch a seat in the lower level has a death wish, and or is affiliated with a contestant typically stakes out their own.” The girl takes a sip of her cocktail, apathetic face still faced to the window. She gestures lazily below.  “We, however, can afford the best view.”

 

Indeed, the VIP room has the best view. Lance can’t argue against that in the slightest. With a hand just barely pressing against the surface of the glass, he gapes in awe at the room. Unlike the entirely-sound entrance hall he knew, the Pit was more akin to the insane amount of halls and stairs he dashed up and through-- inhumanely gigantic and painted in dark colors. The difference Lance finds is a bright spotlight to be overhead of the clear center of the Pit.

 

But , Lance thinks to himself as his eyes shift to the filled crowd, How will I be able to find Keith in this crowd?

 

Several people catch his eye for reasons he can’t place his finger on, that he supposes he might know because of course he does. Meanwhile, Keith evades Lance entirely. And without knowing it, because he’s an asshole like that. Then a soft touch barely skims across the small of his back, a small ‘sorry’ whispered, and Lance finds his eyes seeking out Keith without any fault. He can’t tell you how he knows it’s Keith, as his face is hidden beneath a black witch’s hat, so he decides to chalk it up to being the overgrown mullet he can’t even see.

 

“Thanks,” Lance says to the girl beside him, clapping a hand on her shoulder and nearly tripping over his own feet as he heads out through the front. The stranger tenses up at the sensation, quirking a brow at him as he leaves.

 

She says nothing.

 

Lance bursts into the Pit without any grace, the audience either shouting dissent or moving obediently out of his way as he shoulders by. He shouts a barrage of ‘excuse me’s and ‘sorry’s as he does so until finally there’s a break. Until finally, Keith is just within his reach, wearing a strange black uniform with red on his shoulders, forearms still consistently covered, but now with bandages. All Lance just needs to do is reach out and--

 

Snag his wrist. Keith’s head whips around, violet eyes alert and then widening with some sort of terror.

 

“Keith,” breathes Lance.

 

“Lance?” Asks Keith, his voice hiking an octave. He is scared, bewildered, and confused all at the same time. All for reasons Lance is oblivious to. “How did you--”

 

“Ladies, Gentlemen, and everything in between!” Calls a boisterous voice with no source. Keith’s attention is briefly seized, his head snapping to a high spot above Lance, then back to him. The announcer’s next voice is lost to the two over the other’s words.

 

“Just,” Keith says, bringing Lance forward until he’s just behind a short metal fence. “Stay here and don’t move. Got it?”

 

“Anything for you, Guapo ,” says Lance, meeting Keith’s frazzled and stern expression with a sly grin. Keith sends a glare his way, adjusting the patterned red fabric tied around his waist and listening to the voice of no source.

 

“Tonight we have rising rookie Nyma,” The announcer calls, a pause as a girl with beautiful blonde hair climbs over the gate, wearing a rugged uniform with bulky gloves on and a yellow mask covering most of her face.  Keith lets out a deep breath, sending himself vaulting over the metal fence without a single glance to Lance. He walks confidently until he meets Nyma in the center. “Against flaming favorite Keith Kogane! Both from your very own Coalition! Give them a round of applause!”

 

The crowd erupts in sound, Lance finding himself drawn to the feeling. Slamming his hands on the rail he shouts, “Kick her ass, Hot stuff!”

 

He thinks himself entirely undeserving of the glare sent his way. I mean, he’s trying to support his… whatever Keith is to him. Friend? Begrudging acquaintance? Hell. Lance is going to have to sort this out later. However, this does not justify being sent such an angry look.

 

“Alright, folks! You know the procedure! On our mark!” Keith folds his arms, his back facing Lance. All he sees are his boots, and the wand strapped to the back of his leg. Nyma holds a similar stature, sending a charismatic smile to the crowd and raising her closed fist in the air.

 

Lance doesn’t know the procedure. But what he does know is how to countdown. Especially when the rest of the crowd joins him with--

 

“Ready?”

 

Keith’s hand snakes to the wand behind his leg. It’s stealthy and unpredicted. Nyma has yet to look away from the crowd over Keith’s shoulder.

 

“Set?”

 

Someone tosses a stone in Nyma’s direction. She kicks it up to her other hand without breaking contact with the crowd. It vanishes into the depths of her glove.

 

“Go!”

 

The heat rams into Lance full-force, smoke and dust leaving the clearing reduced to nothing but a smokescreen.

 

When the dust settles, he finds Keith perched on a metal pole jutting out from the wall just above Lance and glaring up at Nyma, who is perched against the wall, right glove glowing a faint purple against the wall. Keith’s wand is held before him, pointed towards his forehead. His other hand is free, sparks bursting and spurting from his fingertips. A fire dances in his eyes, lethal and focused.

 

“Looks like these two aren’t playing games!” says the announcer, voice still chipper through a breathy laugh, “Nyma seems to be trying to get into Keith’s mind, while he counters it with a protection spell! How interesting!”

 

The audience members on all sides of Lance seem to be on edge, all of them leaning over the edge alongside him. Waiting. A few have little smirks barely visible on their lips, murmuring to themselves.

 

And then, with a burst of painful fire that sends Lance’s hair up in the air, Keith is airborne. Whooping, Lance throws his fist in the air as Keith pulls Nyma from the wall, sending her flying to the ground with a kick to the chest.

 

“That was so dirty ,” Lance hears Nyma say through a groan, pulling herself to her feet and extinguishing a small fire from her shirt. Keith says nothing, his hands and feet hitting the dirt of the circle with a loud thud. Instead, he points his wand at her, met with raised fists. The two begin to circle one another, adamant about not breaking eye contact. A burst of light forms between the two, some people around Lance pulling on sunglasses. But not him. He finds himself unable to look away from the two. Or how Keith’s stern face is something so far from the buzzkill of the health department. This was the Keith Lance knew first. This was the magic Lance knew.

 

And he was intoxicated by it.

 

“She has a rune!” Someone in the crowd helpfully cries.

 

“It’s only a warrior rune, dumbass!” Responds someone else from nearby.

 

Oh. Runes. Lance knows about runes. Vaguely. But it’s better than being lost in the dark.  And, just enough to know that her rune wouldn’t help as much as she hopes. Even with the rune now on her, Lance doesn’t feel Nyma’s magic in the same way as Keith’s. Her’s is ballroom dance. A lethal, beautiful dance to keep those viewing her in awe. Keith’s is a tango, taking control and making every single movement count. But most importantly? Keith’s magic wants to be known as something to fear, whereas Nyma just wants to be known.

 

Keith charges at Nyma. She sends herself into the air with a layer of water forming around her, expecting him to slam into her with more fire since she can't read his every move. Instead, he vanishes into nothing. The crowd is roaring, roaring. Even when Keith appears behind Nyma and suplexes her to the ground, they continue to bellow incoherently. He slams his foot forcefully on her chest to prevent her from leaving, her hands wrapping desperately around his ankle. The audience roars with suggestions of what to do, Lance waiting in silence as he watches Keith’s eyes dart to her chest and up her throat. Paving a path.

 

“Come on,” Lance silently urges with his hands gripping the railing until his knuckles turn white,  “get on with it.”

 

Keith glances in his direction as if the murmured order had reached him and garnered his full attention, blinking with some form of vague confusion before the veil of apathy returns. Then he reverts his attention back to the crowd with that same blank look, having left Nyma writhing on the ground.

 

Smoke pours from her mouth and nostrils, a vicious cough leaving her with sparks spewing in the place of saliva. A man nearly launches himself over to her while the crowd roars, Keith, turning to face the VIP deck. He seems to make eye contact with someone, a sparkling look in his eyes as if he were saying 'do you see me now?'

 

“No surprise, folks! Keith Kogane is our winner! Though, he really didn’t have to do that to poor Nyma, despite it not technically being against the rules-- ahem-- sorry. There will be a brief intermission for our next contestants to get prepared to compete! Until then: enjoy yourselves!” the chipper announcer calls. And then, just like that, his voice is gone, and Keith is storming towards Lance.

 

“Come on,” he says in a low voice, grabbing Lance’s wrist and forcing him through the crowd. Lance, however, still gapes in awe at Keith and the crowd over his shoulder and all around them, still stuck in a magic-high.

 

“That was awesome,” says Lance, stumbling over his own feet. Several audience members clap Keith on his shoulder and shout ‘congratulations’  as the two force their way through a door marked ‘contestants only’.

 

“So I’ve been told. Now,” Keith says, glancing around the hall to ensure they’re alone. He releases Lance’s wrist once confirmed. His beautiful eyes are now laced with hostility and suspicion. “ How the hell did you get here, and why are you here?”

 

“Well, first,” Lance says, cracking his neck and flashing a grin, “You’re very easy to follow.”

 

“Second?”

 

“I want you to teach me magic.” A silence falls over the two, with Keith searching Lance’s eager face for something unseen.

 

“Absolutely not,” he says after a brief moment of quiet.

 

“Come on, dude! I’ve wanted to learn for like, my entire life!”

 

“You don’t have the potential.” Ouch. That one went right to the ego.

 

“But what if I do ?” Lance quirks a brow, arms folded and face inquisitively. He hides any sort of hurt behind a facade. “And what if you just won’t take the time to find out? Besides, you’re not wasting time if it’s spent with me.”

 

“I will be wasting time,” Keith says, scratching at one of his bandages, “when it ends with you disappointed and magic-less.”

 

“C’mon, buddy!” Whines Lance, taking a sudden stride towards Keith, who stumbles backward in response, “Just give it a try, huh? Teach me magic. And if it turns out that I’m as boring as a rock, then I won’t push you any further.”

 

Keith undergoes a silent calculation of the consequences of his answer, both entirely unknown to Lance. Then he meets eager blue eyes and gives him his answer. “Fine.”

 

“Really?” Lance steps back, giving him a surprised smile.

 

“Really. But don’t get your hopes up.”

 

“I won’t,” says Lance, getting his hopes up. Holding up a finger to keep Keith silent and in place, Lance digs through his pockets and bag. A crushed bay leaf falls to the floor unnoticed in the process. Then, finally, Lance pulls out a still-buzzing phone. He opens it to see a barrage of texts from Pidge, Hunk, Abella, his mami, papa, abuelita, you name it, they’re texting him. Ignoring the notifications he pulls up a fresh contact page, forcing his phone over to Keith's unexpecting hands. “Gimme your number.”

 

“At least get to know me first,” is the inaudible retort Keith gives as he retrieves the phone, having to pull his own out to cross-reference the numbers. Lance almost teases him for not having his number memorized before he remembers that this is the same person who relies on his brother for updates on the Garrison groupchat.

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing.” Keith returns Lance’s phone swiftly, pretending he hadn’t said anything as he gestures to a back door with an exit sign just above it, despite this entire place intended to be underground. “Now please, do me a favor, and leave. Before this gets any worse.”





 

________________

 

Lance goes home smiling. He smiles at strangers on the street, tells them to stay safe tonight. He smiles at the Garrison off in the distance, damned as it may be. He smiles at Pidge glaring at him from the kitchen. He smiles at his mami and gives her a kiss on the cheek. He smiles even as she lectures him on not responding to her texts.

 

Then he goes up to his room and smiles and laughs some more as he calls Hunk. He teases his poor friend on finally talking to that really cute archeology major. Though he can’t remember her name for the life of him (and Hunk won’t mention it in conversation, the bastard), he still responds as if he knew her his entire life.

 

“And what about you?” Hunk asks once the teasing had ceased and the tale had been set in stone for the wedding, “why do you sound so happy?”

 

Lance chokes on his water for a second or two. “Shit-- hang on--” he manages in between coughs. “Okay. So, when I went radio silent on you, sorry about that by the way, I was actually talking to Keith.”

 

“Like… ‘flirting’ talking? Because I’ve been told that’s your thing with him.”

 

“Yes? But also no; I was trying to get him to agree on something with me. I’m not going to tell you what because I’m afraid he’ll fucking astral project into my room and kick my ass if I do, but basically it ended with me getting his number,” he explains, words jumbling together in the hopes that Hunk doesn’t insist on knowing the agreement. Don’t get him wrong, he loves Hunk with all his heart. But he always got this… look when Lance spoke about magic. Like he was supportive of him but was weirded out all the same. So Lance eventually stopped talking about it with him. He could talk about other things. He could talk about any other thing.

 

“Oh, buddy, that’s awesome!” Hunk’s voice is louder than he probably means for it to be, the smile in his voice nearly overwhelming. Lance’s cheeks begin to hurt. “Are you gonna try and get him to join the group chat? Pidge’s attempts have all been in vain, but you know how she is with talking to people.”

 

Lance hums. He stands from his seat and begins pacing, the lingering fire in his fingertips now familiar and welcomed. Back, forth, back, forth. Stop. “Yeah, I’ll get him in the Garrison chat.”

 

“Sweet,” Hunk says, drawing out the word unnecessarily. It takes him only five seconds to already try to coerce Lance to join his cooking club. His words are still smiling along with him, even as he pouts and begs with his best friend to try out his club for one day.

 

Lance is still smiling.

 

Lance is still happy.

 

Lance is still hopeful.

 

So, Lance thinks, raising an imaginary glass to the air. here's to not fucking up that hope, huh?

Chapter Text

In his defense, Lance didn’t know when (or where) Keith was going to decide to meet up with him. Which makes Pidge suddenly throwing a pillow at his face, saying ‘respond to Keith or I tattoo a dick on your forehead,’ and leaving entirely inexcusable. Nevertheless, Lance unplugged his phone from the outlet and, blinking blearily at the bright screen, responded and ensued a series of texts that leads you to now.

Hot stuff Kogane (8:45 AM): Lance holy shit I didn’t tell you where to meet me or when, please wake the fuck up.
Lance (9:03 AM): You know now that you mention it that’s probably a good idea tbh
Hot stuff Kogane (9:04 AM): haha.
Hot stuff Kogane (9:04 AM): [Address attached]
Hot stuff Kogane (9:05 AM): 12:15.
Lance (9:05 AM): I’ll be there

Lance had gone into a panic after sending his last message, nearly shoving Luis down the stairs to get to the bathroom first. He had shouted something about not being bothered until he was ready before promptly becoming dead to the world.

Luis had shouted something back about how ‘visiting family members shouldn’t be treated like this, you absolute dick’ and something of ‘pissing in a houseplant if he didn’t get out pronto’.

The outcome of that scenario is entirely unknown to Lance.

“Okay,” he announces as he bursts into the kitchen two hours later. Emeline and Abella blink up at him with perplexed looks, Cement Block and Pidge barely giving him a second glance. Lance presses a kiss to his mami’s cheek and gives his papi a bone-crushing hug, fist bumping Abella after taking a muffin off of Pidge’s plate. “I’m leaving.”

“Don’t die,” says Pidge, sounding like she really wouldn’t care if Lance died or not. Abella shares similar sentiment, his parents the only two who aren’t heathens. Luis only tells him to tell Keith he said hi, despite the two having never met.

Lance realizes about a block from home that Luis shouldn’t even know Keith’s name, for that matter.

 It’s never difficult to find Keith in a crowd. And this time, Lance doesn’t have to chalk it up to his mullet, because holy hell does he stand out when he’s surrounded by bland people in colorful, clothing that somehow seems bland as well. He’s leaning up against a wall when Lance spots him, actually wearing a normal T-shirt. A red paint coursing up his arms and leather fingerless gloves take the place of Keith’s usual arm covering. Lance stares at it and stares at it, trying to figure out the mystery of why he’s so adamant on covering up his forearms.

“You’re staring,” says Keith, giving him a blank stare. Lance blanches, stumbling to find an excuse. At this pathetic excuse of a cover-up, Keith begins to crack. The corner of his lip twitches, watching with a keen eye as Lance fidgets and gestures and opens his mouth without any words leaving.

“I.. was not staring,” Lance finally manages, “I was analyzing.”

Keith makes a snorting sort of sound. Like he wasn’t used to making such noises. Pushing off the wall, he begins to head down the sidewalk with a single gesture for Lance to follow. “Sure you were. Come on, then. You can ‘analyze’ some more after we’re done.”

Lance begins to follow.

Lance freezes.

“Did you just flirt with me?”

No response.

“Keith! You get back here!”

 

 

 

________________

 

 

 

 

Keith takes Lance to a building marked by a simple sign that says ‘Altea’ on the front. From the looks it seems to be a little library, with a chipper man at the counter and people scattered throughout the store. Lance stares at Keith, who ignores him and enters the store with ease.

“Oh! Keith, my boy!” Chirps the man at the counter, his ginger hair bright and moustache a spectacle to view. He all but leaps over the counter, crossing quickly to meet the two. “Allura told me to expect you dropping by with…” He trails off, taking in Lance head to toe. He quirks a brow, returning his gaze to Keith, who has turned crimson. “someone…”

“He got into the Coalition,” explains Keith simply, “and I want to figure out how.”

Which, apparently, is reason enough for Coran. With a huff, he turns and bounces across the store to a back room. “So, what’s your name?”

“Lance McClain,” he offers. “Say, your voice is real familiar. Can you tell me why?”

“Well, my boy, back in the day I used to film Chef Boyardee commercials--”

“-- He’s the announcer at the Coalition,” Keith cuts in, giving Coran a sharp glare. “And the co-owner of the place.”

“Oooh, right, that,” Coran says, nodding to himself wistfully as he opens a door and walks on through. Lance follows, expecting to see a break room. Instead, he sees a colorful study stacked to the ceiling in scrolls, books, and various items that look either magical or expensive. Various rugs of color and type are strewn across the floor, and everyone pauses to kick off their shoes by the door. A large curtain is pulled closed behind a study desk. “That would make more sense, now that I think about it.”


Coran leads the two of them through the closed curtain. As he brushes it aside he calls out, “Allura, they’re here.”

“You’re late.” Says a cool voice. Lance enters the room to see a woman sitting crossed-legged on the floor, one eye closed with the other peering at Keith. White hair spills over her back and all around her, pink and blue ensemble blending in seamlessly with her whole 'space princess' vibe. Her pointed ears are noticed only after the vibe earns itself a name.

“By a minute,” returns Keith. He plops himself down across from Allura. Lance, having gotten the memo already, sits to the right of him. “Which was a lot faster than the last time someone came to you.”

Allura opens her other eye. “You’re on a different standard than they are. Now,” she says dismissively, “Lance. What is it you seek?”

“I want to know if I’m capable of magic,” Lance says, peering forward. The heel of his hand remains on his knee. “Well, Keith does. I know I’ve got it, or I wouldn’t be able to see everything that you guys see.”

Allura nods her head. Producing a box of cards from between her crossed legs, she meets Lance’s gaze. “Coran, read his tarot cards while I do this, and don’t forget to give them to me after,” she says, holding the pack of cards up for him. They vanish, and her hand then extends to Lance. “Give me your hand.”

Lance complies without argument. She takes his hand gingerly, using her other hand to find his pulse with a concentrated look across her face. Then a similar sensation occurs within Lance. He feels a rush of energy slam into him and settle across the room, working like a black hole. It draws out all of the heat from Keith and suffocates Lance, quells his nerves, and then makes everything feel numb despite him knowing the presence to be there. Lance needs to have something like that present. He needs a cold or a breeze. What does Lance like? He likes his mami, but that’s not really something you can sense. He likes the beach in Cuba. He likes the way that the water envelopes him and-- Lance feels the ocean settle over him. He feels his body move with the waves. Hears the ocean speaking to him. And in that moment, Lance does something that came like instinct to him.

Lance speaks back to the ocean.

Allura lets out a gasp, and everything folds in on itself. Lance sees her eyes flicker open despite the whole room spinning, indistinguishable glowing marks on her cheeks and forehead fading to nothing. He has no recollection of anything he may have thought previously, just the feelings.

In short, he has no idea how the fuck to replicate that feeling.

“So?” Keith asks, peering forward. Allura and Lance blink a couple of times until the room stops spinning. Looking between the two, then to Coran, she seems to struggle on what to say.

“He.. He’s capable, all right,” Allura says slowly. Then she’s focused on Lance. “Lance, how did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Finding your secondary magic so quickly.” She breathes out deep, releasing Lance’s arm finally.

“My… what?”

“You have two main magics,” Keith says from where he sits, seeming more bitter than amazed. “Your primary, and your secondary. Your primary is what you’re the strongest at, secondary the second. My primary is fire, and my secondary is healing in both the passive and metamorphose category.”

“Yours,” explains Allura, “is water. I couldn’t gather what your primary might be, but it must be passive. Which might explain how he flew under your radar, Keith. Passive abilities are typically undetectable if you don’t know what to look for.”

“Yeah, but now we have to figure out what his primary magic is, get him a wand, and actually train him,” says Keith, like an asshole.

“Simple stuff, really,” Allura says, pushing herself off of the floor. Lance rises with her, hauling Keith to his feet. “Coran, can you get me Hickory wood and aquamarine?”

“Hold the phone,” cuts in Lance, “I can’t afford that kind of thing. I’m a broke college student and my mami would want to know what that kind of money went to.”

“Then you work it off,” Allura says dismissively, side-eyeing Keith “after all, you do owe the Black Lion some form of compensation.”

“He won’t be working for me, Allura. Shiro wouldn’t even let it happen.”

 Allura dismissively waves Keith off. “Then he competes with you. I’ve been meaning to get together a team anyway.”

“Absolutely not. I’ve always worked alone ever since--” Keith cuts himself off. His facade melts to show a fragile person on the verge of shattering. His ever-present fire extinguishes in this moment, only to return just as blazing as before as his eyes harden. “I’ve always worked alone.”

“Batman,” Allura mutters.

“Batman,” Lance confirms.

“I’m not Batman.”

“Then work with me,” Lance says, bouncing in front of Keith and spinning around. They stop right in front of the study desk where Allura now sits. He leans forward until he’s inches from Keith’s face, eyes sparkling and grin wide and knowing. “Not like it’ll kill you.”

Keith’s eyes remain widened. He searches Lance’s face, looking everywhere but at the closing space between them. A fire scorches Lance’s heart, and he hears Keith take in a rattling breath. “It just might.”

“So I’ll take that as a yes?” Asks Lance, still entirely unaware of the closeness between the two. Keith clenches his jaw.

“I’ll work with you,” he manages. Lance’s grin widens, looking just as wicked as before.

“Good.” He turns from Keith to Allura, who hides her mouth between clasped hands. “We’re set.”

“So I see. I’ll need you to return tomorrow to pick up your wand and get measured. Keith, you can go speak to Coran.” Keith leaves without further conversation, rushing after Coran with a fury. Allura turns to Lance, spreading out cards on the table. She spares him a little smile and a wink. “Your tarot cards always have to be read in private.”

“Isn’t this… that bullshit magic Keith sells?” Lance asks tentatively, lowering himself into the plush chair across from her.

“For spellcasters and those inapt in divination, yes,” she simply says. Silence settles over the room, deathly still. Keith’s distant fire is gone, replaced by the numbness of Allura. Her right hand reaches out, flipping over the first card. "You will find me, however, to be excellent at what I do."

The Magician card in advice position, reversed.

“Trust your instinct and explore your magic. Most new spellcasters get this card,” explains Allura. “I even got it when I was a child.”

“Because they don’t trust what they feel is right and stick to what they know, right?”

She lets out a little laugh. “Exactly. You know, you might find yourself enjoying Divination if you can read people you’ve never met like kust now.” She reaches out to the next card.

Ace of cups, upright.

“You strive and relax in love and support. Your family must be loving,” She notes with a sad little smile.

“They are,” Lance muses. “Little shits sometimes, but we gotta stick together, y’know?”

Allura nods. She reaches out to the next card.

The lovers, upright.

Lance’s breath catches, as does Allura’s. The two stare at the card, one seeming to know more than the other. Because, naturally, Lance isn’t even aware that he might love someone now, let alone later. Sure, flings can come and go like they usually do, but they always stop loving him, so he stops loving them.

Neither speak on the card.

Knight of swords, reversed.

“Oh. Keith got this one,” Allura says to herself. Lance doesn’t point out that she shared someone else’s tarot with him, for fear of her freaking the fuck out. “You’re easily offended and take to defense first. It might be your downfall if this continues.”

“That’s situational,” says Lance in his own defense, further proving the card’s point.

Allura cracks a smile and reaches out for the last card.

The tower in advice position.

Allura seems to choke on air, slamming her fist on the arm of her chair while she recovers. “Shit,” she says between coughs. “Sorry. Swallowed a bug. You… will be a catalyst of change in the future.”

“Sweet,” Lance says, electing to not point out how Allura seems to be hiding the rest of the meaning from him. “Can you… tell me more about the lovers card?”

Allura is quick to shut him down. “Lance, my primary magic is divination. Because of this reason alone, I can’t share any of the information my reading of your magic or tarot cards gave me. It would be a risk I’m not willing to take. But truste, if I didn't know everything about your love live and magic life before you even knew, I might have been able to tell you."

“That’s… respectable. Can you be vague about it, though? Like, is it someone I’ve known or a whole ass stranger?” Lance prods.

“You know them,” She says with a light laugh. “But that information is hardly useful. You know everyone in the garrison, save a handful of the upperclassmen like myself and Shiro.”

Beat.

Realization.

“You’re in the garrison? What the fuck?”

“I’m an anthropology and politics major, so our paths never really crossed. Honestly, it’s amazing that you even met Keith.” She leans back in her chair, hands splayed across the wood. “Even if it was due to professor Arden being scared shitless you’d die this year.”

“Nah, I’d die doing Macbeth, probably. This year it’ll just be rashes from prosthetics.”

“Ah. Keith can fix those.” She says without any hesitation. There's a light in her eye that just seems to...amplify her beauty. “I used to get really bad rashes from jeans, so Keith took it upon myself to teach me a spell to fix it.”

“Aww, so he is a nice guy under so many layers of asshole,” croons Lance. His grin drops, and he furrows his brow. He stares intensely at the desk. “I feel like I unlocked character development that I shouldn’t have unlocked.”

“Probably,” says Allura with a shrug, “but it’s too late to go back now, and he’ll probably continue being an asshole until he accepts you and your…” she gestures vaguely at Lance, “everything.”

He nods seriously. “That’s entirely respectable. I’m a lot of man for one person to handle.”

“My ears are burning,” announces Keith as he returns from wherever the hell he was with Coran, “Who’s talking shit.”

“We speak nothing but the best of you,” ensures Allura, “how dare you try to compromise my integrity like this.”

“I was talking shit. Square up, hot stuff,” Contradicts Lance.

“...I trust Allura more than I trust you,” Keith says, laying out his analytical explanation as if it were the most simple thing ever. And it was, because Lance trusts Allura with his life despite having just met her. “therefore, you weren’t talking shit about me.”

“Ah, damn, you’ve cracked the code,” drawls Lance as he hauls himself to his feet, Allura rising to follow the two to the door. “Guess I have to fuck off into the sun now or whatever.”

“It’d be the best course of action, really,” Keith says solemnly. They cross into the library once more, Allura shouting a farewell. “One less problem in my life.”

“That last part was entirely unnecessary, you dick.”

“Oh, no, it was entirely needed.”

Silence falls over the two as they step out back into the street.

“Hey, Keith.”

“Hmm?”

“I know you don’t really like me, probably because I almost died the first time I met, but… Do you want to come to the plaza with us next weekend? And hang out with us at lunch?” Lance asks, his voice sounding a little too nervous and words coming out a little too fast. Lance is supposed to be the suave one of his friend group. He’s supposed to be collected and know what to say, how to say it, and how to make it look like he knows it’ll work. Because it always does.

But when it comes to Keith, Lance always flip-flops. He can get Keith to agree to the most ridiculous of things when he’s prompted, but unprompted and requesting personal things? He’s fucked. Keith looks at him, bewildered. “Who’s ‘us’?” He asks, no emotion given away beyond that bewildered look.

“Uh-- Hunk, Pidge, and me. I now know you know Pidge but she never hangs out with you during school hours, but Hunk hasn’t actually met you yet and he wants to, and I thought you could use more friends so--” Lance cuts himself off, “sorry, that was mean. It’s fine if you don’t want to, though. I know you like solitude.”

“Sure.”

“What?” Lance’s head whips up. Keith seems to have relaxed. He spares a small smile.

“I’ll go. And eat lunch with you. We’re going to have to get used to each other anyway, right?” He shrugs, scratching at the red paint. “Might as well enjoy ourselves instead of being miserable. But I have two terms.”

“What is it?”

“You are not taking me to get a haircut, or touching this.” Keith gestures to his forearm. The paint is cracking, and Lance can see skin beneath. He sees something black beneath it, and chalks it up to some really weird blackheads.

“...Okay,” Lance says, because he doesn’t want to ask ‘hey, what the fuck’s up with that anyway? I mean it’s not like you cut or anything, but why so adamant on covering it?’, because that is weird. And Lance isn’t weird. He’s an entirely normal person who says entirely normal things. And just does magic on the side now. Like he said, normal things.

 

 

________________

 

 

Lance is absolutely, positively, drowning in acting homework on this fine Monday afernood.

He’s too stubborn to admit this, however, to his loving friends.

“So I was just sitting here, minding my own damn business, and Iverson has the audacity to come up to me and ask me if i’m supposed to be in this class!” Shouts Pidge, a little too passionate and a little less quiet. “I’m nineteen!”

“Did you show him your ID?” Asks Lance. Beneath the table he sneaks glances to his book, and types out an answer with a free hand.

“Of course I did,” scoffs Pidge, “I’m not an animal.”

“And what did he say?” prompts Hunk, leaning across the table with a wide grin. Iverson, of course, was notorious for being a dickwad. That’s how Hunk and Lance truly got Pidge to come out of her shell-- they bonded over a unanimous hatred for the bastard.

“He just turned super red and stormed off!” Cackles Pidge, like it was the funniest shit ever.

“He doesn’t like to be proven wrong,” Keith suddenly says, his shadow casting over Lance’s shoulder. He nearly drops his textbook at the sound of his voice, his head whipping around to catch a glimpse at him. “Once told me that I wouldn’t amount to anything while I was undecided. Now he glares at me everytime he sees me in the hallway headed to class. Well, tries. Kinda hard to see when you have one eye.”

“Ohh, that’s golden,” wheezes the little gremlin. Hunk is suddenly standing from the table and grinning all the while, rounding the table to meet Keith.

“You must be Keith. I’ve heard so much about you!” chirps Hunk, itching to go in for a hug. After two warning shots from both Lance and Pidge, he offers a handshake instead.

Keith takes the handshake hesitantly. “For your sake, I hope they were good things.”

“You know, as good as you get from Pidge and Lance,” says Hunk with a hearty laugh that makes Keith smile. He seems to notice the smile, too, and his eyes widen with a momentary shock that Lance doesn’t notice because what the fuck Hunk you can’t let Keith know I talk about him to other people.

“Yeah, I know. Assholes,” Keith says, sounding bitter and fond at the same time.

“Right back at you,” Lance finds himself saying in unison with Pidge, who flips him off gracefully.

“Lance is nicer when you get to know him,” Hunk justifies.

“Nah,” He responds from where he sits, “Fake recognizes fake… Wait. Shit.”

“Ha!” Screeches Pidge, all but scrambling onto the table, “You roasted yourself before I could!”

“Fuck! Keith, help me pull some Life is Strange shit because your Chloe Price lookin ass is my last hope!” Pleads Lance, a little too pathetically for his taste. Keith blanches, obviously thinking that he was referencing his actual magic when, in the spur of the moment, Lance had actually entirely forgotten about it despite the weight of the wand in his hoodie pocket.

It takes Keith two seconds to realize that as well. “Nope, you’re on your own, because I am not letting whatever equivalent of Garrison Nathan Prescott we have shoot my ass in the girls bathroom.”

“Lotor,” Lance says definitively. Pidge and Hunk nod their heads in agreement. Keith takes a seat between Pidge and Hunk.

“Rachel Amber is my third grade love,” Keith says, entirely serious, “I’ll always love you, Puff the magic dragon.”

“Oh my god, this bullshit again,” Says Pidge, like it’s a normal fucking thing for Keith to say. Lance, however, has ascended into madness. He had this idea of Keith, you know? Cool, collected, calculating, apathetic Keith, who once saved his life and nearly killed him because of it. Not… Puff the magic dragon fucker Keith. “We get it, your gay ass had a sexual awakening via Puff the Magic Dragon--”

“Danny Phantom,” cuts in Keith. He is still deadpan, like this is the most important thing in the world to him, “And Troy Bolton. God, Katie, how could you forget such essential parts of me.”

Pidge raises her hands innocently. Unlike the rest of her friends, Keith seems to be able to get away with calling her Katie, even if it’s under this sort of context. “My apologies, edgelord. I’ll make sure to never forget again. Would you like the Rock to be added to the list?”

“Yes. He’d treat me right.”

And then, like an idiot, it finally hits Lance. His laughter halts and he freezes, hunched over on the table. His phone falls from his lap and onto the floor. Pidge, Hunk, and Keith, however, carry on.

Oh.

Oh.

Blocking the side of his mouth that Keith could see, he catches Pidge’s attention and mouthes ‘he’s gay?’

Her response is to give him a tired look and nod briefly as for Keith to not notice. ‘How could you not notice’ her deadpan gaze reads, ‘it was so obvious’.

“And those muscles,” Lance adds,turning away from Pidge to Keith, “I’d let him cradle me, no problem.”

“That’s respectable.” Keith bobs his head in assent. Then he’s freezing, though his face remains apathetic and unreadable. Lance can feel the walls building themselves back up for no reason in particular, in the form of an old fire crawling up his throat. Quick, thinks Lance, how do I stop him from shutting off?

“Keith,” he blurts out, temporarily forgetting his pride and arrogance for the sake of conversation, “can you help me with my homework?”

“I knew you had homework due today,” says Hunk, a little offended, “and I’m just letting you know that I’m very hurt you didn’t tell me.”

“Shut up, Hunk, I live my life and you live yours,” Lance says dismissively, still focused on Keith. Pidge remains eerily silent.

“...What’s the homework?” He asks hesitantly. A valid hesitance, really.

“Well, you see…” Lance begins to describe his homework like it’s clockwork. He has to analyze a character from any play or stage production, and then write and memorize a monologue in character, and present it to his class. He knows the monologue will be easy, it’s just that he can’t analyze the character and truly step into his shoes. It’s something Hunk is typically brilliant at, though he won’t take Lance’s praises. And Pidge is.. Pidge. But Keith is the top of the class-- arguably the top of the Garrison, too. If anyone could help him in an entirely different field of work, it would be him. So, he does as Lance does. He talks a little to wild and a little too passionately about his studies and his craft. Keith makes a few comments here and there, mostly little inquiries on aspects he finds interesting.

He pretends not to see Pidge smiling.

 

 

________________

 

 


“So,” Begins Finn after rehearsal, throwing his bag across the room, seemingly not giving a fuck about any of its contents.

“So,” echos Lance as he drags a makeup wipe down his face.

“I think I’m going to sell the most tickets,” He says, his hand skimming across Hyun’s bare back. Subtle, but enough for Lance to take note. Especially when Hyun doesn’t react to it like he would anyone else. Merely takes off his shirt and tosses it into a corner. “Because apparently the girls are all antisocial as hell.”

“Nah.” Lance tosses his makeup wipe into a trash can below his table, squinting at his reflection. He sounds like a cocky asshole, but at this point he's too tired to care. “I’m going to sell the most.”

“Really? Last I checked your only friends were us, Hunk, and Katie,” Leon asks, giving a sly look to Lance.

“So,” Lance says, beginning to count on his fingers, “we have Abella, Emeline, Marco, Luis, Veronica, Esmerelda, Miguel, Abby, My mami and papi, Abuelita, Abuelo, Hunk, Pidge, and whoever Keith may know. That’s already fourteen, give or take a few. Last I checked, Leon only had four, and Finn, you had seven seven.”

“Man, fuck you and your large family,” Finn says dejectedly, muffled through his sweatshirt. “It’s not my fault I only have two sisters.”

“Finn, my dude,” Lance places a hand on his shoulder, looking at him seriously. “Just be glad the rest is still in Cuba.”

A shudder ripples through the room.

There’s a sole memory everyone who participates in these productions has-- Lance’s entire family coming to his Freshman production, taking up a majority of the front and back of the theatre and cheering a little too loudly after his scenes. It had been dubbed ‘the Rapture’ by Pidge.

“Okay, but how do you know Keith’ll invite people?” Retorts Hyun, still unashamedly shirtless.

And then, speak of the devil, Lance’s phone rings. “Hang on, everyone shut up for a second,” he says, digging for his phone vibrating somewhere in a bag at his feet. He finds it in a side pocket. He sees Keith’s angry face peering up at him from his icon, his wonderful gesture cropped out. “Yo.”

“Are you here yet? I’m getting weird looks and I’m afraid someone’s going to get Caldwell.” Keith sounds just as bored as usual, low conversation in the background. “And I don’t think I want to have that conversation with him yet.”

Lance lets out a little laugh. “Yeah, let me put my shoes on real quick. Quick question, though.”

“Quick answer.”

“Alright, so, I know you’re tasked to not letting me die some sort of gruesome death, but I was wondering if you’re going to invite your brother to come see the production? Maybe Allura and Coran, too?” He asks, slipping on his tennis shoes. Keith remains silent for a good few seconds, like he’s pondering the consequences.

“Yeah, they’ll go. They all enjoy these sorts of things, anyway. Heathens they may be.”

Lance throws a fist in the air victoriously. Finn curses under his breath. “Nice!” He cheers, a little too loud. He repeats, “Nice. Alright, I’m headed out right now. If you see Caldwell, run.”

“Is that… Is that a joke or...?” Asks Keith slowly.

“No.” Lance hangs up. Leon turns to face him, a sly little look on his face. “What, dude.”

“You guys--” He begins with that stupid smirk. Lance knows what he’s going to ask, because he’s asked him this every time Lance makes a new friend.

“--We’re not dating,” he quickly interjects, “He’s helping me analyze a character.” Which, technically, is true.

Technically.

Leon hums, obviously not convinced. He waves at Lance as he barges out the door shouting goodbye over his shoulder. Estella throws open the girl’s changing room to shout “have fun!” After him, despite having no idea where he’s going or doing.

“Oh thank God,” breathes Keith upon seeing Lance bounding from backstage. Adina is inches from his face, most likely doing her thing where she tries to read someone’s thoughts. Her head whips to Lance, and understanding dawns on her face. She stalks off with a clap on his shoulder in passing. “I thought you’d never get out. ”

“Calm your dick, I was just taking off my makeup from acting 101,” Lance says, already headed for the exit with Keith close to his side. “Which went wonderfully, by the way. Thanks for your help, dude.”

“Seems to be what I’m here for,” Keith says with a shrug, tugging on his sleeve. A warmth sweeps over the room, only intense from where Lance stands. “So. Today marks the day where I get stuck with you for an undiscerned amount of time, huh?”

“Indeed it is,” muses Lance. He gives a glinted look to Keith, smug grin plastered to his face. “But my mami always told me its better to be stuck in the company of someone who you enjoy for eons than someone you hate.”

Keith turns away from Lance, facing forward. The warmth dances, and he hugs his arms tightly. His eyes are still unreadable, just like his expression. No catching of the breath or wide eyes. Certainty. Lance knows it well. “Your mother is a wise woman, then. I think… I agree with her in this case.”

Lance smiles.

 

"I agree with her too."

Chapter Text

The voice of the ocean rolls with the motion of Lance. It calls and prods to him just as it did in Allura’s presence, only louder. Making itself known. He can nearly make out a voice, the longer he sits here with a pencil in hand and notebook on his knee.

 

Like a seashell found on the beach, Lance can easily listen.

 

All he has to do is reach out.

 

The voice reaches back out to him.

 

The connection retreats.

 

“It’s not working,” Lance groans, pencil rolling from his hand to the floor. Water falls into a metal bucket on his left. The stench of flowers and herbs poisons his senses, his surroundings crashing back in on him. Dazzling crystals are scattered and stashed in every nook and cranny, the only empty spot a desk in a corner with little runes spilling out of a box, scrolls and old notebooks stacked all around them.

 

“Then we move on,” Keith irritably suggests from his spot beside Lance, his head on the floor and legs propped against the wall. He twirls his own wand in a free hand, focusing on the ceiling intensely. “And try again tomorrow. The fact that you can even recognize a voice is reason enough to believe you’ll hear it one day. And if it never works, whatever. We’re here to learn how to cast magic, not listen to the ocean.”

 

“Alright. What do we try today?” Asks Lance, setting his notebook aside. Keith twirls his wand in a circle, notebook lifting in front of his face and remaining there. The pages turn when he flicks his wand.

 

“Mental manipulation first.” An image of Nyma flashes through Lance’s mind, grinning wickedly. There was something about her that told Lance that Keith deflecting her so easily wasn’t an easy feat. “You have to… put yourself in my shoes, basically. Try and get into my head and move shit around.”

 

“Should be easy enough,” Stretching out his legs, Lance pulls his wand out from in between him and Keith. The wood has aquamarine embedded into the very grain, forming a ravine that trails into the sound of a wave crashing in on itself, raw aquamarine forming the froth. He prods Keith in the rib with the tip. “I mean, I get into your mind without even trying.”

 

“Entirely different way of getting into my mind.”

 

“Bullshit,” Lance says. Keith swats his knee lazily, prodding him to focus. With a huff, Lance does what he does best when he has no damn clue what he’s doing-- imitates other people. Meeting Keith’s unblinking gaze, Lance mimics Nyma’s mannerisms, down to the way the corners of her lips were upturned and up to the furrowing brows. He imagines Keith acting as his own puppet, walking like he had no joints, actually laughing at his jokes, taking off that stupid sweater of his, walking up to Lance and---

 

“You can’t get in,” Keith says without looking away from Lance. He blinks once, otherwise remaining unblinking. “I can feel you in here, but you’re not able to force your way entirely in and take over.”

 

“So I have the capacity to do it?” Asks Lance, still trying to push further. Keith shrugs, which is super telling.

 

“Depends on how much you can apply your nosiness into your magic.” His wand appears in his hand, pressing itself to his temple. Lance feels a barrier form, shoving him far out. “Let’s try quelling.”

 

Quelling-- a magic that helps to calm another person and make them happy (or make them numb altogether, depending on the person)-- turns out to not be Lance’s forte either. It takes an hour and a half for Lance to get the hint, Keith having already gotten it five minutes into the struggle.

 

“Lance—“

 

“Shut up, give me like ten more minutes—“

 

“Lance,” snaps Keith, agitation rising in him and his fire. “It’s not working.”

 

“But it can! If I just try a little bit—!”

 

Keith rises from his seat. He had shifted from laying on the floor to sitting on the chair from his desk thirty minutes into the study and remained there with a deathly stillness until now.

 

Fuming, he charges out the door and slams it behind him.  Lance sighs. If anything was an indication that the whole quelling thing wasn’t working, this was it.

 

“‘It’s not going to work,’” mocks Lance, making his imitation of Keith squeaky and high pitched which, he’ll admit, is a bit rude even for him. Huffing an exasperated groan, he throws himself onto the wood spread-eagle. The plants dangling overhead twist and turn where they’re positioned. Colorful crystals cast colorful shadows across Lance’s body.

 

The ocean calls to him.

 

He wants to answer.

 

He’s trying to answer.

 

But--

 

“Seriously, Shiro, I can’t for the life of me figure out his passive magic! I’m starting to think Allura was just fucking with me now!” Cries Keith, the door promptly slamming open. Lance nearly leaps out of his skin, throwing himself back into a sitting position and feigning nonchalance. A really tall, really burly guy stands behind Keith, talking about something about ‘candle duty’. Then he sees Lance. He freezes, eyes widening his other hand rushing to cover a wooden arm barely peeking out from his sleeve. Wait. Lance would recognize this man anywhere.

“Holy shit,” Lance is saying as laughter bubbles out of him, “you’re lampost guy!”

 

“Lampost guy…?” Keith says hesitantly, looking from Shiro to Lance with confusion.

 

Ay por dios ! Dude, you’re my hero!” He cackles, rolling onto the floor and back up again. “Holy fuck, I can’t wait to tell Pidge about this!”

 

“Shiro, what the hell is he talking about?” In an instant, Keith is reeling on his own brother while Lance, nearly dies of laughter. Shiro looks around the room frantically, before giving up and giving in. He must have deduced that jumping out the window wasn’t a smart choice.

 

“Okay so… One Black Friday night, the year where I got you those paints, I got the living shit scared out of me and ended up teleporting onto a lampost. But, in my defense, I didn’t know they were there and that dog was terrifying.”

 

“Cement Block is a Malinois! He’s not even threatening!” Cries Lance, now in tears.

 

“Huh,” Keith says, a dead look in his eyes. Like he didn’t expect to learn of this secret through Lance. “Well, glad to know you each other. Anyway, as I was saying--”

 

“Yeah, yeah, Lance’s the problem child of passive abilities,” Shiro says dismissively, digging around in the box of runes. He finds his target and tosses it to Lance, who catches it with a yelp. “Try teleportation. It’s not passive, but it functions the same.”

 

“Why teleportation?” Lance asks, quirking a brow as he rubs his thumb over the rune. It’s a strengthening rune. To make up for lost energy, maybe?

 

“Because,” Shiro says, raking a hand through his shock of white hair and eyeing his brother, “it’s the one metamorphose ability that can be undetected even to Keith. We thought I had been born without a primary magic until our mother took us to Allura’s father.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Well, other than my secondary being Aether? It’s engraved into your genetic code.” Shiro props himself up on the desk, far away enough to view the spectacle to come. Keith, like an idiot, remains near Lance. “When you rely on the magical atmosphere in their soul, you don’t really think to look into science.”

 

Huh. Aether or Teleportation. Considering Allura herself told Lance to take the passive route, he won’t mess with Aether. Yet. “Alright,” he says, determination settling in his heart, “What do I have to do to teleport?”

 

Shiro smiles. It's warm and encouraging. 

 

Lance doesn't feel very encouraged.



________________

Turns out, Lance can’t teleport either. When he barely struggles to grasp it, Shiro intervenes with a panic and explains that if he can’t get it right on the first try, without much training he would end up limbless or in a different plane of existence.

 

So, needless to say, Lance decided to call it a day by one, deciding he needed to return back to the magic-less world with Keith as his unwilling companion.

 

“Don’t forget to make sure the enchantment on the door stays so you don’t have someone seeing something they shouldn’t,” Keith was repeating for the fifth time, Shiro all but throwing him out the front door.

 

“If you don’t shut up and trust me right this second I’ll put you on candle duty next week,” Shiro says with a lethal look. He sounds like he’s joking despite his outward appearance, though, and Keith relents immediately, grabbing Lance by his sleeve and speed-walking away. “Goodbye! Have fun! Tell Katie about the incident and I’ll kill you in the astral realm!” says Shiro in a cheery voice. A cold sweat rolls down Lance’s neck.

 

“Will he actually--?” Lance begins, cut off by Keith.

 

“No. Now, where’s your car?” He asks, halting as the sudden realization crashes onto him that he has no idea where he’s going.

 

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh…” Lance trails off, looking wildly for his shitty, beat up car. When he can’t find it nearby, he sets off the alarm. It blares from somewhere across the street. He turns to Keith with a stoic look. “I’d say somewhere over there.”

 

“Great.”

 

“C’mon, a little walking won’t kill you,” Lance says, already jay-walking across the street like all hell's breaking loose. Keith cries out about how running into oncoming traffic definitely will kill him, following him nevertheless.

 

“You’re so stupid,” He decides once Lance’s stupid car was located.

 

Lance raises his hands in a nonchalant ‘what can you do’ pose, the car unlocking behind him. “And yet you’re stuck with me.”

 

“I’m not stuck with you,” Keith countered as he shoved himself in, the rickety door slamming shut a little too harshly. “I could leave whenever I want to. But then I’d have to kill you.”

 

“Ah, respectable.” The car sputters to life. “I honor your decision to allow me to see the next day.”

 

“As you should.”


 

 

________________


Lance and Keith are, unsurprisingly, the last people to arrive at the meet-up spot. Pidge is already seated in front of the Gamestop, sipping a smoothie and pretending she was laying at the beach, with Hunk as the lower portion of her lounge chair.

 

“We ate without you,” she announces, tipping back her sunglasses to side-eye the two. “Since you two were too busy making out in fucking Timbuktu.”

 

“Hunk,” says Lance, knowing fully well that Pidge isn’t to be trusted.

 

“We ordered for you,” he translates, hands resting on Pidge’s pasty bare ankles. He pats a chair, Pidge slamming her smoothie on the area cleared for another seat.

 

“Alright, so, game plan?” Lance asks, sliding into the seat. Keith, albeit awkwardly, follows suit.

 

“We’re staring off easy first,” Pidge explains, Keith nudging her into a sitting position. She points behind Hunk. “Gamestop. I gotta get myself a damn switch so Te-osh will stop spoiling Breath of the Wild for me.”

 

“Pidge, honey, sweetie,” Lance says, his hands pressed together in front of his face. “The game’s been out for a fucking year.”

 

“And I’ve managed to last this long, I know. It’s called perseverance.” Pidge slams her half-empty cup on the table, leaning across it to glare at Lance. “And it’s the only reason why I’ve gotten more girls than you.”

 

“Ave Maria!” Cries Lance, doing the sign of the cross right then and there, “forgive me, holy mother, but I’m about to fuck up this hobgoblin’s face. It's an honor thing, and I pray you understand!”

 

“Oh, shut up. You’re just mad that almost every girl in the theatre game is gay, and I’m their tech-savvy knight in shining armor.”

 

Hunk shakes his head slowly. “I still can’t believe you almost got a girlfriend for rescuing tech week.”

 

Keith’s head snaps away from a flower bed. “Wait, wasn’t that the day where someone got a prop arrow stuck in--”

 

“His thigh? Yeah, that was Lance,” Pidge says almost wistfully. “Then he got food poisoning and almost threw up on stage, almost got decked by Finn accidentally fucking up the sand bags, etcetera etcetera.”

 

“And that, hot stuff, is why your class was set up to save our asses because we might know all of Shakespeare’s monologues by heart, but we don’t know shit about first-aid,” Lance says, eyeing a waitress with a tray full of food. It’s their food it’s their food it’s their food it’s their food-- “ Pinga !” Lance hisses. Not their food.

 

“Stop flirting with Keith,” Pidge deadpans.

 

“I’m not--” Lance says defensively, cutting himself off. Keith watches him with a cool expression, his gaze studious. “Pidge Holt, look me in the eyes and tell me Keith isn’t the most hot-headed person you know.”

 

“Like your grandma after Easter vigil,” she says, nodding seriously. “But why phrase it like you’re flirting?”

 

Lance raises a brow at her. She says no more, shrugging her shoulders innocently.

 

“Okay, after Gamestop,” Lance says after the food arrives and he’s already shoved half a burger down his throat, “we gotta go clothes shopping. My quota is something not red or black for Keith, and Pidge gets a dress.”

 

“But I have one,” she whines, shoving her hands into her pockets menacingly. Well, if a toddler could be menacing.

 

“Pidge. The dress you wore when Matt got into the Garrison doesn’t count.” Lance wheels on Keith. He’s leaning far back into his chair in a similar matter to the person of interest, but a little grin is spread across his face like he knows he’s got her right where he wants her. It’s… Threatening to Lance’s attraction to him. “Besides, I heard that someone you might like really enjoys floral dre--”

 

“I’m getting a dress,” Pidge announces. “Also, did fucking Acxa tell you? If she did I’m going to personally whoop her ass and, by association, Ezor’s ass.”

 

“Oooh, throw in Lotor’s ass for good measure,” Lance croons.

 

“As nice as it would be to see that lot get it handed to them, no. She didn’t.” Keith leaves his input on the conversation as that and glares down at the food Pidge had ordered for him.

 

“After clothes shopping, we’re going to Michaels, then Sephora. Luis wants a new sketchbook, and you know a bitch needs his concealer.”

 

“Oh, I need lipstick,” Pidge muses like it wasn’t reforming the world. The table stares at her for a long while. “What? My lifestyle might not call for dresses but I like to feel pretty sometimes.”

 

“Sometimes,” Hunk echoed gravely. “Definitely not prom night.”

 

“Definitely,” agrees Lance.

 

“Honestly, I don’t care that I looked like early 2000’s fashion on heroin because Y'all dumbasses saved me from spending a whole ass night with Greg.”

 

Hunk, Lance, and Pidge slammed their fists on the table in a rhythmic pattern, chanting ‘fuck Greg he’s an egg that paid to get laid’ for about a straight minute, then resuming their meal like nothing happened.

 

Lance tries not to laugh at the puzzled look Keith spares them.



“Behold!” Cries Pidge as the four exit Gamestop. She reveals a Snorlax plush from the bag, raising him to the sun. “My son!”

 

Lance and Hunk begin clapping, Keith’s eyes narrowing at the spectacle. People were staring. People were talking. People were laughing. Lance didn’t care. Pretending to sob, he encircled his small friend in a bone-crushing hug. “I’m so proud of y-y-yooou,” he wails dramatically.

 

“Ah,” Keith says duly, “theatre.”

 

“Theatre,” Hunk says as if it were the most simple concept to grasp. Lance could only understand the context because he spoke Pidge, who in turn spoke Keith. ‘So this is why he’s like this’ .

 

“Your child is so beautiful,” Lance compliments as the four take initiative to continue to Lance’s selected destination. “He’ll grow up to be big and beautiful.”

 

“That he will. We will dominate the world, Snorlax, my future wife and me.”

 

“Why does your wife have to be world-dominating?” Hunk asks, “Why can’t she be the good cop to your bad cop?”

“Because,” Pidge explains, taking a large stride forward, “if your type is people like Shay who ‘smiles like the sun’, I’m allowed to have my love for fierce, dominant women and Lance and Keith get… whatever fuckfest they have going on in there.”

 

“I have A Lot happening and It’s a little too much for anyone other than my mami and Emeline to handle,” Lance admits honestly. Then it was Keith’s turn to explain himself.

 

“I’ve got too much to hide and not much to reveal,” he says, phrasing it like a question.

 

“Amen,” Pidge says, phrasing it like ‘ah, men’, which is more of a pun the more Lance thinks about it.

 

“Amen,” Hunk and Lance echo.

 

“Now,” Lance continues, dramatically pushing through the front doors of what Lance has recently discovered to be an Altean fashion branch. Apparently, Allura was everywhere and Lance was too stupid to notice her until now. “We shop.”

 

 

 

________________

 

In the end, Lance’s magic worked on Keith. He had coerced him into getting a pair of jeans, a brown jacket that wasn’t leather or a cardigan of sorts, and a purple shirt. The shirt had been the easiest, and when Lance asked why?

 

“It reminds me of my family,” he had simply said. There was a sad look in his eyes as he rubbed the fabric with his thumb. Lance didn’t push it further and suggested they go help Pidge.

 

Pidge, naturally, picked something green. It was floral like Keith advised, but so… Pidge. Despite the shoulders being cut off to reveal her mass of freckles, she flaunted it like she was the baddest bitch on the block. Flowers of which Lance couldn’t identify were littered across the dress, crawling around the waist and edging across the skirt.

 

“You need shoes for it,” Keith had added. Unlike the rest of these heathens, he had actually known the name of the flowers and decided that they were better off not knowing. Besides, the pattern would keep her safe.

 

“Nah, I’ll just take some of Abella’s,” Pidge says, pushing her sunglasses back up to the top of her head. She tosses the dress to Lance, the designated clothes bearer, and sets off to the cash register like she has a mission to accomplish. She snags a bag of candy on her march down.

 

She eats them without sparing a single piece even as a tribute to Hunk or her ‘son’, Dickweed. The bag is gone by the time they’re entering Michael’s.

 

“Okay, so, Shiro mentioned something about getting you paints?” Lance says, headed down the aisles without a clue of where he’s headed. “So you should know a thing or two about art. Help me.”

 

“Does he sketch?”

 

“Work’s with a whole bunch of shit, honestly. Likes to express himself.”

 

Keith’s expression is calculating. Then he’s turning down an aisle sharply, pulling a blue sketchbook from the shelf without hesitation. “Get him this. And actually, I don’t really do art.”

 

“You don’t?” Lance asks quizzically.

 

“I just put everything I feel down on a canvas. No rhythm or method to the madness.”

 

“Woah, really?” Pidge asks, halting in the front. Hunk vanishes down the aisle for cake decorating. “I thought you just finger painted for the childhood you missed out on.”

 

“First, rude. Second, there’s a lot you don’t know about me.” Keith glances to Lance, who’s hand flies protectively to the wand poking out of his pocket. “A lot .”

 

 

 

________________


Lance doesn’t know what he’s doing right now. What he’s thinking. But he feels Keith’s hot breath on his chin knows that they’ve only got a few inches between them, and begins to lose his fucking mind.

 

But, of course, this is only on a friendly term. Just… helping someone apply eyeliner to test it. Bros being bros and all that hetero bullshit. Naturally, that means Lance shouldn’t be feeling the way he is right now.

 

Especially when Keith opens his eyes.

 

“Does it look good?” He asks, voice sounding so far away. The oceans are rising.

 

“Yeah.” Lance barely comprehends himself speaking the words. The salt is settling on his tongue. “It does.”

 

Keith turns scarlet. “Good,” he says. So far away. His eyes are intense through the blue. His lips are visible through the seafoam. “If this is really smudge-proof, competitions should be more bearable.”

 

“You would look good even if it smudged.”

 

Keith stares. The ocean is above his head.

 

Lance is drowning. The ocean begins to boil beneath a flaming touch.

 

“Sirs?” A far-away voice asks. The ocean begins to retreat. The flame is gone in an instant. “Do you need any help?”

 

“Yeah,” he manages, turning from Keith, “I do, actually. I can’t find foundation in my skin tone. My go-to brand’s all out and if I don’t get any pronto I might just cry.”

 

“No you won’t,” says the hot-head behind him, his breathing just as unsteady as Lance’s heartbeat. “It’s not the end of the world.”

 

“I think I know a shade that might work for you,” the woman says. Lance can process her features, now that the ocean is receding. “And for your boyfriend, if he needs it.”

 

“Oh, no, we’re not--”

 

“We’re good,” Keith says, flat and cold. “We have a friend that might need help though.” He gestures to Pidge, who looks like a lost child in a damn amusement park, Hunk the tired but willing information guide.

 

“I say let her figure it out. You know how stubborn she is, dude,” Lance says, sticking his tongue out at Hunk in passing. “If someone tries to help her she’ll just pick a random color and hate herself for a month. And I want her happy to appreciate the gift I’m getting her for Christmas.”

 

Keith snickers. He seems to recall a memory, Lance guesses from the fond look in his eyes. The ocean threatens to rise.

 

Lance looks away.

 

The ocean falls.

 

And leaves only hot vapor in its wake.


 

 

________________


“Mammmiiii,” whines Lance, throwing himself onto the table dramatically. It creaks beneath his weight but doesn’t break. “I’m having problems.”

 

“School problems?” She suggests warmly. The heat of the stove settles over the kitchen in a thick blanket. It feels like home to Lance, and smells like his childhood. His Papi sits at a chair on the island, turning his head to look at his most… flamboyant son. Not that it’s a bad thing to him, necessarily. He just popped out of the womb with spirit fingers and he didn’t know what the fuck to do from that point on.

 

“Life problems,” affirms Lance.

 

“Keith problems,” translates Luis. Emiline nods her head in confirmation, holding Cement Block back by his collar to save Lance’s life from a slobbery, slobbery death.

 

“He’s a fire,” Lance says, spreading his arms out across the table. “An intense as all hell forest fire.”

 

“As you’ve said before,” deadpans Emiline.

 

“I don’t think I can get out of it alive.”

 

“You got out of highschool alive,” Papi says in that stern voice of his, “you can get out of this alive.”

 

“He’s super frustrating and annoying.”

 

“We’re aware.”

 

“But he’s so nice and funny when he wants to be. I think he pushes people away.”

 

“Takashi warned me about that a while back,” Emeline says.

 

“I’m going to punch him.”

 

“I’ll punch you first if you’d like.”

 

Esmerelda .”

 

“But mami, he’d have it coming to him!” complains the newly-arriving sister. She plops down in one of the seats on Lance’s Disney-princess dramatic collapsing table and stares at him with those intense eyes of hers. “Is he hot.”

 

“Fuck yeah, he is.”

 

Lance .”

 

“Mami, I speak only truth in this blessed kitchen of ours.”

 

“His brother’s just as hot,” Abella adds, “Like, he’s older than I am but damn would I tap that.”

 

“Abella!” Now it’s Papi's time to chastise the children.

 

“We’re legally adults, Papi. Let us say fuck.”

 

“Let us say fuck,” the McClain children repeat, pounding their fists on nearby surfaces. Pidge joins in somewhere upstairs.

 

“Maria,” Papi says, “get the sandal.”

 

“Oh, shit.” Lance is wheezing as he throws himself off of the table, all children running out of the kitchen like hell broke loose. Emiline is the only child to remain, sitting at the table with a dead look in her eyes.

 

“I served my nickel. I get to say fuck all I want,” Lance hears her say as he bounds up the stairs and throws himself into Abella’s room, where all of the other siblings have taken fort from the looming threat of their mami’s chancla.

 

“I say we send Lance down to take the fall,” Luis is saying, “he’s mami’s favorite, so she’ll go easy on him.”

 

“Well the medallion says that’s dumb, so we’re not gonna do that,” Lance says, closing the door and barricading it with a chair. “I say Pidge.”

 

“Man, fuck you,” Pidge says from the other room.

 

“You’re not family! If she chanclas you it’s assault!”

 

“She is family,” Esmerelda says solemnly, “just not blood. So, still assault.”

 

“Pidge, go to the kitchen,” Luis says, kicking the wall harshly. She kicks back.

 

“You first, pussy.”

 

“Guys, guys, we live in a democracy,” Abella says, settling the gathered family. “So. All in favor of sending Pidge first?”

 

“I,” echos all McClain siblings.

 

“I hate this fucking family,” is all PIdge says. A door slams shut moments later.

 

“They’re learning,” Lance hears his Papi say quietly from the kitchen.

 

“Of course they’re learning. Did you forget that they’re all in nerd school?” Emeline deadpans.

 

“Lance goes next,” Esmerelda says, already shoving her lanky brother to the door. She salutes him, removing the chair. Luis and Abella follow suit.  “Godspeed, little brother.”

 

Lance salutes them back.


 

 

________________


It’s rare for Lance to have even half of his siblings together other than holidays. If you haven’t noticed yet-- Esmeralda and Luis only show up on occasional weekends. So when he manages to get not only just one or two of his siblings but four gathered in the same room, Lance is beyond a happy camper. Even if all they to is harass each other and catch up on the week.

 

“So I was sitting there, with hot sauce on my titties,” Esmerelda began, promptly elbowed by Emeline. “Kidding, kidding. Okay, so I was sitting next to this gorgeous girl-- Allura, I think her name was? And we were really vibing and shit. She had this really cool aura, y’know? And she goes off on this tangent about how the world has this special kind of magic that not everyone can see and it was kinda poetic. Anyway, she started telling me about how hard it is to balance college and her father’s business and I asked her what it was, y’know, like you do, and she just tells me ‘oh, Altea corp’ like it isn’t a big fucking deal! Then she just continued like nothing happened!”

 

“She’s just like that,” Emeline says with a shrug. “I tried asking her adoptive caretaker why he doesn’t run it for her and he told me she feels responsible to take over his legacy.”

 

“Allura’s also just… independent as hell,” Lance adds, a bit hesitant. He had to hold in his laughter the entire time Esmerelda spoke because it was so obvious that Allura was definitely talking about actual magic being everywhere. The table freezes turning to him with eyes like saucers.

 

“You know Allura?”

 

“Uhh...yeah? Keith introduced us a week back. Not in like an ‘I want you to date’ way, he just needed something from her for me and thought it best we meet.”

 

“Dude, what the fuck--”

 

“--Language--”

 

“-- How do you keep meeting all of these influential and hot people!” Cries Abella, “I can’t even meet my own standards!”

 

“Abella, that’s nonsense,” chastises Mami, “You meet your own standards and more.”

 

“You just have to be nice , dear sister,” Lance croons, promptly shoving a forkful of food into his mouth.

 

“False,” Pidge attests, “I haven’t been nice to anyone since the seventh grade on the Ides of March and I know so many hot people.”

 

“Yeah, but you gotta be nice to the influential people. Get on their good side.”

 

“Only possible for you because you’ve got that silver tongue of yours,” Emeline says, sticking her tongue out at him. “The rest of us can’t negotiate for shit.”

 

“It’s not my fault that I’ve just got that special kind of magic no one else ha--” Lance says, promptly cutting himself off. He drops his fork, the metal clashing down on porcelain. In an instant, everything clicks into place. Like he was trying to solve a Rubix cube for a year and suddenly you can find yourself able to solve it in a minute.

 

Shit .

 

“Excuse me,” Lance says, pushing himself off from the table with a brutal force. “I’ll be right back.”

 

“Tell Keith I said hi!” Chirps Pidge with smug malice in her words.

 

Lance gives her the bird over his shoulder, pulling out his phone with his free hand and desperately seeking out Keith’s number with a shaking thumb.

 

“What.” is the exasperated greeting he gets. Lance presses his back against the hallway wall, closing his eyes and releasing a deep breath.

 

“Hey, Keith, I know you’re probably eating dinner around now and this is just a thought, but…

 

“Is there a passive magic that makes you really good at getting people to do what you want them to do? Like, really good?”

 

Chapter Text

Lance…”

 

The ocean moves with Lance’s every motion. He sees the face that belongs to the voice- a dark silhouette that stands in a parting of the ocean. Water curls around him.

 

“Lance…”

 

Water replaces the blood in his veins. It becomes a part of him. Salt water fills his lungs and burns his nostrils. He can’t breathe.

 

He can’t breathe .

 

“Lance!”

 

Water comes crashing around Lance, his hair sticking to his forehead. The room spins when he first opens his eyes, so he closes them and waits for the dizziness to go away. “What, Abella?” He can process himself saying irritably, though his own voice sounds so far away. His underwear is drenched from the water that came crashing down on him. The drain eats it up hungrily as he forces himself up.

 

“Stop hogging the bathroom! I have to piss!”

 

“Just give me like, a minute,” Lance responds, shakily lifting himself out of the empty bathtub. The room tilts sideways. His legs feel numb and heavy, even as they carry him to the sink. “Please?”

 

“...One minute,” Abella relents. “That’s it.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

It takes one exact minute for Lance to gather himself. He wraps his wand up in his towel as to shield it from Abella’s prying eyes (a genius plan to him at the time, in his defense), pulls his still buzzing phone off of the counter, and throws the door open after Abella’s third strike on the door. “It’s all yours,” he says, sounding more exhausted than he meant to.

 

“Lance, are you-?”

 

“I’m fine.” Lance rubs at his face, harshly slapping his sister on the back. Like the pain would make her ignore anything out of the usual with him. Stupid, he knows. But it’s all he can do, since they’ve never believed him in the past and she’ll definitely think he’s gone nuts if he bursts out talking about how there’s someone trying to speak to him through his magic. “Just tired.”

 

He makes it to his room before Abella can push any further. A weight leaves his shoulder and he just... breathes . He hears his heartbeat- painfully so ever since Keith had done a momentary experiment on him. Trying to figure out the lasting effects of his magic on Lance specifically. Like he’s different. Which he definitely is not . Well, in spellcasting terms, that is. So then why-

 

Lance’s phone buzzes.

 

Keith (8:54 AM): I know I’m in my 8 AM class and you don’t really have one but I’m kind of freaking out right now and I can’t bear Shiro’s stupid pity look or Pidge’s psychoanalyzing. Can you come to the Garrison?

 

Of course. Speak of the devil (or think, in this case) and he will appear. But there’s one teensy, tiny, miniscule issue Lance has with this sudden appearance of your local edgelord. Keith never talks to Lance about these sorts of things. Be it Keith’s inability to trust any living being or his whole stiffness about Lance as a whole, he just never went to Lance for… anything, really.

 

Lance (8:55 AM): Uhh what building?

 

Keith (8:55 AM): Humanities. What building do you think I’m in?

 

Lance (8:56 AM): Sorry. I was practicing and pushed it too far so I’m kind of out of it right now. I’m headed out right now. My mami says hi.

 

Keith (8:56 AM): Thank you. Tell her I said hi.

 

Lance makes it to the Garrison in record time, if he’s gonna be honest. There was just something about Keith’s message that forced him to get up, change in under thirty seconds, and just go hurdling out the door with his keys in hand.

 

And makes it to the Health building just in time to see Keith bursting through the door like he had been trying his entire life to. Then he’s freezing up and over entirely, looking at Lance with shock. He knows that he got there… fast, but Keith just looks like a deer in the headlights.All Lance can do is shrug and say, “follow me,” before turning around and headed around the side of the building. Thankfully, it’s deserted. Though he won’t verbally admit it, Lance doesn’t know what he’d do if he found a couple making out or something in this moment.

 

“Alright,” Lance says, watching as Keith slumps down to the ground with his back to the wall. “What’s up.”

 

Keith pats the ground next to him, eyeing him warily.

 

Lance complies.

 

“I’m going to say something that’s probably-- no, it’s definitely going to freak you out,” He begins, breathing shaky.

 

“If it’s going to freak me out just get it over with. No point in taking the bandaid off slowly, because it’ll just drive you crazy.”

 

“Right. Okay.” Keith closes his eyes, and folds his hands in his lap. “So, in human terms, I freaked the fuck out for no reason and had a breakdown in the middle of the lecture. And then I was freaking out more because of it, and the fact that people were staring. I might have… Set myself on fire for a second, too.”

 

“Panic attack?”

 

“Something of the sorts. I mean, yeah, partially, but...”

 

“Alright. What does this translate to in Spellcaster terms?”

 

“Well, it translates to one of two things. The first being me just leaving myself unprotected and...whatever psychological issues I might have coming up and vomiting all over me. It’s a common effect another spellcaster in my class has on me.”

 

“The second?”

 

Keith eyes Lance warily. “You projected your emotions to me. Not voluntarily, I’ll bet.”

 

Lance’s heart skips a beat, and his blood runs cold. “What the hell would lead you to think that.” He doesn’t phrase it like a question. Like a demand. No. Lance doesn’t want it to be phrased like that. He doesn’t know if Keith wants --

 

“Well, like I said, you function… differently from the rest of us. When I healed you, I would get a similar sensation the first couple of times we interacted afterwards. I would feel your pain briefly, and it would melt into the feeling of the ocean. And it always felt weird. Like…”

 

“You were wearing my skin over yours,” Lance finishes. He shoves down all of the panic about how he might get himself hurt somehow, and how Keith might not be voluntarily telling him this. The latter was recent, ever since… last Monday. “It kinda felt like that too. Except it was your burning, and it’s still there. Somewhere in me. I think in my chest? Like it’s just sitting there, making a home.”

 

“God, I don’t want to see Allura. She’s gonna go batshit if there’s something wrong with one of us--”

 

“So we don’t tell her.” Lance speaks before he thinks. It’s his honest-to-god opinion, and it’s what Keith deserves to hear because he’s still nervous and Lance is worried and they’re just freaking the fuck out in general.

 

Keith starts. “I’m sorry?” He asks, hand frozen on his phone.

 

“So we don’t tell her,” he repeats. “She doesn’t have to know about whatever the fuck this is, even if she’s like, super smart and powerful. This can just be between the two of us, y’know?”

 

“A secret.” Keith snorts, like it’s the most childish thing he’s imagined. “A bonding moment .”

 

“You know what if you think it’s stupid--”

“I don’t think it’s stupid!” He says quickly, eyes widening in some sort of shock. “It’s… Yeah. It’s a good idea. I think. No, yeah. It’s good.”

 

“Are you… Trying to convince yourself it’s a good idea?”

 

“No, it’s just that, y’know, once we keep a secret from a goddamn Demiurge, there’s no going back.” Oh. Demiurge. That’s what Allura is, right? Something entirely different from them.

 

“Back to what?”

 

“The inter-Garrison war. Y’know, me and Shiro versus you, Emeline, and like all of the theatre department.” Keith eyes Lance from the side, quirking a brow.

 

“I thought you’d forgotten about that,” Lance admits sheepishly, meeting a very deadpan Keith. “Okay, yeah, you’re right. It wasn’t really serious. You just… bugged me to hell and I thought that was a good outlet.”

 

“Do I still bug you?”

 

“Oh, all the time. Mostly your stubbornness and aversion to working with me. It’s understandable, though. I’m a difficult case for anyone to take. Any of my exes would definitely agree with me there.”

 

“Lance, you’re-- you’re being too easy with me right now,” Keith say, that suspicious look creeping across his features. The fire begins to return, feeling weaker than before. He winces. The fire retreats. “Care to tell me why?”

 

“I-- I honestly don’t know, hot stuff. I’m supposed to be freaking the hell out right now because this is weird and you would have told me if something like this was possible. But I’m not. If I’m going to put it into Pidge terms; I’m ‘internally changing how I present myself for certain situations’.”

 

“You’re a fascinating specimen, Lance.” Keith says this dryly, as he does, but he’s not detached. He’s smiling in his words. He’s smiling on his face, too.

 

Lance can’t breathe.

 

“Your fire’s back,” He wheezes. Then he can breathe, Keith apologizing too much and too fast for Lance to make sense of it. “It’s fine. Jesus, you’re holding back with your magic, huh?”

 

“No, no, I don’t have to hold back, I mean I’ve got a theory about how we affect each other magic-wise and it might carry over but--”

 

“Keith, sorry about this, but I need you to shut up about magic for like, a minute.”

 

And then he does. Just in time for Hunk to approach, looking all bright and smiley.

 

“Hey, dude! And… Keith. Is he okay?” Hunk asks, eyeing Lance.

 

“He’s fine,” Lance says easily, ignoring the glazed look over Keith’s eyes and the way his body tries to shove it off. “But we’re kind of in the middle of something. What’s up?”

 

“Oh, nothing much. I just never see you here so early so I thought I’d say hi and stuff. But since you’re ‘in the middle of something’, I’ll leave you two be. See you guys at the usual time?”

 

“Yeah,” Lance says in sync with a very dull Keith. “Also, it’s not the ‘something’ you think it is.”

 

“Mhm. See you!” Hunk says, humming to himself in some pleased way. He vanishes around the corner.

 

Lance releases everything the second Hunk is gone, like it was a weight that just knotted his stomach together. Paired with Keith’s fire, it wasn’t very pleasant. He makes an audible sigh once the life returns to Keith’s eyes.

 

“You really shouldn’t do that,” he says, sounding so fragile and distant and fuck Lance fucked up super bad, and he doesn’t know how to fix it and-- “but… You don’t want Hunk knowing.”

 

“He already thinks there’s something wrong with me. I don’t want him to think you’re encouraging me.”

 

“Hunk knows ?”

 

“Not...really? He doesn’t think it’s possible. Just leave it at that. It’s just one of those things we just don’t talk about. Like your arms.”

 

“Entirely different fields.”

“It isn’t! So many people know and think I’m weird because of it, but they shut up about it and we all avoid the topic! I don’t know how people feel about you always covering your forearm, but I know I was curious as hell at first. Then I got the memo that you didn’t want to talk about it, so I’m giving you that freedom! So just… return the favor, will you? Don’t be an ass about it and all that?”

 

Keith doesn’t respond. But a look crosses over his face that gives Lance reason to believe that he came to a conclusion about solving the situation-- an answer in his own sense and special way. Then he’s hauling himself to his feet and dusting grass off of himself, and extending a hand to Lance. “I should probably head to my next class. And yours should be soon, right?”

 

“Uhhh,” Lance pulls out his phone. Abella sent him a ton of messages apologizing for something she might have done. He’ll have to sort that out with her later. But for now it’s just him, Keith, and his education. “Yeah. It is. Want me to walk you to your class?”

 

“If you’d like. I know it would make Acxa absolutely seething to see us interacting outside of the musical, so do with that as you will,” Keith says. But something else lies beneath his words and the light in his eyes. Something innocent. Something rare.

 

“Oh she’s gonna hate it, definitely. But that’s just an added bonus. I want to make sure whatever happened earlier doesn’t happen again, too,” says Lance, trailing off as the two have already set off to Keith’s lecture. He mentions something about that being wise, but there’s a different tone to his voice like he’s enjoying spending time with Lance? Which is, y’know, weird. Keith growing to like Lance is a process. Especially considering they only figured out his magic four days ago and had been doing the whole ‘search and find’ thing for a week. And before that they were nothing, really. Just two people who hated each other for no reason they could explain with words.

 

But if they had to? It would be put as one feeling an ocean and the other feeling a fire.

 

Those two elements never mixed well together.

 

 

 

________________

 

 



“Alright, so,” Lance begins, slamming his books on the table with a loud thud. Pidge and Hunk flinch in unison at the sound, though the former doesn’t spare him a glance from her computer. “Keith and I have decided to call it quits on the inter-Garrison war.”

 

“Really? But it was just starting!” Complains Pidge. She folds her arms across her chest in protest, glancing between the two with that scrunched up look that’s been unanimously dubbed ‘Pidge’s psychoanalyzing look’. A coincidence that both Lance and Keith had called it the same thing, really. A light flashes over her head, and she opens her mouth to speak, Hunk beating her to the punch.

 

“Something happened with you guys, right?” He asks, that stupid cheery look on his face. Keith turns crimson while Lance remains apathetic. “The thing earlier?”

 

“What thing earlier--”

 

“--Hunk, dude, I told you it wasn’t like that. We’ve decided that the best course of action for us to not hate each other would be to call it quits.” Lance is deadpan, elbowing Keith sharply to speak.

 

“Yeah, uh,” he says, still flushed and clammed up, “I thought the water balloon one was a little too far.”

 

“I thought it was very fitting,” counters Lance, “I mean, a literal way to get you to cool off? Genius on my part.”

 

Keith gives him that heated, pointed glare, which he chooses to ignore. Of course Lance isn’t an idiot, and knows that after that incident Keith had been so cold it took him an hour to get his flame back. He felt terrible about it for weeks. But now that things were fine, he decides that it’s best to just make light of the situation.

 

“What thing earlier?!” shrieks Pidge. She’s red with frustration, and her hand slams on the table.

 

Right.

 

So.

 

A fact about Pidge?

 

She doesn’t like not being able to follow conversations.

 

“Oh, nothing much,” Hunk chirps, “I was headed to class and saw these two on the side of the health building. They’re very insistent nothing happened, but--”

 

“Because nothing happened!” Lance says, a little too heatedly. The fire in his chest contorts, trying to rush away from the tsunami rising in him. Hunk seems a bit taken aback, blinking at Lance a couple times. “Sorry. Nothing happened. And even if something did happen, there’s bound to be a good reason as to why I won’t even tell you two lovely souls.”

 

Well, shit. Now Lance made it awkward. Pidge seems to vaguely understand why Lance won’t talk about it immediately, her eyeing Keith knowingly and returning to her work with a huff. Hunk, however, seems to be going at it from a different angle. Knowing him the way he does, Lance can gather that Hunk went the route of ‘personal shit and personal relationships equals Lance not oversharing’. Granted, it wasn’t like Lance hadn’t done just that before. But that was Freshman year. Of highschool.

 

“Stop that.”

 

“Stop what?” Hunk feigns innocence.

 

“I don’t like that look. Stop it.”

 

“Oooh,” Pidge says, drawing it out for dramatic effect. Then he turns to Keith and mirrors the look. Same knowing, smug expressions, but with different… friendship historical context?

 

“Katie, we’ve been over this,” Keith deadpans.

 

“Oh, no, I don’t think we have,” She croons, all but scrambling over the table. A desperate look is shared between Lance and Keith, then a mischievous look and that oh so familiar terror. Because, on Keith’s end?

 

No one taught Lance that magic shouldn’t be used to fuck with your friends.

 

“Lance, don’t you dare--”

 

“Both of you chill the fuck out,” Lance says, tapping his fingers on his thighs rhythmically. They blink at him in shock, and comply anyways. No magic spells cast over them just yet, just Lance using his… Emeline voice. “Alright. Now, give us a… forty second head start?” He turns to Keith for confirmation. He’s still in shock, but has accepted his place in the situation and Lance’s determination to get out of this his way.

 

“Forty seconds is decent.”

 

“Right. Forty seconds starting after I finish speaking,” Lance says, shoving his books into his backpack, “then you bastards can come chasing after us. Pitchforks and all.”

 

“Run?” Keith suggests.

 

“Run,” Lance confirms.

 

So that’s what they do. They make a sprinting Bee-line for a group of students across the quad that are vaguely familiar to Lance from afar, but very familiar to Keith. Both ignore the forming slip-n-slide that Lance may or may not be creating in their wake, because now they’re near the group and Pidge’s angered battle-cry is getting closer than before and--

 

“Shiro holy fuck!” Cries Keith, sliding behind the group in the grass for some form of cover. The poor elder student flinches at the screech and the sound of his brother crashing into mother nature behind him, and gives Lance an accusing look when he slides next to Keith.

 

“What did you do.” He says in that tired, tired voice of his. Apparently, this isn’t the first time the dude’s had to deal with Keith’s Bullshit.

 

“They wouldn’t get off our asses so I kinda… maybe… convinced them to give us a head start?" Lance says slowly, eyeing the group. He can recognize two others in the group-- Allura and Matt lounging without a care in the world.

 

“You used your magic to escape talking about something you didn’t want to talk about,” Allura translates in a deadpan voice. “Keith, when I told you to teach him this isn’t exactly what I--”

 

“I didn’t teach him to do this. As far as you’re concerned, he’s been able to use soothsaying his entire life.”

 

“Oh yeah, and the slip-n-slide in forty degree weather was also self-taught,” Shiro says dully as the group watches Hunk fall on his ass and bring Pidge down with him.

 

“That’s a very useful ability,” Matt adds, starkly contrasting Shiro’s tone. Lance nods in agreement, about to respond, before reality hits him.

 

“Matt’s not a spellcaster.”

 

“Au Naturale, baby,” he responds with a coy wink that makes Allura snicker and sock him in the arm. “Well, as far as we know I am.”

 

“He walked in on me trying to control Keith’s fire, since he was having… problems and was too stubborn to go see Allura,” Shiro explains.

 

“I was not stubborn, I was problem-solving,” Keith insists, still crouched up behind his brother.

 

“Well, try ‘problem-solving’ this whole mess,” suggests one of the unfamiliar spellcasters. She’s stern and angular, with violet almond-shaped eyes that bear into Lance’s soul. “Because we won’t help you.”

 

“Te-osh, that’s rude and you should be very ashamed,” Matt bites.

 

“It’s true! I happen to like your sister, Matt. Allow me to have my prejudice.”

 

“I have an idea. Shay,” Allura says. The muscular girl’s head whips up (what’s with all of the Garrison spellcasters Lance didn’t know about? Who’s next), earrings clinking against her jaw with the movement. She seems out of place, and telling from the papers scattered between her and Te-osh, she wasn’t a long-time friend. “Go talk to Hunk.”

 

“Really? Are you-- are you sure?” She asks, slowly and hesitantly. Allura gives a fluttering laugh, hauling herself to her feet and brushing off grass delicately.


“Positive. Go on, now.” She sends off Shay with a pat on the shoulder. Then she whips around to Lance, her eyes positively alight with pride. “Lance, you have amazing control over your magic!”

 

Oh. Uh. That’s not the reaction Lance expects? Like, he expected mom-mode or some shit, but she looks absolutely thrilled. “Can you... elaborate?”

 

“Well, I’ve seen you practice before on Keith-- don’t ask-- and then you were hesitant for reasons I can entirely understand, but with them it seems like you had excellent control over your soothsaying! And that trail you left behind is immaculate. You can’t tell, but it’s like you colored in a coloring book without going out of the lines once!”

 

“He’s not that good, you know,” Keith adds, like a dumbass, “I still haven’t seen him conjure up more water than a bucket full.”

 

“Because my body doesn’t want me to,” Lance explains flatly. “I can, but it doesn’t want me to.”

 

Keith blinks at Lance. Then he’s looking at Shiro and Allura with this confused look, and they’re just… looking like they’re hiding something.

 

“Oh! Because you’re built differently from humans, right? Maybe it’s a message sent through your body that tells you to not push it?” Matt adds, very into this whole ‘magic’ thing. From the sound of it, Shiro was subject to a lot of probling scientific questions.

 

“Like I’d fucking know.”

 

“In a sense, yes,” Allura explains easily. “But most Elementals are born without it, or ignore it for the promise of improvement. Not that there’s not a way to improve without pushing the limits, Lance. It’s just… unusual for someone that knows nothing of magic to respect it so wholeheartedly.”

 

Lance shrugs. In all honesty, he doesn’t care if she finds it unusual-- she herself is unusual. All of them are unusual, for Christ’s sake. “It feels right. I mean, I know you guys aren’t telling me certain aspects of my magic so it’s only natural for me to trust what I think is right, right?”

 

A guilty look crosses Keith’s face that makes Lance decide at that moment; if-- no, when -- Lance gets to know Keith better, he’s going to ask why he hides the inevitable. Pushes away the inevitable.

 

“Right,” Allura says in a soft voice, her gaze unbroken with Shiro. The two hold a silent conversation, one gesturing to Keith simply and the other nodding understandingly. “Yeah. You’re right.”

 

“Well, our asses are safe due to Shay, and break is almost over, so,” says Lance, gesturing vaguely while turning to Keith. “Want to head out?”

 

“Yeah. Thanks, you guys. For, y’know. Saving our asses.”

 

“Anytime,” Matt says in that warm voice of his that makes Lance wonder how the fuck he’s related to Pidge. “Even if Te-osh might want to throw you to the dogs, we gotta stick together.”

 

And on the topic of Pidge…

 

“Guys,” Lance says, clapping Hunk on the shoulder. His shy joy bubble bursts at the sensation, his cheeks turning crimson. “We gotta head to class. Nice to meet you, Shay.”

 

“Nice to meet you too, Lance,” the girl says in that hesitant voice of hers. It’s like a mouse living in an elephant’s body. “And nice to see you again, Keith.”

 

“Likewise. Let’s go, guys. You too, Hunk,” Keith says, already stalking off towards his building.

 

“Ohh man you guys missed out on so much while you were fuckin making out or something,” Pidge says, a new light in her brown eyes. “Like, Hunk’s got it baad .”

 

“I do not! Shay’s a nice, pretty girl and I was flattered to talk to her!”

 

“Hunk. I don’t like girls. I can’t even put myself in your shoes. But trust me, you have a crush. Maybe not on her yet, but you like the idea of her,” Keith says from the front. He doesn’t turn around to look at him, but his voice sounds fond.

 

“So learn to have a crush on who she is,” Lance finishes with a grin. “But that’s for after class, my dude. We’ve got a world to revolutionize, one bullshit college course at a time.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll call you,” says Hunk. “And you, too, Pidge. You’re good with girls somehow.”

 

“I sold my soul to a witch coven when I was seven.”

 

“Ah. Makes sense.”

 

“Hey, Keith,” Lance says, speeding up until he’s beside him. “Training after rehearsal?”

 

“Uhm. Yeah, we can practice. Not for long, though. I have to study.”

 

“Alright, so then we can go to my house? My mami won’t mind, and if we’re in my room, no one’ll see.” Keith gets that complex look again. Like he’s deciding what to do and weighing the consequences.

 

“It’s a date. I’ll drop by to see you rehearse, so I don’t have to leave campus and come back.”

 

“Great! I’ll give you my wand for safekeeping, then, so Finn doesn’t go through my shit and see some stuff he shouldn’t,” Lance says, looking ahead with a hopeful look. He can’t explain how he feels, really. Just… Happy that Keith isn’t constantly angry with him? Sure, he still gets short-circuited when practicing because Lance is too cautious and Keith very obviously isn’t. But when they bicker for fun?

 

It’s the best feeling in the world.

 

 

 

________________

 

 

 

Keith knew Lance was a treacherous flood, and he was a raging forest fire. The two could never meet and coexist in the same land in the natural sense. But for the human counterparts to these disasters, it means that they are unpredictable together. They could entirely deplete one another with their intensity, or they could amplify one another to the point of no return.

 

And Keith hates it.

 

This unpredictability.

 

This fire.

 

This ocean.

 

He came to this conclusion while sitting in one of the plush and tacky seats in the theatre, watching Lance go through a scene with Adina. He doesn’t watch many Disney movies, but he can vaguely recall the scene from Pidge’s rants on how he should dig himself out of his hole. It was a scene where Belle finds this rose that’s just keeping the Beast alive and almost touches it, like an asshole. There’s a lot of growling and shouting on Lance’s end, and Adina’s doing a brilliant job of feigning terror. Then she’s running off stage, and Lance turns to the opposite direction and storms off.

 

“Alright, come back on out,” Caldwell chirps from his seat in the front row. They emerge, a handful of other students trailing out after them. “So, Lance.”

 

“So, Caldwell,” he counters, plopping himself down on the edge of the stage. His sounds rough and scratchy.

 

“You need a voice modifier for the beast.”

 

“No shit. I sound like an adult stuck in puberty for the rest of his sad, sad life.”

 

“I have an idea for that,” Estella adds, her eyes alight. “We’re recruiting one of Lance’s brothers and his friends to make a prosthetic mask of sorts, right? What if we get them a voice modifier to build into it?”

 

“Oooh, good idea. I think I can get Hunk and Pidge to make one to fit the animalistic sound we need, and they’d love to have a new toy to play with,” Lance says, bouncing to his feet and placing a hand on his hip. “Removing it in the transformation scene will suck, though.”

 

“Well, we’re going to lift you,” Adina says, “So maybe beforehand the two of us can tear off the prosthetic under the cloak.”

 

“Tricky, but it’s doable,” Caldwell frames his chin with a hand.

 

“I could probably help with that. Making it easy to remove, that is,” Keith pipes up.

 

“He speaks,” announces Vanessa, raising her hands with flair.

 

“That can work, though,” Hyun says, speaking up from his quiet state. He was thinking, analyzing and assessing everything. “I mean, we have a kickass makeup department, but from the impression Lance gives of you, you can do something they can’t.”

 

“I uhhh…” Keith trails off, meeting Lance’s gaze. Lance gives him that look . You know, the look you give people when you want them to go along with something absolutely ridiculous until it’s just an endless spiral of lies and deceit? Yeah, that one. “I like solving problems.”

 

“Explains why you put up with Lance,” says Finn with a lilting tease. Hyun elbows him harshly. “What? It’s true!”

 

“I am not a problem, asshat.” Lance has that defensive layer back on, but he’s smiling regardless of his tone. “So, Caldwell, we calling quits for tonight?”

 

Caldwell hums. “Yeah, I’d say so. I need Leon and Lucy and to stick around, though. I have some notes for your deliveries.”

 

“Damn!” Lucy says, snapping like she had just been caught committing a crime in some bizarre sitcom. Lance, however, hops directly off the stage and saunters on over to Keith.

 

“Hey, hot stuff. I gotta get my shit, but you ready to bounce?”

 

“Yes. I’ll be by the door. Be quick.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. No confrontation with Caldwell yet. I’ll be in and out no prob,” Lance says, slipping away to a stage door. He vanishes behind it, despite hitting his shoulder on the doorframe and cursing loudly.

 

Keith has to stifle his laughter.

 

 

 

________________

 

 

 

“So, Lance, the first thing about magic that I should have taught you is that it isn’t something that can be memorized like Harry Potter,” Keith says, placing his wand on the floor beside him. Lance sits on his bed with crossed legs, mirroring his wand placement. “It’s a learned practice. Meaning, you can learn every type of magic if you spend time on it.”

 

Keith opens his hands, palms facing Lance. He moves them in a circle, one going clockwise and the other counterclockwise so the two overlap. A burst of light crawls over the room and a purple disc forms in front of Keith. “Since my secondary is passive and metamorphose, I have more luck in those categories. Comparatively, It’s extremely difficult for me to try my hand in other elements.”

 

“But you can do it. Water, I mean. I don’t know about the others.”

 

“Yeah, I can.” The shield vanishes, and Keith’s hands drop. “But only in small amounts, like using it to water the plants.”

 

“So, I probably won’t be able to handle fire, but I could probably handle other passive magic?” Lance asks, peering forward with that curious look of his. The one that shows that he wants to learn in earnest, but doesn’t have the information to do so. He gives a brief nod.

 

“We can focus on that later this week. But tonight, I want you to try and focus on conjuring more water. Not beyond the limit, but testing it. Never go beyond the limit,” Keith says, scratching beneath his itchy gloves. “Both Elemental and Metamorphoses magics have limits you shouldn’t test.”

 

Lance gives him another one of his looks. Like he’s trying to figure out whether or not that’s the full truth, while still remaining within the boundaries of respecting him keeping secrets. “Alright. So, like a bucket and a half?”

 

“That’s a start. I’ll do it with you on fire, so you can mirror me.”

 

Fire and water shouldn’t mix from a casting standpoint. So when Lance wants to follow Keith’s movements, they always sit across from the room, or to a point where if something bursts the other can fix it with minimal issues.

 

So when Abella unlocks Lance’s door and comes barging in, Lance is quick to throw his water at Keith’s fire with a panic. It bursts into steam, and then nothing. “Abella, doors are locked for reasons,” Lance deadpans as she looks curiously between the two.

 

“Desperate times call for desperate measures when edgelord here exists. Mami says dinner’s ready,” Abella says nonchalantly. To Keith, she looks nothing like Lance. While he’s angular and lanky, she has soft edges and is, as far as he’s concerned, short . The freckles are an addition as well. But the blue eyes remain common between the two. “And stop looking like I walked in on you guys going at it. I didn’t.”

 

“He doesn’t like things he can’t predict,” Lance says on Keith’s part, “and you kinda did. We were talking about personal shit.”

 

Keith pauses internally. Like, if a person could blue screen of death, that’s what’s going on in Keith right now.

 

Lance is lying for him. For his sake.

 

Abella shrugs. “Didn’t overhear anything. Now, are you going to eat or are you going to let Pidge eat her weight in food?”

 

“Not on my damn watch. Keith,” Lance says, giving him a solemn, serious look so unfitting for his character, “eating in my house is an Olympic sport in of itself. Are you prepared?”

 

“If it’s any better than eating with Matt over, then yes.”

 

 

________________

 

 

 

 

It’s not better than eating with Matt. But Lance’s mother is nice, and orders Abella and Pidge to surrender food for Keith.

 

She asks him about how school’s been treating him. What he majors in and how the hell it ended in him meeting Lance—Keith felt that she already knew but wanted someone else’s perspective on the shitshow. Somehow, this leads to an hour-long discussion about what it’s like to run a business while still going through college.

 

She asks nothing of what he is to Lance.

 

It’s comforting. Not that Keith would have an answer right now— that’s his own can of worms that he doesn’t exactly want to put his hand into right now. But knowing that someone out there doesn’t assume they’re dating or insinuates they will?

 

It’s better than any fire he’s started.

Chapter Text

December 17th

Beauty and the Beanstalk

 

Leon (6:43 AM): Guys Holy shit I forgot to get my gift

 

Adina (6:44 AM): You absolute dipshit. We’ve been planning this for months!!

 

Estella (6:44 AM): Just go out and find something??

 

Lance (6:45 AM): Yeah I don’t think any of us are picky

 

Finn (6:46 AM): Hyun is, though. Fair warning

 

Vanessa (6:46 AM): Okay, first, why the /fuck/ are you all up at six AM, second, why is no one questioning Lance being up a good three hours earlier than usual, and finally, ask Caldwell what can pass as a last-minute gift. The dude knows things.

 

Lance (6:46 AM): I’m working out. Gotta get ripped for my kickass role

 

Leon (6:46 AM): ok I’m gonna go message him I’ll be back in like an hour

 

Estella (6:46 AM): Lance I know for a fact you’re not working out because I just saw you hauling ass in that shitty Honda down Hawthorn like five minutes ago

 

Estella (6:46 AM): with Keith

 

Finn (6:47 AM): ooooooooooo

 

Lance (6:47 AM): He’s going with me, you shits.

[image attached]

 

Lance (6:48 AM): He would also like to make it clear that it’s more parkour than weightlifting which, joy

 

Estella (6:48 AM): aww, that’s a good photo! Keith doesn’t look like he’s on the verge of slitting your throat for once!

 

Adina (6:48 AM): You better not be late to your 9 AM. Or Secret Santa. Remember, we know where you live.

 

________________

 

Lance inhales deeply. Closes his eyes and opens his palms in front of him.

 

The ocean washes over him.

 

Not in a literal sense, technically. It was like every other aura in the room- Keith’s fire, Allura’s collected and empty quelling, and Coran’s… Whatever, all being replaced by the lull of the ocean. And with it, comes the voice.

 

It’s just as loud as the last time he tried to reach it, though he pays no mind to the unfamiliar voice that calls his name.

 

Lance hears water slosh around above his hands. Allura makes a gasping sort of sound, watching a spectacle that Lance manipulates. He can see it just as well as she does; a large mass curling in on itself constantly, creating little waves that only exist for a second before it crashes back into the cycle.

 

“That’s enough,” Coran says, sounding just as happy as usual. The weight immediately lifts off of Lance, and water crawls up Lance’s arms and vanishes to nothing. Some droplets fall to the ground in the process.

 

He opens his eyes.

 

“Well?” He asks, leaning forward to the three gathered before him. Allura’s eyes twinkle, as they always do, but she lingers on speaking. Coran absolutely beams with pride, twirling his mustache that barely covers his wide grin. Keith is… Well, Keith. He doesn’t let on any sign that he was impressed.

 

“That was spectacular. I’m assuming you have more tricks other than that beautiful simulation?” Allura discreetly kicks Keith. Well, not really discreetly, since they’re standing right in front of Lance and Keith visibly flinches when her foot makes contact with his shin.

 

Lance breaks into that bright grin of his. Of course, this was his perfected party trick to show any spellcaster who asked, but with Keith… Well, he practiced more dangerous tricks. “Of course, I do, Allura. I would show them to you, but I really want to show you my primary.”

 

“Alright, show me.” Keith sighs, beginning to move forward. Allura holds out her hand, blocking him from continuing. “Not on Keith. You have your pick of myself and Coran.”

 

Of course. She would expect Keith to be easy-- after all, Keith was… easier than most for him to manipulate. Lance has his own theories as to why but prefers to keep them to himself for now. Comparatively, Coran and Allura must have trained themselves to be able to resist other magic to some extent. And Allura, well, she’s a Demiurge. Hell knows what she can resist.

 

Temptation seizes Lance. He nods to Allura with a smug little grin, her own breaking across her lips.

 

“Of course,” She says wistfully like she was looking back on some sort of memory. She strides forward, tying her hair up with a quick motion. Her magic folds in on itself, lifting a weight off of everyone’s chest. Keith’s expression shifts from his apathy to a scowl, studying the scene like it was the most complicated puzzle. Allura spreads out her arms. “I’m ready when you are.”

 

Then Lance does what he does best.

 

He gets nosy.

 

“Tell me your primary and secondary again, I seem to have forgotten.” He hadn’t.

 

“Divination and Creation, If I had to categorize it,” she says cooly. Light dances in her eyes.

 

“Hmm. Alright. Where the hell did Coran come from?”

 

“I like to tell people he was a European tourist that followed my father until he, unfortunately, got attached. They were childhood friends.”

 

“Show me your creation magic.”

 

Now that’s when the magic hits Allura. She hadn’t expected all of it to hit full force-- previously, he had given her an option to tell the truth (though Lance himself is unaware of it), his magic now crashing down on her before she has time to act. He can’t fathom how it must feel, his magic making a home in her. Her bright eyes glaze over, hands moving in a flowing motion that is definitely hers. Lance only envisions the end product. Any actions leading up to it are her own.

 

A dove appears in her palms. It stares at Lance obediently. He retracts his magic, just a bit.

 

The dove soars off.

 

“Tell me why you let Keith continue on believing I didn’t have magic for as long as you did.”

 

“I wanted to see how the two of you would handle it. If I had intervened, he might still despise you,” she answers honestly. Lance turns to Keith. He shrugs. “Besides, believing in you or not, both of you would end up here with the... other destined paladins.”

 

She hid something from him. His grasp on her tightens.

 

“Walk yourself to the center of the dueling floor and teleport yourself back beside Coran.”

 

Keith cuts in, an edge in his voice. Allura’s stops at the center of the dueling floor. “Lance, I don’t think--”

 

“Don’t think what?” Allura’s is asking a second later, beside Coran like nothing happened. She seems shaken, though, and only stares at Lance with an unreadable expression while Keith stutters. “Show me what else he taught you.”

 

________________



Lance is proud to say that even Allura is impressed with his improvements. She only gives little inputs, like telling him to work with heavier objects for his telekinesis, and finding a way to make a Forcefield that goes over more than one person.

 

Which meant that, other than minor improvements required, Lance is now ready for ‘the next step’.

 

“It’s an old method my father used when he had recently formed his own spellcasting team,” She explains, leading the group from the dueling floor and up one of the many staircases. She makes an immediate right, headed for a specific room. “He divided it into three phases. The first being… Well, mental invasion.”

 

“Care to elaborate?” Keith asks. He doesn’t seem very happy about the concept in of itself, his lips pressed to a thin line after he speaks.

 

“He enchanted bracelets to connect the minds of the wearers, and show what they currently have on their mind.”

 

“Oooh, getting into Keith’s emo mind? Sounds festive!” Lance chirps, grinning slyly to his glaring companion. Allura and Coran only laugh. Allura waves a hand in front of her, a door slamming open from the movement. There’s a cluttered office inside, with trinkets scattered around every inch of the room.

 

Allura digs around for a bit before she lets out a little ‘aha’ and produces a long black case. She opens it with ease and presents the box to the duo. There’s no debate that Lance takes the blue bracelet, and Keith takes the red one.

 

“The second step is to test the results in combat.”

 

“Oh. Joy,” Keith drawls.

 

“Don’t be such a downer, the Magical Artificial Intelligence is just as difficult an opponent as Shiro,” Allura chides, smacking him upside the head, much to Lance’s amusement. His smile falls when Keith still remains glaring.

 

“Shiro’s more powerful than me. You of all people should know this,” He says.

 

Allura only sashays back to the dueling floor and leaves Coran to usher them after her.



Lance doesn’t know what to expect from the whole ‘mental invasion’ thing. Would he see Keith’s thoughts like imagery invading his mind, or would they become words cemented into him? Or rather, would they be a sensation?

 

Turns out, it was a little bit of everything.

 

First, Lance feels Keith’s fire invade his lungs. Likewise, Keith gasps for air in a similar matter to someone resurfacing from a pool of water.

 

Then the emotions pour in. Keith doesn’t feel like anything in particular to Lance, but if he had to put it into words, he’d say that Keith felt… panicked. Not an anxious sort of panicked, necessarily. Just panicking. About what? Well--

 

“He doesn’t need to know everything. Just redirect the thoughts. Everything will be fine,” says Keith’s thoughts. A brief image switches to Shiro sitting at the edge of a table and pointing to a textbook in front of Keith. He has both arms, and his shock of white is black.

 

“We’re supposed to be bonding,” replies Lance’s. “Don’t you think a little secret-spilling is necessary?”

 

“Bonding can be done without learning vital information I keep even from Allura.” Keith starts. He didn’t mean to think that, obviously. But when you’re communicating through your thoughts, shit’s out the window.

 

“Fine,” Lance’s thoughts spit out before he can properly word it into kind words, “I’ll go first.”

 

Who knows what Keith sees or hears exactly . But Lance knows it how he remembers it. He remembers laying on the floor sprawled-out with Hunk beside him, both of their eyes cast to the cheesy glow-in-the-dark stars above them, one half-way peeled off. It was two-thirty five AM in July. He had made an off-hand comment about magic, something that he always did. But Hunk’s reaction was different than the last time. He gave Lance a peculiar look as if asking ‘ shouldn’t we have outgrown that by now ?”

 

By the time Keith finishes dissecting Lance’s memories, he feels unfamiliar memories and thoughts blending into his own. At first it’s simple bits of memories-- Keith meeting Pidge in freshman year when she comes over with Matt, Keith joining the track team and dominating it, Keith’s first competition against an older spellcaster seeming to be at a higher level of magic.

 

Then Keith does something very unlike himself-- he lets an important memory slip.

 

A burst of life forms in Lance’s mind, painting a scene of Keith running down a staircase, pulling on a leather jacket. He struggled to find the sleeves. Panic coursed through his body from his fingertips to his toes. Keith dug his keys out of a dish by the door, the little lion keychain seeming… too bright compared to the dark sky and Keith’s dark outfit. The door to the garage throws itself open without Keith moving a muscle, revealing a beat-up red and white motorcycle. “Please,”   Keith says to whatever greater force he believes in, “let him be alive.”

 

The memory fast-forwards itself in a blurred movement of dull colors. Then Keith’s bursting through double-doors, a helmet under his arm and body soaking wet. A woman behind the counter blinked up at him in shock. “Fire elemental. Have you overused--” , she begins.

 

“No--I -- it’s not important. My name on your files is Keith Kogane, and I’m here for Takashi Shirogane.”

 

“Ah.”  The woman nodded her head as if content. She points down the hall.  “Room two-hundred and one.”

 

And with that, Keith set off running down the hall. A thought along the lines of ‘ I would kill someone to be able to teleport right around now ’ filters through Lance’s mind.

 

Then Keith’s standing in front of room two-hundred and one. The anxiety drives Lance mad, and mixed with Keith’s intoxicating fire, he forgets how to breathe.

 

A shaking hand opened the door.

 

Of course, that’s when Keith decides to shut Lance out of his thoughts.

 

“Too much,”   Is the only form of explanation he gets.

 

Lance decides that it’s good enough.

 

________________

 

As it turns out, Allura’s ‘bonding exercise’ did jack shit to improve Keith and Lance’s teamwork. Her M.A.I, as she calls them, had appeared the instant the bracelets were removed. Keith had acted first, spreading his hands wide and yanking part of the fence off. Lance had screamed at the top of his lungs and became a force-field armadillo.

 

Needless to say, they were scratched up and bruised on the ground within minutes.

 

“Alright, so, maybe MAI isn’t the best option for a beginner and notorious soloist,” Allura admits while Coran nudges Lance in the side with a foot. “But that’s only a taste of what you’ll be facing.”

 

“Keith, hot stuff,” Lance wheezes. “Don’t take this personally, but I would rather have never met you than go through this daily.”

 

“No offense taken,” he responds, coughing. “I actually quite agree.”

 

“If it makes you feel better, in theory, you two have the possibility of becoming a magical powerhouse,” Allura says, crouching down to their level. “Despite the whole ‘fire and water’ thing, that is.”

 

Keith huffs. He hauls himself to his feet, giving a helping hand to Lance once he’s found steady footing. “Thanks, Allura. That makes me feel so much better,” He says bitterly.

 

“Lighten up,” Lance retorts. “We just have to work together some more. That’s all.”

 

“On that note,” says Allura, “the third step.”

 

“What about it?”

 

“It’s entirely up to you what to do for the third step.”

 

“Goodie.” Keith groans. Coran pats him on the shoulder compassionately.

 

“Chin up, lads. Alfor and his team played a game of alcoholic truth or dare for themselves,” He cheerily says. Lance’s eyes brighten, and he opens his mouth to say something along the lines of ‘sounds awesome’.

 

“No,” Keith says before he has the chance to begin speaking. He’s already leaving the dueling floor, seeming to have his fill of the Coalition.

 

“Alright, then we can compromise,” Lance says easily, bounding up the stairs until he’s beside Keith. “How about we just run down the basic shit to know about people? Like favorite color, you know?”

 

Keith hums. “Yeah. That sounds good.”

 

“Meet me at my house after our last classes?”

 

“You’re on. Have snacks on you.”

 

“Well duh, I’m not an animal.”

 

________________

 

Thankfully, no one is home when Lance and Keith decide to meet up at the McClain residence. Abella was God knows where with Pidge doing whatever the fuck Pidge does on weekdays.

 

“Alright. Favorite color?” Lance asks, settling himself on his rug. Keith sits in front of him, a plate of an inhumane amount of bagel bites in the middle. Distant pop music comes from Abella’s room.

 

“Red, obviously,” Keith says with a scoff. “You?”

 

“Blue.”

 

“How am I not surprised.”

 

Lance lets out a little laugh. “What can I say? It’s a beautiful color.”

 

“It is. Favorite song?”

 

“As a Latino, I’m legally obligated to answer that with La Gasolina.” Pause, laugh. “I like Teen Idle.”

 

“Cool, cool. Don’t laugh,” Lance assures Keith that he won’t laugh, “But it’s Dance, Dance.”


He laughs anyway.

 

“Hey! You said you wouldn’t laugh, you liar!”

 

“Sorry! But you are emo!” Lance cackles, satisfied that he now knows the truth. After a moment, he settles down enough to ask, “What’s your favorite movie?”

 

“The Labyrinth.” Keith shoves a pizza bite into his mouth. “David Bowie,” he adds.

 

“David Bowie,” Lance says in agreement. “I really liked Matilda.”

 

Keith nods in understanding. “Alright. Here’s a hard one. Who’s your favorite sibling?”

 

“Emeline,” says Lance without hesitation. “I’m going to take a guess and say your’s is Shiro?”

 

No ,” says Keith sarcastically, “It was going to be myself.”

 

“Okay, okay, fair.” Lance lets out a laugh, taking a handful of pizza bites. “What’s one talent you have that you really shouldn’t have?”

 

“I can make an origami penis in under a minute.” Keith snickers a bit at some memory that comes with his unearthed skill, the first time Lance has seen him crack in such a way.

 

“Impressive. I can recite a Very Potter Musical word for word.”

 

“That’s terrible,” he says immediately. “What the fuck is that?”

 

“Oh my god, it’s this fanmade musical for Harry Potter that I’m like 85% sure was produced by really high college students, basically.”

 

“That… sounds like an experience. But I’m not a big fan of Harry Potter, because it’s totally not how magic works, so…” Keith shrugs. “Favorite food?”

 

“Pan de dulce, no doubt.”

 

“Poutine. Hard to get here, but my mom used to make killer Poutine when I was a kid. Now Shiro tries to replicate it, but he just can’t figure it out.”

 

“What did you tell Pidge and Hunk when you dropped me off at the dorms?”

 

Keith falters, his smile fading. “Matt was the one who took you. He drove you the remainder of the stretch to the dorms, and came up with this… lie. That you had mysteriously fallen unconscious on campus, and would most likely wake up delirious and mistaking reality for fiction. I stayed behind with Shiro and cleaned up the shop.”

 

“Wow. Asshole move, dude,” Lance says with no malicious intent. It’s not like they would have believed him regardless of what was said, anyway.

 

“We didn’t know any other way to fix it. Neither of us knows memorical manipulation, or really have a need for it.”

 

Lance hums idly and checks his phone.  “Two more questions, then I have to head to campus.”

 

Keith looks… hesitant, to say the least. Nevertheless, he asks, “Why theatre?”

 

“It’s fun pretending to be someone else in a different world. There’s more to it, but I doubt we have that time. Why health?”

 

“Want to use my magic for something useful.”

 

Well, Lance can’t argue with that.

 

“Why won’t you join the garrison chat?”

 

“I’ve never had a need. Only friends I had that were in it were Shiro and Pidge.”

 

“Well, now you have a need. I’m there. Please join?”

 

Keith laughs. It’s a small sound and mostly composed of disbelief. “Alright, fine. I’ll join later.”

 

____________

 

“Are everyone’s gifts in the pile?” Caldwell calls over the chatter of the gathered crowd. Variants of ‘yes’ respond, ‘yes, dad’ being the loudest from Finn, Leo, and Lance. “Alright! I’m going to call out your name, and you’re going to have to come get the gift if it’s heavy, or catch it if you’re daring enough.”

 

The gifts are a wonderful array of super shitty to super awesome. Leo’s last-minute gift to Estella ends up being a signed book from her favorite author, Adina gets soap from an ensemble member (“it’s from Lush, so I can’t legally complain,” She mutters to herself as she fiddles with the package), and Hyun gets a ‘take Finn to a bookstore and abuse his money after he gets paid’ coupon from the man himself. Lance gets a couple of musical Original Broadway Cast Recordings and a candle from Wendy.

 

“Did everyone finish shopping for gifts yet?” Estella asks no one, in particular, a half hour later when everyone’s seated themselves either on the floor before the stage or the front row, watching Caldwell struggle to set up a projector screen.

 

“Got everyone but Keith down, the little fucker,” Lance says. He neglects to mention that Allura, Coran, and Shiro are also now on that list. The latter had nearly been excluded until Matt mentioned bringing him to the ‘Christmas Fuckfest’, as Abella and Pidge called it. Nor does he mention that he already has an idea of what he wants to get Keith, with the bonding moment from earlier only adding to his growing idea.

 

Everyone else says that they did, in fact, finish shopping. Like liars.

 

Somewhere in the back of the theatre, Caldwell manages to get the projector to work properly. The THX noise booms out at maximum volume across the theater, leading to a good sixty people screaming at the top of their lungs.

 

“What the fuck, Caldwell?!” Adina cries out once the noise dies down.

 

“Sorry! Some asshole left their movie running!” Is the only response given. The group comes to the swift conclusion that the computer is Caldwell’s, and ‘some asshole’ is probably (most definitely) his fiancee, Ana. They then moved on to try and figure out what movie it was and came to the agreement that, knowing her and Caldwell, it absolutely had to be Spaceballs.

 

Which, in all honesty, Lance would have preferred over the fucking Grinch live action .

 

________________

 

Garrison Chat - Students only

1:13 AM

 

Red has joined the chat

 

The Tailor (To all): Took you fuckin long enough

 

Pidgey (To all): The man

 

Pidgey (To all): The cryptid

 

Pidgey (To all): The Legend

 

Red (To all): Neither of you should be awake right now. Go to bed.

 

The Tailor (To all): No u

 

Plaxum (To all): Is that Keith?? What’s with you and your brother and putting colors as usernames??

 

Red (To all): Just putting ‘Keith’ felt pointless and I couldn’t figure out a clever username.

 

The Tailor (To all): He wouldn’t take Yee-haw Kogane if you were wondering

 

Red (to all): I go to Texas for two fucking years and this is what I get.

 

Placematt (To all): So, Keith, my dude,, what does it feel like to officially be a Garrison student?

 

Red (To all): I didn’t know I had to join an online chat to be a genuine Garrison student.

 

Black (To all): I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. Besides, I don’t think you technically count as a Garrison student until Allura can clear your record

 

The Tailor (To Red): What record??

 

Red (To The Tailor): Accidentally burnt Iverson’s eye out. Long story.

 

Plaxum (To All): Isn’t that uh I don’t know

Plaxum (To All): Illegal?

 

Black (To All): Other type of record

 

Plaxum (To All): Oh

 

Pidgey (To All): Shiro that doesn’t clear up anything

 

Black (To All): Good

 

Black has left the chat

 

Placematt has left the chat

 

The Tailor (To All):  Why do they always leave in tandem??

 

Pidgey (To All): To avoid interrogation by association, duh

 

Red (To All): Nah, I just forced off their computers. They have a project they won’t fucking finish.

 

Pidgey (To All): Ah. Rocket science?

 

Red (To All): Rocket science.

 

Plaxum (To All): Oh shit I have an assignment due tomorrow why did Florona wait so long to tell me about this holy shit

 

Plaxum has left the chat

 

The Tailor (To All): Anyone else have mystery projects they have to do?

 

Pidgey (To All): Other than your voice modifier from hell? Nah

 

Red (To All): I already finished all of my homework for the week.

 

The Tailor (To All): Nerd

 

Pidgey (To All): He says

 

Pidgey (To All): In the Garrison chat room

 

Pidgey (To All): Which is a chat full of people in a nerd subdivision for nerds, by nerds

 

The Tailor (To All): Hush. We don’t dwell on the specifics.

 

Hunkules has logged on

 

The Tailor (To All): Hunk!! My dude!! The planetonic love of my life!!

 

Hunkules (To All): I don’t think that’s how you spell that word, my man.

 

The Tailor (To All): Noted. But look! I got Keith into this hell-hole!

 

Hunkules (To All): Keith, I am so sorry

 

Red (To All): He’s very persuasive.

 

The Tailor (To Red): I didn’t use my magic on you so you can shut the fuck up about that

 

Hunkules (To All): I know, right? It’s wild

 

Red (To The Tailor): It doesn’t mean you’re not persuasive without it, Lance. You may not realize it, but you don’t always need your magic to get your way.

 

Pidgey (To All): He’d sell something worth a dollar for ten and no one would care

 

Pidgey (To All): Which is why (pro-tip) we bring him shopping with us. So useful

 

The Tailor (To All): I won’t deny that I’m a useful tool for success, but I’m also equipped to tell you that you’re going to hate tomorrow if you don’t go to sleep.

 

Pidgey (To All): Sooo not much of a change from the usual but go off I guess

 

Hunkules (To All): Go to sleep Pidge I am NOT dealing with your zombie-state tomorrow. We have a presentation due.

 

Pidgey (To All): Ok fine I relent

 

Red (To The Tailor): I’m going to need you for a health project for the following week.

 

The Tailor (To Red): Buy me lunch and I’ll help. What’s it for?

 

Red (To The Tailor): Uhhhhhhhhhhhh

 

Red (To The Tailor): The effect of fatigue on active strain? I’m using spellcasters to make it easier since I can just monitor their training. Threw Matt in there for variation.

 

The Tailor (To Red): You sadistic bastard.

 

Red (To The Tailor): I’ll give you strengthening runes along with your lunch.

 

The Tailor (To Red): Wonderful! I look forward to working with you.

 

The Tailor has left the chat

 

Hunkules (To All): The fuck?? Where’s my goodbye??

 

Pidgey (To All): Get that goodnight, Hunk. Godspeed.

 

Hunkules has left the chat

 

Pidgey (To All): So. Keith. Come here often?

 

Red has left the chat

 

Pidgey (To All): Fucker.

 

Pidgey has left the chat

 

Chapter Text

December 24th                                                                                                                                         On Calendar: Train w/ Lance Dec. 26

8:56 AM

 

The Kool Kids

Katie (8:56 AM): It’s chrimus

Lance ;) (8:56 AM): Merry Chrysler

Shiro (8:57 AM): Merry Crisis

Allura (8:57 AM): I hope you all have had a fantastic morning thus far!

Matt (8:57 AM): Oh it’s been wonderful. Pidge here drop kicked the Christmas tree because our dad said she wouldn’t be able to.

Katie (8:57 AM): So worth it tho

Hunk (8:57 AM): It really shouldn’t be worth it at all

Coran (8:58 AM): Hunk, my dear boy, there are many things you don’t understand in life. Pidge’s uncontrollable urge to do things out of spite may be one of them.

Lance ;) (8:59 AM): Where the fuck’s Keith it’s fucking Christmas

Shiro (8:59 AM): I just heard the microwave go off so I’m guessing he’s making an oatmeal eldritch monstrosity. You know, as you do on Christmas.

Keith (9:00 AM): Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it a monstrosity.

Shiro (9:00 AM): You add cranberries to it! No one does that!

Katie (9:01 AM): Oh my god who does that

Lance ;) (9:02 AM): Keith, I’m divorcing you and taking the kids

Keith (9:02 AM): Ooooh nooo, /please/ don’t take the kids. Anything but that.

Allura (9:02 AM): You know, I always wondered if Keith could convey sarcasm via text.

Lance ;) (9:03 AM): And you now have the answer you sought. You’re welcome, guys, no need to thank me

Katie (9:03 AM): Wasn’t planning on it

Coran (9:04 AM): Not to be the downer of this joyful conversation, but aren’t you all supposed to be spending time with family?

Lance ;) (9:03 AM): Well, you see, we have this thing in my family where everyone brings their dogs and they just get a love fest. I got stuck with the cat this year because I woke up late.

Hunk (9:03 AM): That’s rough, buddy. Nice cat?

Lance ;) (9:04 AM): It’s like Keith if he were a cat.

Shiro (9:04 AM): Short tempered, closed-off, and hard to befriend?

Lance ;) (9:04 AM): Exactly my dude. God, it’s almost like you’re brothers or something

Katie (9:05 AM): We’re on our way to Hunk’s house to help them with the madness

Lance ;) (9:06 AM): Rest in piss the entire Holt family

Matt (9:06 AM): Thanks dude. Really appreciate it.

Hunk (9:07 AM): You’re all up for tonight, right? And if yes-- anyone have dietary restrictions?

Keith (9:07 AM): Yes and no.

Shiro (9:07 AM): Yes and Keith’s minorly lactose intolerant

Allura (9:07 AM): Yes, the two of us are still on too! I’m vegan, and Coran’s allergic to peanuts

Hunk (9:08 AM): Ok great!! I’ll make sure to cut it back on the dairy, but Lance’s family has this thing about making my Makuahine make an inhumanely sized Tres Leches

Lance ;) (9:08 AM): It’s the terms Y'all accepted when you decided ‘hey, that Hispanic family looks really nice! We should befriend them!’

Shiro (9:08 AM): Hey uh what the fuck is a Tres Leches

Matt (9:09 AM): God fucking dammit we’ve been over this-- it’s a three milk cake

Coran (9:09 AM): In Shiro’s defense, he’s led a very different life than you. Especially considering, in all the time Keith’s known Pidge and You’ve known Shiro, neither of them has crossed paths with Lance until now.

Lance ;) (9:13 AM): Matt found fucking dead in Miami

 

 

________________




 

Keith hates Christmas. Not just the holiday itself-- though, in all honesty, he has his fair share of problems with the whole ‘the spirit of Christmas is spending time with your family’ business. He hates how everything is cold. He hates being alone on Christmas. He hates Christmas carols.

 

So someone explain to him how he agreed to spend Christmas with, as Pidge calls it, ‘the family fuckfest’? He knows it’s not Lance, no, he only suggested the concept, and dropped the subject entirely when he saw how he reacted to the mere idea of it. They were like that now. Lance could see Keith’s boundaries after he oversteps them, and makes sure to never repeat the error.

 

Which means that Lance is the last person Keith would be mad at tonight.

 

“It’s not that bad,” Shiro says as they slam the Prius doors shut (because of course Shiro, one of the most dangerous spellcasters in San Rosa, drives a fucking Prius) and stop on the sidewalk. He had made record parallel parking time a few moments ago, beating the previous record of thirty seconds. “I mean sure, it’ll be loud, but we get free food and Allura’s quelling if it gets too chaotic.”

 

“I know. But like I said, Lance’s family is giant. I don’t know how to act around so many people,” Keith says, his eyes landing on a familiar white head of hair leaving a sports car down the street.

 

“You’ll be fine. Just be yourself.”

 

Ah, yes. The bullshit rom-com wisdom that Shiro had grasped in high school. His mom said that it was entirely their father’s fault-- He had no idea how to raise a kid when Shiro came around and all he knew was what he was taught. Keith, fortunately, was the child who got actual advice.

 

Not that it fucking helps now.

 

“Allura!” Shiro calls out, raising his hand high in the air. He continues smiling, even as he says, in an entirely contradictory voice, “I don’t know why I did that, she already knew we were here.”

 

“I thought they were in traffic,” Keith says, his arms hugging his sides. Cold air nips at his nose.

 

“We were,” Allura says, that mild smile that holds no particular emotion stretched across her lips. “I found a shortcut.”

 

“Ah. Of course.” The four begin down the sidewalk, with Allura’s strides far more confident than the rest, because of course she does.

 

“It’s going to be chilly today, wouldn’t you say?” Coran says idly, his head cast to the clouds in the sky. “May snow.”

 

“Wouldn’t be out of the ordinary,” Allura notes. She gives no facial hint to whether she knows it to snow or not. “The weather’s been… unpredictable, in simple terms.”

 

Did Keith mention that he hates snow, too? Firstly, San Rosa wasn’t made to snow-- its fucking California not Minnesota-- so whatever spellcaster keeps making it snow in the appropriate season can go on ahead and fuck themselves. Secondly, it’s just a really big inconvenience to Keith. It’s cold, soggy, and does nothing good for anyone. You might think it’s good for you. You’re wrong and lying to yourself to ease your misery.

 

“So,” Shiro says, ignoring Keith’s angry and scrunched-up expression, “I’m assuming you have presents on you?”

 

“Not on me, but, you know,” Allura shrugs vaguely. “They’ll be there.”

 

And they were. Keith almost steps on one of them once they find Hunk’s address. It’s made out to Emeline. Allura waves her hand vaguely, the staircase folding in on itself. When the staircase revolves back into its normal shape, they’re stacked into four neat piles.

 

“Hey, Keith,” Shiro says idly while Allura and Coran pick up their respective stacks. “Doesn’t this place remind you of home?”

 

Keith tilts his head upward. And yeah, he can see it-- same shape and window placements except this house looks more… modern to him. But if there’s one thing Keith doesn’t want to be thinking about on this day, it’s home. Or rather, the place they used to call home. “Yeah.” He crouches down to pick up one of the remaining stacks. Then he manages up to the porch and slams his foot as harshly as he can against the wood.

 

“Someone get the door!” A voice cries from inside. It’s a woman’s voice, but that’s about all Keith can note.

 

“I got it!” Another, albeit louder voice says. Fortunately, this voice is familiar.

 

Matt opens the door bearing a wide grin. “I thought you guys would never show up,” He says, throwing the door open and taking Shiro’s stack right out of his hands with grandeur. “Mom would not shut up about the fact that we all neglected to tell her about Allura for...what, two years?”

 

“Two years,” Shiro says, nodding seriously. “More for Keith.”

 

“Katie never knew I was aware Allura existed ,” Keith says, following Coran through the door and making an immediate right to a Christmas tree that more so looks like a fusion of what happens when you let three separate households decorate a tree. Their stacks more-or-less engulf the tree.

 

“Did you buy out a fucking store or something?” Pidge asks from her perch on the couch. Sam sits next to her, one of Lance’s siblings sitting with his legs over the back of the couch. His face is hidden in a book.

 

“Something like that,” Allura says, as vague as ever.

 

Lance is found practically glued to Hunk. He’s talking his mouth off about useless topics, with a spool full of whipped cream in his hand. He immediately goes silent, however, when Keith enters the room. Then he’s licking the spoon clean and spinning on his heels until he faces the four. “Hot people, Coran,” He says in that stupidly cheery voice that used to drive Keith insane. “Hot stuff.”

 

“Seriously, I can’t grasp how this isn’t flirting,” Hunk says, wiping his hands hastily on his apron in order to greet everyone personally. Keith gets a bone-crushing hug, the rest polite handshakes that always linger on his gloves.

 

“Oh, no, this  time I was flirting,” Lance says, rocking onto the balls of his feet innocently. “Would you all like a run-down of this chaotic, beautiful hell we’ve got going on?”

 

“We’d love a run-down,” Allura says before Keith can deny the opportunity. She winks at Lance. “And I know I speak for everyone when I say this.”

 

“Alright!” Lance says, his eyes absolutely glowing with delight. “So, in the kitchen is Hunk and me, obviously, but also Emeline, Abella, my mami, Hunk’s moms, and Mrs. Holt!”

 

Three of the women in the kitchen look up. One is, very obviously, Pidge’s mom. She’s sitting on a stool next to Lance’s mother’s workspace, her waving enthusiastically. The other two have the same warm skin as Hunk, although one is...absolutely covered in flour. “I would walk over to greet you all, but, you know,” she says, gesturing vaguely to herself. Shiro’s face scrunches up. “I’m Hunk’s mom.”

 

“And I’m also Hunk’s mom,” says the other woman, stealing a spoon from her partner’s batter. Hunk whisks it out of her hand, much to her disappointment. “I’m so glad you all decided to come. We’ve heard so much about Keith; we decided we’d never die happy until we met the rest of you.”

 

“All good things, I hope?” Keith asks hesitantly, eyeing Lance suspiciously. He makes a cross swiftly, raising his hands in innocence.

 

“Well, apart from one story Pidge decided to share with us--”

 

“We don’t talk about it!” Pidge screeches from the next room over.

 

“I’ve heard a lot about Keith, too,” Colleen pipes up from her perch, “but my lovely children neglected to share with me that you’re friends with Allura, of all people.”

 

“My reputation precedes me, Mrs. Holt.  I promise you I’m not quite how everyone believes me to be.” Allura’s voice is lilted, and her hands are clasped neatly at her stomach. Coran keeps a comforting hand on her arm. “Me being in Keith’s company should be telltale enough.”

 

“Hey--!”

 

“--Onto the next room!” Lance cries, dragging Keith out of the room by his sleeve. They pass briefly through the room with Pidge and Sam-- the McClain sibling is, apparently, Luis, but the bastard didn’t speak up on the first run-through. And, while Keith was in the kitchen, the McClain’s territory in the living room had increased tenfold. There was now a small army gathered on the floor, game controllers scattered and yells now erupting from the siblings not getting their asses beat by the Holts. “The old hag is Veronica, she’s the oldest, Marco’s the dude who looks constipated, and Esmerelda’s currently getting dragged by Pidge, rest her soul.”

 

“You’re so bad at this game, Ver,” Marco says without tearing his eyes from the screen, face scrunched in concentration. “Like, I understand you weren’t around for this beauty, but c’mon! We let you play the most OP character!”

 

“Maybe these gremlins are too good! Did you ever consider that!” Cries of Veronica, as her character is thrown off the map.

 

“Say hi to my friends, you heartless bastards,” Lance says dully.

 

“Hi,” The trio says in droning unison.

 

“Two of them have children.” He says this more so to Keith than anyone else as he seats himself on the edge of the couch. He pats a chair beside him without tearing his eyes from the screen.

 

“So,” Veronica says easily as her character hops away from Matt’s. “Are you all Garrison students?”

 

“Yeah,” Shiro says, mostly in Keith’s stead. “Well, except for Coran.”

 

Veronica lets out one of her fluttering laughs. “I figured so. You’re studying Rocket Science, right?”

 

“He wants to change the world and stuff,” Matt says. “Very admirable.”

 

“Runs in the family.” Shiro gestures vaguely to Keith, who immediately tenses. Alarms go off inside him, panic making a nest in his stomach. He doesn’t want to mess up and say something wrong especially in front of Lance’s entire family.

 

“Ah. Lance mentioned something like that in the group chat. You two also run your own store, right? What do you sell?”

 

Shiro nudges Keith in the side and nods his head encouragingly to the conversation.

 

And when he speaks, it’s small and squeaky. “We sell witchcraft amenities for those who need it. Not the ritual kind of stuff most of the time, even though you definitely could use them for that purpose if you know how. Our mother started the shop when we were born. We took over it recently.”

 

Lance and Pidge eye each other suspiciously. Lance knows that his mother was out of the picture for some time, but anything else he might know is all suspicion. Pidge, however, knows that ‘recently’ means ‘several years’. Ever since Keith met Pidge, they had been living with their grandparents.

 

“Oh! I’ve heard about that stuff,” Marco says in a… shockingly supportive tone? “I don’t really believe in the whole ‘witchcraft’ thing, but it gives people some kind of comfort and that’s what matters, right?”

 

“Something of the sorts.” Keith pops one of his fingers. It sends pain coursing up his forearms, placing his opposite hand over the pain. It subsides in a few seconds. “The profit is also a help, you know, with us going through college and shit.”

 

“Yeah. Honestly, I don’t know how our parents are still alive after helping all of us through college. All we can do to repay them is to do stuff like this.” Veronica gestures vaguely around.

 

“On the topic of parents,” Lance cuts in, leaning into view from his perch and eyeing his elder siblings. “Where’s Ramona and Eli?”

 

“With Abuella. She was very adamant about keeping our children.” Marco sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Carmen’s trying to convince her to let them come to eat with us.”

 

“The hell’s your husband doing to defend your guys' right to let your children witness a small army devour a mountain of food?” Lance asks, turning on his sister. Veronica winces. The close proximity of the two makes her blossoming headache very apparent. Not that Keith was checking to see if she had one in the first place or anything.

 

“He went out to try and get a last-minute gift for Eli. So, my best guess is that we’ll find him dead on Basil and Birch in a few hours.”

 

Allura lets out a giggle, her hand flying to cover her mouth. “Apologies. I nearly sent Coran out to do the same last night. I’m sure your husband will be fine.”

 

“God, I sure hope so.”

 

“Hey, if he’s dead, at least you get the life insurance,” Luis says lightly. He had once again resumed his upside-down position on the couch, watching the game intently. “Pay off your student debts and shit.”

 

“That would be the life. Papa, imagine me, debt free?” Veronica says with a wistful sigh, eyeing her father.

 

“A wonderful dream to have,” he roughly answers. “At least you’re not the Holts.”

 

“We all have student debt and want off this ride!” Cheers Pidge, high-fiving her father and brother simultaneously.

 

“Okay, but your dad literally works for NASA, so you get to brag about that. No one brags about their dad being a cop in these days, no offense Papi, you’re wonderful.” Marco scoots closer to Veronica as he says this. “Even if you have student debt, your dad can get both of you fuckers places in life.”

 

“Nah, that’s not how we roll,” Pidge says, stretching her arms high in the air, controller in her lap. “We made a pact to not use each other for personal gains. Shiro, unfortunately, has yet to join the pact.”

 

“I’m telling you, being friends with a Holt kid doesn’t get you anywhere. The three of us,” Shiro gestures between himself, Sam, and Matt, “might have the Garrison staff wrapped around our pinkies, but I have no influential name attached to me in the space exploration category.”

 

“So you made your own, right? Cuz even I know your name, and I’m a fucking acting and theatre major.” Lance leans forward, blue eyes shining in the television’s bright light. Shiro nods solemnly.

 

“Okay, but you don’t use Allura’s influences for anything?” Abella’s now drawn into the conversation, leaning back to meet Shiro’s gaze over Lance’s back. Coran stifles a laugh.

 

“...Somethings. Never to better my career, though.” Shiro’s hand idly hovers over the bump in his shirt where runes had found themselves hidden. Keith finds himself looking at the floor. “Only for… personal benefit.”

 

Even Keith could see where Shiro went wrong trying to explain his usage of Allura’s magical business to non-spellcasters. Which means that when the room erupts in ‘oooohs’ and miscellaneous whooping, Keith lets out a knowing, rather uncomfortable, laugh. Lance, still oblivious to the truth of Shiro’s words, joins his siblings in being obnoxious. Even Allura and Coran laugh, their cheeks crimson with a mixture of joy and embarrassment. When everything dies down, Allura speaks before Shiro can.

 

“He means our therapeutic services. After my father’s passing, I decided to expand our horizons. I believe you took part in our physical therapy program when you were younger, right?” Allura asks, despite very obviously knowing. No mentally or physically distressed spell-caster was forgotten by Allura. Now more than ever she makes sure of that.

 

“Yeah.” Shiro speaks quietly, eyes glazed over and lips struggling to form either a smile or a cringe. He always looks like that when he remembers something.

 

“Wanna see embarrassing baby pictures of Keith?” Pidge offers, breaking the awkward silence with a grin. Everyone bursts out into excited courses of ‘yes’, much to Keith’s (very loud and very vocal) dissent.

 

Keith doesn't notice Pidge knee her brother and give him a reassuring look seconds after the chaos unfolds.

 

By the time Pidge finishes showcasing Keith’s baby pictures (spanning from three months to three years-- they’re sporadic and his parents are never showcased), the food had been long finished. Keith’s telling sign of such was Lance’s father, Marco, Allura, and Abella vanishing in the middle of Keith’s first day at Kindergarten. Having long sought an excuse to leave, he follows suit.

 

“Keith! You beat Lance to the punch,” Lance’s mother says with a little chuckle, “I’m impressed.”

 

“He’s very much in awe of how adorable Keith was as a baby,” Abella says, her plate already in hand. Allura snorts and giggles to herself, mouthing ‘baby satan’ with her plate shielding her comment from prying eyes. In her defense, Keith did look very unhappy in most photos visible. In Keith’s defense, his mother was absent in all of them.

 

“Plate up before everyone else notices we’re missing people,” Hunk advises from the sink. He seems to currently be in charge of cleaning the pots, pans, and other miscellaneous utensils, and not at all worried that he might lose a shot at food. “If you know any of us, you know we treasure some good eats.”

 

“Unfortunately, I know most of you.” Keith’s comment earns a little chuckle from one of Hunk’s moms, who is very aggressively carving a ham-- the only food Keith can recognize. So, he does what anyone naturally does in this situation. He grabs whatever looks good and prays that it tastes just as good.

 

Lance comes barrelling in right as Keith picks the last of his poisons, nearly slipping on a rug positioned by the oven. “You want enchiladas, right?” He shouts loudly, grabbing two plates off of the stack as he regains balance and begins piling food onto his plate.

 

“And Poke!” Hunk responds cheerily, barely glancing up from his task. He spares a glance to Keith, though. “You’ll like the Poke.”

 

“I’ll… take your word for it,” Keith says, aghast at the sight and speed of Lance when he’s tasked with serving both himself and his best friend. The rest of the families arrive soon after Lance, all of them running. Shiro, despite Keith's certainty that he arrived behind Matt, finds himself finished before everyone else. He spares a smug look to Matt (who ended up just behind Luis) in passing and is given two middle-fingers as a retort.

 

“I thought we weren’t supposed to… do shit like that?” Lance asks, slamming his plates down onto two seats on a comically-conjoined long table, made from a card table, Hunk’s minimalist dining table, and what looks to be a dresser.

 

“Not if you can do it without getting caught,” Allura says from her seat across the table. Coran is beside her, staring at his plate with some sort of awe. “Terrible advice for me of all people to give, but it’s true. It’s not like we have many laws.”

 

“Unless you kill someone with magic! Then you're in quite the pickle,” Coran says in his cheery voice, fork stacked to the tip with food Keith can’t recall seeing. “Say, is there any eggnog here?”

 

“Damn right there is,” Lance says in an equally enthusiastic voice, slamming his hands on the table as he abruptly stands. “Hunk! Where’s the good shit?”

 

“Check the right side of the fridge,” Hunk says amidst a small chorus of parents telling Lance to watch his language, Veronica imitating her mother when she joins them. More siblings and parents cram themselves into small spaces at the table, conversation already rising to unbearable levels. Keith finds himself thankful that Allura sits just across from him. She balances out his intensity before he can even realize that he’s boiling over.

 

“Oh hell yeah! You guys stocked up !” Lance cheers, hauling a gallon of eggnog from the fridge.

 

Hunk’s mother laughs, bringing a water glass to her lips. “After last year, we thought it best to come prepared.”

 

Eggnog and water get passed around, conversation too loud to just be white noise to Keith. At some point, he ends up dragged into a conversation between Colleen and Emeline, the two debating over something petty in the medical field. They speak quickly, taking momentary breaks to shovel food into their mouths and only continue when they’re done. After the last person finishes clearing their plate (Allura, God rest her soul, had to have Coran force the last of her food down her throat), Pidge pulls out a powerpoint on her phone to give a lengthy presentation to Esmerelda and Hunk’s moms on why Iverson should be fired.

 

The presentation continues all the way until the entire table has cleaned their plates, and Lance’s father and Sam herded everyone into the living room.

 

“How long did you have that prepared?” Keith asks as he takes a seat on an open spot on the floor furthest from the tree, Pidge planting herself on Hunk’s knee without any warning.

 

“A year now, probably. Hunk, who’s the designated present thrower this year?” She leans back into Hunk, tilting her head back to get even a glimpse of her friend.

 

“Coran. You know, to go with the theme of seamlessly incorporating the new additions.”

 

“And he was way too excited for anyone to tell him no,” Lance adds. He takes a seat in between Hunk’s legs, using Pidge’s thighs and Hunk’s right leg as armrests. He gestures loosely at Coran, who had maneuvered through the sea of people to the tree, and is currently giving a lengthy rundown of how this is going to work. Keith doesn’t really pay attention. “I mean, look at the guy! How can anyone look him directly in the eye and tell him he can’t do something?”

 

“It’s a crime at the least,” Matt says in agreement. “Felony at the most.”

 

“Well, it depends on what he wants, really. If it’s something small I can’t really say no to him, but he once asked me to buy him a pair of hot pink cowboy boots for his birthday,” Allura adds. She had taken a seat from the dining room and positioned it by the window while everyone was washing their dishes. “As funny as it would be, I don’t think any of us want to see him walking around in those.”

 

“Allura, sweetie, honey, the most beautiful woman to grace the Earth,” Pidge says, bringing her hands to her lips. “I would pay to see Coran in those goddamn cowboy boots.”

 

“They were bedazzled. Spelled out 'juicy' across the two.”

 

“Even better.”

 

“Okay everyone shut up,” Matt says, covering Shiro’s mouth of all people. “The festivities are beginning.”

 

Coran, surprisingly, has a very strong arm. Keith finds himself stumbling to catch the few presents thrown his way. He’s shocked by the fact that he got any. Even if they were only from the Holts, Allura, and Lance’s mom. Pidge falls off Hunk when an especially heavy gift is tossed towards her, and many times Shiro had to catch them before they broke something on their journey to the recipient.

 

Everything Keith receives is something he needed in one way or another. He ends up with a knife from the Holts, who are all very insistent that he can never have enough knives, a new motorcycle helmet and riding jacket from Allura, who made an off-hand comment on how Shiro kept complaining about how old his current ones look, and some research book from Lance’s mom.

 

Shiro got new runes, with a tarot card on top of them. The card vanishes first into Shiro’s coat.

 

“Just say you got concert tickets,” Allura advises with a wink, leaning back into her chair. She doesn’t tell Shiro why he needs the runes-- actually, she never does, but Shiro’s become adept at figuring out the reasons himself-- only continues talking with Abella about how to best take advantage of the Garrison.

 

Lance picks up Keith’s helmet when he’s not looking. Before Keith can retrieve it himself, Lance places it back down, satisfied with his inspection of the red finish. “I didn’t know you rode,” He says quietly. Keith can almost see the gears in his head turning, trying to find out where this new piece of an incomplete puzzle fits.

 

“It was never important.”

 

They let the conversation drop from there. Keith finds himself inching closer to the window every time the conversation shifts, becoming far too aware of his… presence in the room. Or, in better terms, his magical presence. The room feels too stuffy, and all of the body heat is not going well for Keith, all in all. It’s like Allura isn’t in the room to regulate him, isn’t just a few feet away from him.

 

The light at the end of the tunnel comes when Matt tells Esmeralda that there’s no way in hell she can drink an entire gallon of eggnog. Luis all but trips over his feet to run to the kitchen to get the jug for her, the sister in question tying her hair back and rolling her sleeves up to her arms.

 

Keith makes it to the backyard when the cheering and whooping begins. The cold air is a solace to him. It cancels him out and leaves nothing in his place.

 

The door opens without a sound. The only telling sign is the laughter from inside growing louder. Then Keith is back to the silence, with the cool ocean washing over him.

 

“Hey,” Lance says. He’s quiet, sitting down on the step next to Keith without making any complaint about missing out on the fun.

 

“Hey,” echoes Keith. His voice doesn’t even come out as a whisper. “Did Shiro send you?”

 

“Nah.” Lance fiddles with a box, rubbing his thumbs over the red ribbon. He holds it out to Keith silently at first. “Wanted to give you this.”

 

“Oh. Uh. Alright.” Hesitantly, Keith takes the box. He eyes Lance the entire time he opens it, searching for some underlying joke. He finds nothing. Unsatisfied but content, he returns his attention to the now-open box to see-- “Ah, yes. A USB drive. I’ve been needing one for years.”

 

Lance laughs, more at ease than before. Good. Keith said something right. “It’s a bunch of songs I downloaded for you. Most of them are musicals I thought you’d like, though. You know, to ease you into this hell-hole of mine. We can get into the weirder shit I like later.”

 

“Lance.”

 

“Hm?”

 

“That’s cheesy as fuck.”

 

“It gets so much worse.” Lance taps the bottom of the box in Keith’s hands. He looks smug with himself. “I got you something else.”

 

Keith, following Lance’s tip, pulls out two woolen… tubes? No, that’s stupid and Keith should know better. It’s a pair of fingerless gloves made from black wool, lined with crimson satin. They feel element-proof. Allura must have helped him with the materials because they were very obviously not made by her expert hands. “Now, I know you don’t like talking about your arm deal, but you only own like… two variants of the same gloves? And I can’t have that in my Jesus abiding household, so…”

 

“Thank you.” Keith rubs his thumb along the inside of one of the gloves, sparing a trace of a smile to show his gratitude. “I would put them on now, but…”

 

Lance rubs his hands together, trying to create some sort of heat. “Yeah, I understand. Just don’t tell anyone I gave you these because they’re not going to let me live it down for a long time.”

 

Keith sets the box beside his feet, items securely put away. “Trust me, I won’t.”

 

A silence settles over the two for some time, each content with the quiet and their environment to view. They remain like this for a few minutes until Lance shudders, drawing his hands around himself. “You’d think I’d be used to the cold,” he mutters to himself.

 

“No one’s ever really used to the cold,” Keith says, angling his body to face Lance. He holds his hands out, palms facing the sky. A flame erupts in his palms, the embers dancing into the night. “Just how no one’s ever really used to the heat.”

 

“Even you?”

 

“Especially me. It’s just a… different kind of heat that I’m not used to.”

 

Lance’s lips curl at the ends, face illuminated by the flame. “A different kind of heat, eh?”

 

“Don’t start--”

 

“Alright, I won’t.” Lance raises his hands in surrender. They drop back to the fire, and his expression changes. “Why did you come out here?”

 

“Too many people,” Keith says simply. They remain quiet when he elaborates, “Too many people in one space. It’s too much for me-- too much for my magic. Especially when everyone’s got these happy complete families and I’m just…” He gestures vaguely. Lance gets the point regardless.

 

Lance stares at the fire for a long while. “If you’re naturally warm because of your magic, what am I naturally?”

 

“Naturally a pain in the ass.” He responds instantly, grateful for the shift in conversation. Lance interjects with a small ‘hey’, while Keith laughs. “I’m kidding. You’re average. But like all magic having a presence, yours feels like the ocean. Other than the literal sense, it also draws people into you, I think.”

 

“Huh. That’s… really neat, actually. Explains a lot.” He scratches his cheek, finding Keith’s fire more interesting than the caster himself.

 

“Lance, I need to know--” Keith begins, preparing himself to unearth a suspicion he’s had about him ever since they discovered his primary magic.

 

Lance’s eyes barely glance up from the fire, and Keith finds himself so preoccupied with gathering his thoughts and forming them into words that he doesn’t even hear the door open behind them.

Chapter Text

“Oh my God, Lance, Keith,” Hunk says in his loud voice, laughter bubbling from him. An alarm goes off somewhere in Lance’s mind, but the rest of him just screams ‘ not here. Not now ’ while he’s deemed immobilized from fear. “You guys will not believe what just hap--”

 

Hunk and Pidge stop dead. Keith’s fire is gone in a second, and panic seizes his entire body language to the point where even Lance can tell he’s freaking the fuck out. Then Pidge is freaking the fuck out and everyone’s just having a good ol’ ‘freak the fuck out’ moment, you know, how most bonding friends do.

 

“What the fu--!” Pidge begins, her voice rising a couple octaves. Lance sends himself into action, slamming his hand over Pidge’s mouth before she can finish speaking. He grips their consciousnesses easily, guilt digging into the pit of his stomach.

 

“Both of you, don’t speak. Don’t move,” he says, his voice wavering and shaking. Keith remains on the step, owlish eyes unblinking and body unmoving like his mind’s racing to catch up with what just happened. Taking a rattling breath,  “Just… calm down.”

 

And they do. Just like everyone else that Lance commands, they become lifeless puppets for him to manipulate. Keith rises to his feet, using the railing as stability. He pulls Lance to the small space that serves as Hunk’s backyard, silent until they’re a distance from the two deathly still duo. “What do we do?” Keith manages, somehow keeping his voice composed. “Do we get Allura?”

 

“No, that’d be worse. Let’s just… Try to explain it just the two of us. If we fuck up, we can get Allura. Alright?” Lance’s voice shakes, entirely betraying the false confidence he tries to instill in Keith, who nods weakly. “Alright. Come over here, guys.” His grip on Pidge and Hunk slips, the light in their eyes returning. They stumble over to Lance and Keith, hands shaking.

 

“You guys… probably have a lot of questions,” Keith says slowly, eyeing Pidge suspiciously. To Lance, she seems entirely and utterly pissed . “We’ll try our best to answer them.”

 

“How long?” Pidge asks, her voice barely audible. She inhales deeply, lining her scattered thoughts neatly into a dialogue tree for her to follow. She clarifies herself with, “How long have you been able to do that?”

 

“As long as you’ve known me, Katie,” Keith says, cringing at the look she gives him once she receives her answer. “Maybe longer.”

 

“Can Lance do… that?” Hunk asks. He doesn’t sound angry like Pidge, but someone who knew him less than Lance could definitely interpret it as anger. He’s… confused and guilty.

 

“Magic? Yeah. That’s… What I just used to get you guys to settle down. Apparently, I’ve always kinda used it but it was always so subtle no one who actually had magic knew? It’s weird.” Lance can feel his control on the situation slipping, his words filling the empty space to drown out his panic-stricken pulse. “I mean, not the magic part, t-that’ pretty normal to me-- I guess not to you though...”

 

“Lance, we get it,” Keith quickly says.

 

“Why the hell wouldn’t either of you tell me you could do this amazing shit? Like, this shouldn’t be possible, logically or scientifically, yet here you are!” Pidge cries, her voice hiking a few octaves in a voice crack that Lance would have otherwise found hilarious. He turns to his partner-in-crime, briefly seeing how his shoulders remain tense and a look of fear seeps through his very essence.

 

Keith tugs at his sleeve, brows scrunching in thought. Then he’s spreading his palms open, a small flame forming on one of his hands, jumping to the other. “Everything about this is logical, Katie. And it’s not scientific to you . When you’ve grown up in this world, surrounded by magic everywhere you went, you wouldn’t be thinking magic and science to be two separate terms.” The flame stretches into both hands in an arc. “The two would just… meld together.”

 

“That still doesn’t explain why you would keep such a vital part about yourself locked away from me for six fucking years like you do absolutely every fucking thing else!”

 

“We choose who to tell about what we do, and when we tell them. If I had the choice, the two of you wouldn’t be here right this very moment, and Lance could tell you in his due time. I never had the right to tell you in the first place.”

 

“And would you?” Pidge asks, turning on Lance, who looks like a deer in the headlights in the path of her rage.

 

Lance feels his heart beating against his ribs. Tastes saltwater on his tongue and hears the ocean pounding against his eardrums. Then a fire sears into Lance and forces tears into the corners of his stinging eyes. The ocean evaporates to humid air.  “I’ve… been trying to tell you for years,” he eventually manages, if it can even be called managing. His voice croaks and strains, barely rising above a hoarse whisper. “It was never a matter of if I’d do it. It was a matter of someone believing me.”

 

All of Pidge’s fury falls away in an instant. Her expression goes blank, and her tense shoulders slump. She remains dead silent for a minute. Then she blinks, looks between the two, and goes, “I’m going back inside.”

 

“Good idea,” Keith says, seeming ecstatic for an excuse to be anywhere but here. Lance can’t blame him. Pidge leaves first, dragging her feet the whole way. Hunk doesn’t follow, snapping from his odd state to open his arms wide and scoop Lance up in a bone-crushing embrace.

 

“Woah, buddy, what’s this for?” Lance lets a breathy laugh escape him, relief settling in him to know Hunk wasn’t mad at him. His larger friend releases him, tears and snot streaming down his face. He doesn’t explain, only sniffles loudly.

 

“Hunk, don’t cry man! if you cry I’ll cry!”

 

“Can neither of you cry? Have we tried that?” Asks Keith, visibly uncomfortable.

 

“That’s not how this works, hottie. Just go inside and give Shiro the laydown,” Lance says through a sniffle, proceeding to gross sob with Hunk. The two very loudly question why the hell they’re crying while Keith silently slips into the house.

 

Everyone acts like they’d never left.

 

Part of it might be because of Lance’s family. They never understood Lance or why he suddenly changed his way of acting and carrying himself, but to them, he deserved the same privacy as the next sibling. Which wasn’t much, but they could tell when he needed it.

 

And it means the world to Lance.

 

Luis goes on an art-related rant for a long while, explaining to Hunk’s mom that pointillism is hell and his partner is on fucking crack for deciding to make a twenty-four by twenty-four sized pointillism project for their master’s thesis. This then leads into a super early showing of Luis’ animation master’s thesis that bridges until midnight and Marco and Veronica shut the party down with claims to have to go see their children and spouses, like losers.

 

Lance and Keith are the last to leave. Even Allura and Coran are gone, Allura having winked at the two and left without explaining anything. They walk with their shoulders nearly touching, Lance complaining about the cold. As you do in this sort of weather.

 

“Allura said that your uniform is ready,” Keith says idly, eyeing Lance’s parents and Abella, who meander up ahead. “I was thinking that we could pick them up before training so you can break it in?”

 

Lance hums. “I’m guessing it’s like yours?”

 

“Should be. But we never know with Allura.”

 

“Right. We’re approaching the car so…”

 

“Yeah. See you then?”

 

“It’s a date, hot stuff.” Lance winks at Keith and throws him a kiss, taking a bouncing step forward to catch up with his family. Keith continues on past Lance, hands in his pockets.

 

Both keep their gaze trained on the dark horizon.

 

________________

 

The call of the ocean reaches into Lance’s dreams. He had been dreaming about something mundane-- he thinks it was another one of him on Broadway-- when water laps at his feet. He only takes in the water with vague interest, his performance halting and the audience remaining as deathly silent as usual. The water level rises, engulfing the heads of nameless and faceless audience members.

 

Lance thinks it important to mention now that he is, in no way, a lucid dreamer. He’s often aware that he’s dreaming but always finds himself unable to change the course of his dreams.

 

But Lance’s mind processes the water in an… intriguing way. It’s not like his mind just goes ‘hey, this thing is happening in your dream, neat’. It looks at the water, then gives him a string of thoughts that dream-Lance conveys into echoing words. “Why now?”

 

The water ripples, pushing backward, forward, backward, forward. Every time water collides with Lance, it rises a little bit more. This continues until it’s to Lance’s hips. The water ripples a few feet in front of him.

 

A man emerges from the ripple. His blue hair remains dry like the rest of him and sticks out wildly. Scars resembling gills line the sides of his neck. Lance feels himself want to take a step back, though his feet remain glued to the submerged stage. He continues, “Why now when I don’t have a clue what I can do?”

 

“You never would know what I am otherwise.” The voice of the ocean envelopes him, words present in the air despite his lips remaining sealed.

 

“What are you, then? Who are you?”

 

The voice of the sea says nothing. He just stands there, staring at Lance with his emotionless eyes. In his hand is a wand in his tight grip, relentless on letting go. As if he could be attacked any minute. The water rises to their waists. The man of the sea lifts his wand-hand in a robotic motion. Lance feels a small point touch his forehead.

 

The water rises beyond their heads.

 

________________



“Mother fucker !”

 

“Language!” Estella shouts from somewhere down below to respond to whichever one of her siblings screeched out a curse. Lance’s shirt clings to his sweaty chest, a shaky hand gripping his hair for any sort of solace. His heart pounds against his skull until his temples ache. He takes a deep breath in-- the air still tastes like saltwater-- and breathes out deeply.

 

Birds chirp outside of his window. Other than Lance’s blanket (and his wand, for some reason?) being all the way in fucking Timbuktu, everything is as it should be.

 

Except… It wasn’t.

 

Lance moves on autopilot. He knows this because normal Lance would have taken a fucking shower first thing. Autopilot Lance picks up his phone, goes into his contacts, and immediately call Hunk.

 

It rings twice before he picks up.

 

Neither says anything for a few seconds.

 

“Are we good?”

 

“Lance, what the hell does that even mean? Of course, we’re good. Sure, I’m a little mad, but I’m mostly mad at Pidge for blowing up on you two.”

 

“Oh thank god,” Lance breathes. “I had a weird dream.”

 

“What about?”

 

And so Lance tells him. Sure, it’s an abridged version with a little more cursing and a lot more cryptic phrasing, but Hunk gets the point. “So… Magic effects dreams. Got it.”

 

“This wasn’t just any kind of magically effected dream, dude. I’ve heard this dude speak to me before.” Lance crouches down, his wand feeling heavy in his hand. “And Keith doesn’t seem to want to tell me, because that’s what you do when you’re supposed to teach someone magic I guess, and if I go to anyone else it’ll be weird.”

 

“Dude… You’re the magical Long Island Medium,” Hunk says, before promptly evaporating into hysteria.

 

“This isn’t something to joke about!” Lance says, despite his mind creating mental images as himself with long nails like his abuela, and a beehive to boot. “Alright, maybe it is, but that’s not the point! I’m in genuine wizard distress and you’re the only person I trust to know this right now!”

 

“Okay, okay, but we definitely have to get Luis to enable our bullshit,” Lance mumbles his agreement. “Have you ever considered your magic’s like… sentient?”

 

“Of course I fucking have, I’m not stupid,” Lance says, pausing. His toes dig into his rug. He lazily lifts a hand to his face, water slowly trailing up his arm and pooling obediently in his palm. His forearms ache dully. “Magic’s a part of me. Keith’s not very specific in his explaining so I can’t give you solid facts, but my magic acts with my will because it is me. My wand is just… a conductor for everything I can’t do naturally.”

 

“Like fire and shit?”

 

“Yeah, like fire and shit.” The street below is alive with activity. There’s a distant ember in Lance’s chest. A feeling deep in his gut tells him, “Hey, I think Keith’s coming by.”

 

“And…?” He can practically hear Hunk’s eyebrow raise from all the way across San Rosa.

 

“I’ve conjured enough sweat to make the humidity in Florida pale in comparison.” Hunk gags on the other end of the line. “Right. So I’m going to get ready. If you come up with any explanation to my dream encounter with magic Jesus, I’d literally die for you.”

 

“Please don’t,” he manages weakly.

 

________________

 

For once in Lance’s entire time training, the impossible happens.

 

Lance wins against Keith.

 

Now, to properly set this up, you should know that the coalition wasn’t empty-- it wasn’t just the two of them going ham in the arena. There were other spellcasters already stretching on the metal fence by the time they arrive. Lance swears that he sees Florona leaning against the railing on the outside, talking to some other spellcaster.

 

“Lance! Keith!” Allura calls, racing over from another spellcaster in the arena. She leaps over the fence, the air shifting in the process. When she lands in front of the two, there’s a stack of clothes in one of her hands, and white boots under her other arm. “I’m so sorry we couldn’t get it to you sooner. You won’t believe how difficult it is to make element-resistant clothing.”

 

“I’d imagine it’s a little bit of a pain in the ass, sure,”  Lance comments, retrieving his uniform from Allura. A blue emblem identical to the one on Keith’s uniform looks up at him. “So when Keith beats my ass into the dirt, I won’t be entirely naked?”

 

“Nope. Entirely clothed, as much of a pleasure it would be to the crowd and--”

 

“Go try it on,” Keith cuts in, glaring sharply at Allura. “Just to see if it’s to your liking.”

 

Somehow, Lance gets the impression that Keith doesn’t want Allura to say something she shouldn’t.

 

Lance turns some tiny room in the back hallway into a temporary changing room. The costume’s the same black bodysuit as Keith’s-- emblem included, with the same white leather boots with a wand-holder sewn into brown elastic that bends around the inside of his thighs. But what isn’t a carbon clone to Keith’s is a jacket Allura had at the bottom of the pile. It’s white and blue with the emblem sewn over the right breast and doesn’t seem to be made to be worn zipped up.

 

Lance zips it up just to fuck with Allura.

 

“Okay, I’m going, to be honest here,” he says as he stalks back to the duo after leaving the changing room, “I feel like a sci-fi character had a magical girl transformation.”

 

“Is that an ‘i like it’ type of response or…?” Keith quirks a brow at Lance, already somehow decked out in his own uniform. His bandages are back, and his scarf back around his waist.

 

“I love it,” Lance snaps defensively, pulling on the strings to his jacket with bravado. “It’s snazzy.”

 

“See? I told you I’m always right with these sorts of things,” Allura says, hitting Keith upside the head. Spinning on her heels, she hops to the bars of the fence and begins to circle around. “You need to start trusting more.”

 

“I’ll do as I please, thank you very much,” says Keith. He launches himself over the fence. Lance, meanwhile, uses the gate. Like a normal person . A few of the spellcasters not currently training shift closer to the edge, some glaring bitterly at Keith. Who doesn’t seem to notice or care, because he’s looking directly at Lance. “Ready to lose?”

 

“Not any time soon, Guapo . You?” Lance crouches down to Keith’s level, both holding one hand to the dirt. There’s a wicked look the two share with one another. Someone who Lance doesn’t know starts a countdown in an incredibly terrible Coran impression.

 

“I don’t lose.”

 

Then Lance is launching himself directly at Keith, saltwater coating his tongue and the roar of his magic pounding in his ears. Seeming to anticipate him to ambush him, Keith lets out a little chortle and sends himself soaring into the air with a puff of dust in his wake.

 

What he doesn’t anticipate is Lance to do the exact same thing. Granted, it’s a little bit different since he’s using water to aid him, but that’s not what matters. Keith blinks at him with owlish eyes, the fire cresting his head crackling. “Miss me?” Lance coos. Then he’s kicking Keith square in the chest, praying to all Hispanic mothers above that his self-defense classes didn’t fail him in his time of need. Keith makes a strangled sound, hands gripping fiercely onto Lance’s shin. Heat seeps from his fingertips and through the leather. Lance points a strategic finger-gun in Keith’s direction and makes the sound of a gun firing. Water shoots from his index finger and directly into Keith’s eye.

 

“Ow! Fuck!” He hisses, recoiling and blinking rapidly. His expression only sours further when he sees Lance’s shit-eating grin. “You know what? No more holding back.”

 

“Ooh, I like the sound of that,” Lance croons, diving under Keith while he dives above. The heat snips at Lance’s nose. “You want to stop trying to barbecue me? I mean I know I’m hot and all that, but this is at another level.”

 

“I’d rather not.” Fire nearly misses Lance’s ear, singing the tips of his hair.

 

“Stop.” Keith freezes up. The fire in his eyes remain. “We’re going back down.”

 

He doesn’t move.

 

Now , Keith.”

 

Lance’s feet touch the ground in sync with Keith’s. Allura eyes them with amusement, still perched on the metal bar. Shiro and Matt are at her side. “We’re going to do this properly. There’s an audience. Got it?” Keith nods his head slowly, still not entirely in control. “Good.”

 

Then Keith is hurdling at Lance full speed with wildfire spiraling down his arms. Yelping, Lance lifts his arms to cover himself.

 

Lance feels an impact from Keith, heat blasting into him full-force as they tumble to the ground. He can only gasp and inhale deeply, blinking rapidly at the man pinning him to the ground. “Don’t do that again,” Keith warns, his voice dangerously low. His cold eyes blaze with...fear? “ Especially in combat.”

 

“Or what? You’ll spank me?”

 

“I can do worse than that.”

 

“Kinky. You wanna get off?”

 

“No.”

 

“Alright,” Lance says, rolling his shoulders. He flexes his fingers against the hand pinning it down. The voice of the ocean calls to him. He doesn’t hesitate to answer.

 

The coolness of water washes over Lance’s skin, drowning out Keith’s raging fury. When he blinks, he sees a blanket of blue between the two. He wants Keith off of him. In such, this security blanket wants Keith off.

 

So that’s exactly what his magic does. It sends Keith soaring like a fucking ragdoll across the arena, and directly onto the floor outside of the pit. Lance groans as he hauls himself to his feet, meeting the shocked expressions of some spellcaster nearby.

 

Shiro and Matt seem too shocked to actually help Keith up, even by the time Lance makes it to him. Sighing, he holds out a hand to him. He looks up at him with unblinking eyes. “I’m actually going to kill you,” Keith says slowly.

 

“Mhm, sure buddy. You fix yourself up?” Lance grabs Keith by his forearm, hauling him to his feet.

 

“That’s been done. I was...thinking.”

 

“About?”

 

“Pidge. Hunk. Your sudden improvement. A lot of things, really.”

 

Lance flinches. Right. Pidge still hasn’t spoken to Lance since yesterday and, from the sound of it, neither has Keith. And Lance gets the feeling that if she stays mad for much longer, they’ll never be the same again. “Ah. Matt, quick question.” His head whips up at the sound of his name, tilting his head to the side. “How did you get in here?”

 

“I jumped on Shiro’s back.”

 

“That’s… A great idea, actually,” Keith says, stretching his arms above his head. He flinches at the movement. “I’d say we’re more than prepared for the competition, Allura.”

 

“You two have always been ready. It was a matter of building up trust, not expanding Lance’s limit. Though, that seems to be an incredible perk,” Allura gives a twinkling look to the two. She plops herself down on the railing, kicking her legs idly. “Matt, I’m curious. How was it to see them practice?”

 

“Well it was really cool at first because apparently, Keith has this reputation, so everyone kinda stopped what they were doing to see him practice and I guess compare it to the real thing? But then it got super intimate and I felt like I was walking in on them. No offense, dudes.”

 

“None taken,” Lance says, while Keith contradicts him with a glare.

 

“You guys were flirting though, right? It wasn’t just me seeing things?”

 

“We weren’t flirting,” Keith says stubbornly, tugging on one of his bandages. Lance doesn’t say anything, because whereas Keith might not have been flirting, Lance definitely was. It’s just in his nature, in his defense, to flirt with hot people. Except for Allura. Sure, he’s thought of it, but her aura always put him off his groove.

 

“They were flirting,” Shiro affirms. He ducks out of the way from Keith’s flying fist, and in a flurry of movements, has him on the ground. “Allura, want to explain?”

 

“Gladly.” She hops down from the fence and places her hands in front of her. A fire bursts to life in one hand, and ice chills the other.  “The thing with magic is that certain contradictory magics can work together if the users can work together, or are at… certain stages in whatever relationship they might have, platonic or not. Think of it like a dance. If one magic pulls,” The fire pulls away in an arc, the ice curving against it, filling in the empty space. “The other pushes back.”

 

A light dances in Matt’s eyes. He makes some vague gesture with his hands. “So with them, it’s just…”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“I’m going to commit two acts of homicide tonight, and I’m going to make Coran help me hide the bodies,” Keith wheezes from the dirt.

 

“I would offer to help you, but I’m like eighty-five percent sure one of the dead people is me,” Lance says. He pretends like Allura’s explanation of their practice means that they’re just really good friends, and not what he knows the implications mean.

 

“Ah, you’re learning. I’ve taught you everything you need to know in life. Shiro, for the love of shit, get off of me or I’m taking your arm off when you’re asleep tonight and putting it somewhere you can’t find it.”

 

Shiro makes some off-hand comment about how ‘that went so well the last time’, and lifts his foot from Keith’s back. Scrambling to his feet, Keith brushes hair from his face and glares at no one in particular. “I’m going to change.” He looks Lance over from head-to-toe. “You should too.”

 

Lance decides he wants to wear the jacket outside. Keith makes some sort of noise of disapproval but says nothing. Especially when Allura doesn’t say anything. Matt suggests getting something to eat, and Keith seems to be too tired to dissent. He doesn’t speak for the entirety of the walk to some hole-in-the-wall cafe that Matt and Shiro assure Lance is ‘better than it appears’. Lance finds himself not speaking much either. He’s too preoccupied staring at Keith’s arms, looking to Shiro’s arm, and wondering if it was connected. Then, he went, no, can’t be, Shiro probably lost it in an accident. For all he knows.

 

“Alright, I can’t take it anymore,” Shiro announces before they reach the cafe. Matt groans, but halts with the rest of the group. “Keith, what the hell is on your mind and Lance, don’t overstep your boundaries.”

 

How could Shiro possibly know what Lance was thinking about? It wasn’t like he was being obvious or anything.

 

Right?

 

“Does Pidge hate us?” Keith blurts, peering past Shiro to Matt, currently frozen mid-stretch with a deer in the headlights expression.

 

“I... don’t think so? She kinda acted the same way when she tried hacking the Garrison only to see that I already beat her to the punch?”

 

“Those are… entirely different scenarios.”

 

“Okay, and? She’ll come to her senses and realize that none of us told her because she’s a stubborn little shit who doesn’t change her opinions on what’s possible and impossible.” Matt shoves his hands into his jacket pockets, squinting an eye suspiciously at the three. “She’s a smart girl.”

 

“Why did you try to hack the Garrison?” Lance asks, grappling for a change of topic. Sure, he knows why Pidge tried to hack the Garrison-- she hates everything about the damn place and wants to leave first chance she gets.

 

“Oh, you know, ‘fuck the government’ and all that shit. I think I was mad that Nyma got suspended for something Lotor did and wanted to get back at them? That or find information on their top secret projects. Not saying I’d do that, or that I necessarily found anything but, you know.”

 

“Yes. Right. Hypothetically, did Pidge find the same thing?”

 

“She found a bit less in this hypothetical situation.” Matt holds the door open for everyone, almost hitting Keith in the face with the door. “But like I said, The two of you are fine. Just expect her to hook you up to a machine sometime in the near future.”

 

“Great,” Keith dryly drawls, “It’s what I’ve always wanted.”

 

“It sounds like a fucking blast,” Lance chirps, “think of it. You, Pidge, and the electrical equipment she strategically places between you in case you blow up.”

 

Keith, to Lance’s bemusement, actually snorts. “Ah, yes, the most honorable death of all; Explosion via Pidge experimentation.”

 

“That’s how one of our pet turtles went out once.”

 

“Seriously, what the fuck is up with your entire family,” Shiro says, “I mean, I thought our family was fucked up but you nerds are so much worse.”

 

“You know what? Let’s blame my dad. He encourages us. All in favor of blaming my dad for raising mad scientist children say 'I',” says Matt. The council unanimously agrees to blame good old Sam Holt.

 

“But I think your family is in way worse shape than ours. I don’t even have the full story and it sounds like some fucked up TV show. Want to hear my pitch for it?”

 

“No--”

 

“Alright so, imagine this,” Matt ignores Keith’s dissent, a grin across his lips. Lance chortles at Keith’s bitter expression “An older, much more mature brother with major trauma issues and a missing arm has to take care of his edgy, emo half-sibling who has this weird fucking self-sacrificial tendency-- don’t look at me like that you know the signs are there-- while simultaneously running a shop their parents up and left them with when neither of them was in any position to run a business. On the topic of parents--”

 

“--and that’s where the pitch ends, goodnight and never pick up this show,” Shiro says with a nervous laugh. The look he gives Matt tells him to shut the fuck up . Brown eyes meet Lance’s gaze, and understanding dawns across Matt’s face. It was a look of ‘I know something Keith doesn’t trust you to know and Shiro’s too respectful of his boundaries to tell you himself’, and, quite frankly, Lance was starting to hate seeing it. On a brighter note, this summary of Keith and Shiro taught him more than he knew prior. One, the Black Lion wasn’t anything new in their lives. Two, Shiro and Keith are half-siblings. It explained why they had different surnames, but Lance just figured one kept their mother’s surname.

 

Now there’s a whole new can of worms on the fucking shelf, right next to the ‘want to know what’s under Keith’s bandages? Find out next episode on ‘guess that past!’’ can.

 

What the fuck happened to one--or two-- of their parents that neither Shiro nor Keith allows themselves to even mention it?

 

“Hey, Keith, do you have something specific you want or can I introduce you to good coffee, not that strong bullshit Pidge and you love?” Lance idly asks as they approach the counter. There’s strawberry shortcake in the display case just calling his name.

 

“Long black. I want the long black.” Keith barely glances away from Lance, reinstating himself as if he wasn't certain in his choice. His cheeks are flushed crimson from the cold, pale eyes blinking at him slowly. “heavy grinds.”

Chapter Text

Dec. 30                                                                                                                                    Alarm: Time to Get Fucked at 9:30 PM tonight

 

Garrison Chat (students only)

 

The Tailor (to all): what’s shaking my boys

Flower Power (to all): The economy

Lucius Malfoy’s long lost brother (to all): I think Ezor has alcohol poisoning.

Pidgie (to all): Sounds festive

Red (to all): Is she by the Sports medicine department, by any chance? Not that I’m going to help.

Aux Cord (to all): Yeah, I think I just saw Zethrid knock her to the floor a second ago. I’ll deal with it.

Nym[ind your own business] (to all): How is Ezor drunk so early in the day??

Lucius Malfoy’s long lost brother (to all): I’ll tell you later tonight.

Pidgie (to all): You two hang out?? Like, legiterally?

The Tailor (to all): legiterally isn’t a word my dude

Nym[ind your own business] (to all): no it isn’t and kinda not really? It’s not like we go to different schools, Pidge.

Red (to all): Even I know Nyma, which is weird as fuck

The Tailor (to Red): It’s weird because I’ve seen you almost kill her within a week of knowing you went to the Garrison

Red (to The Tailor): I didn’t try to kill her, that’s a felony.

The Tailor (to Red): suuuuurre buddy, I believe you 100%

The Tailor (to all): Hey Pidge-podge, do you have my favorite pen? I kinda need it. You know, for science reasons

Pidgie (to all): Okay yeah, that makes sense. It’s just weird cuz, well, you know. Nyma, you’re you, and Lotor’s Lotor.

Nym[ind your own business] (to all): yep.

Rolover has entered the chat room

Rolover (to Nym[ind your own business], Red, and The Tailor): You two ready to get your asses beat??

The Tailor (to Nym[ind your own business], Red, and Rolover): Geez, at least take us out to dinner first ;)

Red (to Nym[ind your own business], Rolover, and The Tailor): We’re going to win tonight. Not because we’re inherently better or anything, but because the two of you can’t duel without relying on Runes of all things.

Nym[ind your own business] (to Red, Rolover, and The Tailor): Oh, we can duel without runes.

The Tailor (to Nym[ind your own business], Red, and Rolover): Mhm sure Nyma. Even with a rune, you ate shit. Looking forward to tonight though babes, xoxo ;)

Red (to Nym[ind your own business], Rolover, and The Tailor): Lance, I’m actually going to kill you

The Tailor (to Nym[ind your own business], Red, and Rolover): ;)))))

 

________________

 

 

“Stop grinning like an idiot, you’re going to give yourself away,” Adina hisses in Lance’s ear. He gives her a momentary glare, thumb hovering above his keyboard beneath the table. Her knee collides with his, gentle if not for the fact that her joints were bony as all hell. Her disinterested green eyes stare down at him from the corner of her peripheral. “Who are you talking to, anyway?”

“Your mom. I’m telling her that her daughter’s a little shit who’s genuinely thinking about finding a rich, widowed lesbian to get money from.”

 

“She’d be far kinder to me than a sugar daddy,” she says, entirely serious. “But for real. Is it Keith? It’s gotta be Keith.”

 

“Look, I’m pulling up your mom’s contact right now,” says Lance, switching over to his contacts, scrolling until he finds Adina’s plethora of emergency contacts. Because when you’re Lance and almost die every other month, it’s best to get those. Because, you know. Milo Murphy’s law and shit. A cold look crosses over Adina’s already cold face, and Lance’s phone is gone in seconds.

 

“‘Look,’” she says, in a Lance-esque tone, “I’m pulling up your boyfriend’s contact right now.”

 

“Hey!” Hisses Lance, bumping into her roughly. A student shushes them from the table up ahead, but the professor continues his monotone lecture as usual. “I’ve told you forty times already that it’s not like that!”

 

“Yeah? Let’s find out then, shall we--?”

 

“He won’t tell you, and if anything, he’ll probably hate me until the end of time and trust me , this is the worst day for him to hate me!”

 

“Pssh, he already hates you, what more do you have to lose?”

 

“Adina, babe, sweetheart,” Lance says, dramatically draping himself over her, “you might hate me, but Keith is coming around. It’s very hard to break through those layers of years of mistrust in humanity. I would know best.” He presses a delicate fingertip against the bridge of her nose. A charming grin blossoms across his face.

 

Adina blinks at him, unimpressed. “He doesn’t hate you,” she clarifies, “but I know for certain you frustrate him.”

 

“Kinky.”

 

Adina’s bony, bony knuckles collide with his shoulder. It stings as all hell, but Lance would be a dead man if he yelped in pain. So he swallows any reaction, exhaling deeply through his nose.

 

Okay, he kinda deserved that.

 

Class ends without any further assault and Lance, thank god, and Adina’s talking about someone new she hates as they file out of the lecture hall. “So, if you see someone with a black eye limping around campus, you’ll know who gave it to them. Are you coming to practice?” She asks, immediately changing the subject. Lance hums idly, heat settling in his chest. Through the sea of people, he finds a flash of black.

 

“Nah, like I said,” he says, meeting Keith’s gaze from across the hall. No silent conversation passes over the crowd. He gives Adina the once-over, deems her worthy of even seeing him waiting for Lance, and returns his sights on the prize. He nods his head towards the exit. “I’ve got important things to do tonight.”

 

“Oh. Oh . Are you going to do--”

 

“Shut the fuck up, Adina.”

 

Adina raises her hands not in surrender, but in an ‘I give up on you’ kind of way. She flips him off as he stalks away, and he spins on his heel just to return the favor. He could have sworn he saw her smile, through that roll of her eyes and obnoxious scoff.

 

 

________________

 

 

“Yooo, dude, what the fuck?” Was not Lance’s initial planned reaction to the joint changing room. It was like the rest of the Coalition-- no rhyme or reason to any of the mess. The walls were white, the fluorescent lights coated everything in a bright blue, and an entire wall was dedicated to being a mirror.

 

In such, you can’t go in here with another dude and not see what you weren’t meant to see. It’s just not possible. Lance doesn’t want to see Keith’s dick! There’s a very fragile line between them of ‘flirting for fun as friends’ and ‘oh yeah, here’s my dick’! Besides, they’re both sweaty from training before-hand and Keith might look super hot when he’s tired but that’s a can of worms Lance threw down the disposal, so we’re fine! Everything’s okay and--

 

“If you don’t look at me I won’t look at you.” Keith is already looking away from Lance, his eyes downcast to his duffle-bag where he had haphazardly shoved his costume and various other articles of clothing, from the looks of it. Before Lance can even answer, Keith’s already pulling his shirt over his head. “Deal?”

 

“Deal.” Lance turns away from Keith just in time to see him begin to tug off his fingerless gloves. He sees a flash of black before he spins to an empty wall, shirt gone with a huff. His jeans just become a nuisance, and Lance thanks whatever gods the magical world has when he doesn’t have to take off his boxers to get into his uniform. “You know, I could look at you any time I wanted.”

 

Keith only hums, seemingly unbothered by his threat. Then there’s a rune hitting him in the back of the head. “Keep that on you until we go up,” he says. Lance wheels around to glare at Keith, only to see him already looking at him. he looks back to the patterned scarf in his hands like it’s the most important thing in the world, cheeks crimson. His arms are already covered.

 

Lance crouches down, picking up the cold pebble between his thumb and index finger. There’s an upside down L carved into it, with the bottom tail angled upwards into a v shape. “Uhhh… why?”

 

“To help you dip down. Give you more power. Nyma’s a dangerous poison, so you have to get to her before she can get to you.”

 

“And why haven’t you given me this sooner? Actually, I don’t even know how to defend myself against Nyma’s attacks so--”

 

“Lance, I have a plan. You’re going to have to shut up and trust me on this.” Keith glances up from his scarf. “And put on your undersuit, for God’s sake.”

 

“Put on your fucking sash and mind your own business, Carol Danvers,” Lance retorts, pulling up his bodysuit regardless. He eyes his boots with dissent, filling the silence that settles over the room with, “are we even supposed to know who we’re dueling?”

 

“No,” Keith immediately responds. Lance expects to see some sort of guilty look on his face but only sees intent focus. His wand is tightly in his hand. He admits, “Allura actually went out of her way to ensure that we would have little to no contact since we go to the same school. I didn’t even know we were dueling them until earlier today.”

 

“Because you don’t really care who you compete against?” Lance guesses. He shoves his wand into its little area behind elastic.

 

“Exactly. If I plan everything I do out before I go through with it, there’s no challenge.”

 

Explains a lot about Keith, but it’s not like Lance hasn’t already picked up on such. The room becomes silent again, the ambiance of distant music and loud chatter just a few feet out of the door. “I had a dream a while back,” he says with tempered hesitance. “Where I was on Broadway.”

 

Keith side-eyes him with apathy. “And? This is the fifth time you’ve had a dream like that this month.”

 

“I’m not finished, shut the fuck up. Anyway, the theatre started filling up with water. Which, not weird, I’ve been drowning a lot in my dreams as of recent. Then there was this guy in front of me, someone who I’ve never seen before. He was… familiar. Not in a way that I’ve seen him before, just in that deja vu feeling you get when you think you know someone?” Lance looks up to Keith, whose unblinking and wearing his best poker-face. His hand, which flexes and tightens around his wand, betrays him entirely. “I asked him why he was here. He told me that I wouldn’t know who he was if he didn’t show himself. Then the dream ended.”

 

“Your subconscious could be giving human shape to your magic,” Keith suggests.

 

“You’re a terrible liar, but I’m letting it slide because Hunk has a better idea that I want to believe more.” Lance prances up to Keith until he’s inches away, an invisible fire biting into him. Keith turns crimson but shows no signs of giving any facial tellings. “Can magic reach out to things that exist on a separate plane?”

 

Keith blanches. Other than that, he says nothing, jaw wired shut.

 

“Dude, C'mon, I’m not going to like, hate you or something if you tell me!”

 

“I know you won’t,” he says, voice barely audible. Still, he says nothing, piercing eyes unblinking the whole time, like he can’t tear himself away. Keith audibly sighs in relief when someone knocks on the door.

 

Groaning, Lance pushes away from Keith and retreats to his bag on the floor, digging through papers and rehearsal clothes for his jacket. In actuality, he knew exactly where it was and wanted to look like he was busy to make Keith’s stunned expression unrelated to the previous turn of events. “Come in!” He calls out over his shoulder.

 

“You have ten minutes before show time,” some unfamiliar spellcaster says, leaning against the doorframe. His yellow eyes travel from Keith to Lance and back again, a hand brushing through a lavender mohawk. “Kogane, you look like you just saw a ghost.”

 

“I wish that was what happened, Ulaz,” Keith says, offering no further explanation. Instead, he cracks his neck, barely throwing a glance to the spellcaster. “If you wanted to check up on Shiro, he’s not here yet.”

 

Ulaz lets out a huff. “Figures. At least one of you showed up on time today.” Lance feels eyes burn through the back of his head. “Don’t get too cocky, you two.”

 

“Can’t promise you anything. Cocky’s Lance’s middle name.”

 

“Who’re you calling cocky?” Lance retorts, throwing a glare over his shoulder to a smirking Keith.

 

“I thought I made it extremely clear,” he says, expression turning serious as he looks back to Ulaz. “We’ll win tonight. I might not have confidence in Lance’s abilities, but Nyma and Rolo aren’t exactly the most terrifying spellcasters in San Rosa.”

 

“To you, maybe,” Ulaz responds, “but maybe not so to Lance. You’ve had years to train to avoid people like them. He’s only had...what, a month or two?”

 

“And I’m doing amazing for only practicing for that long,” Lance defensively snaps. “I’d be doing a lot better if someone told me what I needed to know instead of leaving me abandoned in the fucking desert.”

 

Ulaz pinches the bridge of his nose, exhaling deeply. “Keith--”

 

“--I’m telling him when he’s ready to know,” Keith interrupts, gaze cold.

 

“...Fine. You’ve got seven minutes now. Make them count.”

 

 

________________

 

 

Keith pushes open the door that leads out to the Pit with aggressive force, a sea of people clearing out of the way of the door with yelps. He glances back to an awe-struck Lance, groans, and pulls him into the roaring crowd by the hand.

 

His hand is warm.

 

“Okay, okay! Everyone in the pit settle down!” Coran’s voice says through laughter. Keith leads Lance through the crowd, spellcasters that are whooping and hollering parting when they see flashes of red and blue in their peripheral. “I know you guys are excited and believe me, so am I, but this ruckus makes it hard to do my job!”

 

“Sorry, Gorgeous man!” Someone in the crowd screeches. Lance finds himself taken aback by the nickname, barking out a laugh. He sees Keith cover his smile with a hand. “You can do your job now!”

 

“Thank you, random person! So, entering the ring is the first duo of newcomers in the pairs scene-- Rolo and Nyma! No team name to note but we can bully them about it later, folks!” Lance sees Nyma and Rolo balancing on the edge of the railing, their hands raised and waving to everyone above. Nyma blows a kiss to someone in the crowd. Keith scoffs, releasing Lance’s hand to launch himself over the railing. Just for aesthetic, Lance does the same. He can almost hear his mami cursing him out for not using the gate over the pound of adrenaline. “And following after them is the long awaited for entrance of Keith Kogane into the pairs scene! With him is first-timer Lance McClain, making team Red and  Blue!” The crowd erupts into roars, and Lance is fairly certain he sees a red bra somewhere in the pit. Keith makes no move to look at the crowd, steadfast in meeting Nyma in the center. Lance follows, returning Rolo’s devilish grin.

 

“Show me your gloves,” Keith says dully. As if prepared, Nyma pulls out her gloves, dumps it out for show, and even turns it inside out, bulky as they are.

 

“Want to check my underwear, while you’re at it?” She asks. Knowing her, Lance is certain she winks at him under that mask of hers.

 

Keith gives no reaction, gesturing for Rolo to empty his pockets. “No thanks, too gay to do that.”

 

“What about you?” Nyma asks.

 

“I don’t want to check your--”

 

“-- She wants to know if you have runes on you,” Rolo says through barking laughter. Keith shoots him a pointed glare.

 

“I’m not all bark and no bite, cuties. No runes,” Lance says, pulling out his pockets just to ease their suspicions. When Keith is satisfied, he gives a thumbs up to no one in particular.

 

“Alright! So, change of rules by request of the competitors; we won’t have any runes in this match!” The crowd boos. Rolo quirks a brow at a stoic Keith. “I know, I know. But, with this rule, we’re remedying it with the requirement that the competitors have to go all out! No holding your punches, folks!”

 

“Wait, does that mean literally or figuratively--?” Lance asks, immediately cut out by Coran’s echoing voice.

 

“Competitors, on our mark!”

 

“--It’s a bit of both, really!” Keith shouts back as the crowd all but screeches the countdown.

 

Someone in the crowd tells Keith to ‘set their bodies on fire’. The mental image doesn’t settle well with Lance. “Great!”

 

When the crowd reaches one, Lance decides to use the literal meaning of not holding your punches. And kicks Rolo in the face when they’re racing to find a surface to land on. It wasn’t very graceful, he’ll admit, but it works. His feet land on protruding stone (since when were there obstacles in the pit?), and Rolo’s body collides with the wall.

 

And when Lance looks up above him, he sees nothing but fire.

 

Is this all you’ve got, sparky? ” Nyma’s voice taunts. He can hear her voice pounding in his skull, and feels his legs go numb. Keith’s fire leaves Lance’s chest, opening the floodgates to a merciless sea.

 

Keith shows no signs of even hearing Nyma, the fire parting temporarily to show his brows furrowed and wand pressed to his temple. Lavender eyes briefly meet Lance’s before the fire consumes him once more. But Lance knows Keith as well as anyone and knows when someone’s pushing their limits.

 

“Yo!” Lance is yelling before he can comprehend it, crouching down to the ground, “Wanda Maximoff! You’re shit at trash talking!”

 

Nyma looks down to Lance from her perch. She tilts her head to the side, purple eyes bearing into his soul. A crushing sense of danger shoves into Lance, and he can only manage a tiny “oh shit” before he’s acting on autopilot, feet leaving the ground and body surging through Keith’s fire. “You remember that plan you mentioned earlier? Well now’s the time to do it!” He screeches a fire licks at his skin, meeting Keith’s shocked visage with his own, mostly confused expression.

 

Rolo, as if sensing that Nyma was going to deal with a 2-on-1, is soon by his partner’s side. Keith’s fire shrinks away, afraid to touch Lance. “I want you to use your ability on yourself,” he says, offering no explanation as to how this plan works. But Lance gets the idea. If he’s already invading his own mind, it would be a battle to take the reigns from him, right?

 

So Lance pries into his own mind, puts himself outside of his body, to puppeteer himself, envisions himself shoving a mass of water into her chest and dragging her back to the ground, and says, “Lance, drown the shit out of Nyma.”

 

A vicious grin creeps across Keith’s lips, the pink on his cheeks darkening as Lance surges forward with a yell, his body feeling entirely alien to himself. Water courses down his arms and etches out to a shouting Nyma. Salt and ash linger on his tongue. Fire bursts past him as he collides into Nyma, a flash of orange headed for Rolo.

 

Then the four of them are falling back to the ground, Lance picturing Nyma’s back hitting the ground, water turning the dirt into mud so she can stand. And that’s exactly what happens. Well, almost exactly. The whole ‘Nyma hitting the floor and everything turns to mud’ thing happens, but as Nyma coughs and hacks, someone rams into Lance and knocks him to the ground. He feels something crack under Rolo’s weight, his flaring eyes filled with anger. Pain blossoms across Lance’s skull, like everything’s getting shoved around without his permission. “Keith!” He manages to screech, kneeing Rolo in the stomach as hard as he can. Fire takes over Rolo, Keith looking equally as pissed as his opponent. Rolo’s feet rise off of the ground, a flaming hand tightened around his neck. “Thanks,” Lance wheezes, charging at Nyma with a battle cry. The two tumble to the ground, a flurry of punches and an internal struggle to get into the other’s mind. At some point Lance gets suplexed to the dirt, the wind knocked out of him and everything growing fuzzy. He sees Nyma take a few steps to stand over him, grinning victoriously and already gesturing to the crowd to cheer her name. The taste of salty ashes lingers on the tip of his dry tongue. He can feel her digging around, pulling up every painful memory, everything she ever needed to know about Lance. There’s a flash of moments spent with Keith, but Nyma doesn’t look surprised or taken aback by the memory.

 

The voice of the sea calls to Lance.

 

The voice of the sea turns to a blizzard.

 

Lance doesn’t need to answer anymore.

 

His fingertips twitch against the mud. Water soaks back into his hand from the ground, chilling his bones. Then it shoots out in threats across the dirt, shards of ice bursting from the ground in a form-fit shape around Nyma’s legs. She shouts in alarm when the cold makes contact with her skin, struggling to free herself while Lance hauls himself to his feet, marveling at his hands.

 

“Oooh! It looks like Lance countered Nyma’s attacks by freezing her in place-- literally! Keith isn’t looking in much better shape, though,” Coran says, voice echoing above the roar of blood in Lance’s ears. He hesitantly turns to see Rolo pinning Keith against the floor, hands tightened around his neck. Every time fire sparks around Keith’s arms to retaliate, he flinches further into the ground. Lance has to remedy this somehow. Sure, he doesn’t know how but Keith said it himself that he doesn’t have a plan either--

 

“Keith!” Someone shouts in the crowd-- Shiro?--, “is fire really the only magic you know? Are you serious? What kind of spellcaster are you?”

 

Releasing a war cry, Keith wraps his own shaking hands around Rolo’s head. Pale light bursts from his fingertips, flowing around his hand in beautiful tendrils. Rolo joins him in shouting, his grip loosening just a bit. It’s enough for Keith to shove his opponent to the side, hands still desperately gripping white hair for dear life.

 

Then Rolo falls limply onto the floor, and Keith shakingly hauls himself to his feet. He takes in Lance and Nyma with wide eyes, shaking legs carrying him over. Lance returns his focus to his new ice-sculpture. She stares at him through a now-broken mask, eyes full of intense emotion. He feels her nails dig into his skull, consciousness scrambling to get a grip on him. “Get on with it,” She spits through clenched teeth.

 

Lance watches as ice burns into her skin, forming a jagged point centimeters from her throat before bursting into a million fractured pieces. When she falls to her knees, taking in heavy breaths through her mouth, the crowd erupts into chaos. “And there you have it, folks!” Coran all but yells, “the winners of this tournament-- Team Red and Blue!”

 

Keith reaches out to Lance, placing a burning hand on his shoulder. Yellow light travels across Lance’s body, numbing the pain in his shoulder until the pain no longer exists. “We did it,” he says in a quiet voice while the crowd cheers and whoops, taking in Keith as his eyes widen and cheeks turn crimson. Lance can feel his cheeks burn and hurt from a little too much smiling. “we really are a good team.”

 

Lance puts both of his freezing hands on Keith’s shoulders and looks up to the VIP deck.

 

He can swear that he sees Allura staring back down at him.

 

 

________________

 

 

Lance trips on the doorframe to his house when he tries to sneak back in. He falls face-first onto the rug, pain spreading across his face. A light turns on somewhere upstairs, and distant footsteps resonate off of the creaking floorboards, stopping next to Lance’s head. A foot digs into his side and flips him onto his back.

 

Pidge blinks down at him, dark circles under her eyes. “Are you drunk?” She asks calmly. Lance pulls himself up with shaking legs, putting his sweaty forehead against the doorframe. He opens an eye to peer at his friend.

 

“Do you want the Lance answer or the answer I’m going to give everyone else?” He asks, an echo of before Pidge knew that the Lance answer was the truth. An echo of when Pidge still talked to Lance. Actually, this was the first time she’s spoken to him-- to anyone-- since she came back from her parents’.

 

Pidge hesitates, lingering a bit too long. Then, with a sigh, “the Lance answer.”

 

“Spellcasters duel for money, fame, more opportunities, whatever, every few months. Keith and I just won our first duo duel.” If Pidge is shocked, she shows no sign of it. Instead, she slings one of Lance’s arms around her shoulder and starts their trek up the stairs. “Our magic drains any energy we have when we push the limit.”

 

“You’re freezing,” Pidge mutters. “How long were you outside?”

 

“Not the weather,” Lance responds, the words slurring together. He holds a hand out in front of him, ice cascading up his fingertips. Pain echos through him, telling him to stop. So he does. “Just… not enough time spent next to Keith.”

 

“Okay, but you’re literally beyond the freezing point.” She shoves open Lance’s door with a shoulder, half-drag half-leading him to his bed. He cracks a lopsided grin at her.

 

Lance’s body collapses into his bed. “You should see the other guy.”

 

She only blinks at him. “I don’t think I even want to know what you did to them. Goodnight, Lance.”

 

“Wait, wait,” Lance says desperately, trying to push himself into a sitting position. “Are we cool?”

 

“No, you’re cool. I’m Pidge.”

 

“I’m being serious.”

 

Pidge sighs. “I mean, I guess? You wouldn’t intentionally hide something from me without reason-- I’ve lived from you for a few years and known you a few more and learned your entire life’s story in only a week of that time. But now Matt ’s revealing that he’s been hiding shit, so what’s next? Rover turns out to be a werewolf cursed to be in dog-form?” She scoffs, a sad look crossing over her face. “But in actuality? I’m not mad. Not anymore. I’ve been mad for too long at you when you didn’t do anything to me.”

 

“Hug it out, then?”

 

“No.”

 

“Coward.” Lance finally manages to pull himself onto his bed, burrowing himself under the covers to seek warmth. “If I tell you a secret, will you forgive Keith, too?”

 

“I don’t know, man, that one time he took my mechanical pencil? I don’t think anyone comes back from pencil theft--”

 

“Pidge.”

 

“Okay, okay, sure. Humor me.” Pidge smiles, something fond and alien and… new. “What secret can you possibly be keeping from me other than your wizard bullshit?”

 

Lance purses his lips. Then, “I think I like Keith.”

 

Her reaction doesn’t change. She’s still smiling knowingly.“And?”

 

“I want him to trust me.”

 

“That’s the same thing, Lance,” she says, leaning against the doorframe.

 

Lance scrunches his face defensively. “No, it isn’t.”

 

“To him it is. Trust and love are just two interchangeable things for Keith, and he doesn’t know if he’s ready for either yet.”

 

Lance turns onto his back, staring at a hanging plant just above the center of his room. Keith had said it was thyme, explaining that human witches used it to try and contact people not of this world, or just to get a good night’s rest. He’s still trying to figure out if the human witches were right. “Is he?”

 

Pidge makes a little noise mixed between a scoff and a sigh. “Honestly? I don’t know.”

 

Silence. Crickets chirp outside and from somewhere across town Lance can hear a siren. Somewhere across town, Keith is awake, going through whatever Lance is going through. Maybe going through it worse. But Lance has Pidge, now, to help him. Maybe Keith has Shiro and Matt. Maybe. Lance decides that he’ll message him to check up on him after Pidge leaves.

 

“You know what?”

 

“What?”

 

“I don’t think that bothers me.”

 

Lance’s waited this long.

 

What’s a little while more?

Chapter Text

Jan. 1st

 

Beauty and the Beanstalk

 

Leon (12:23 PM): Ok Ok so like no one’s paying attention to the chat right now but I just had a brilliant idea.

 

Leon (12:23 PM) What if everyone called Lance “your furriness” instead of like

 

Leon (12:24 PM): All of those bullshit royalty titles

 

Hyun (12:24 PM): No.

 

Finn (12:24 PM): Dude, that sounds amazing!!

 

Hyun (12:24 PM): It really doesn’t. Stop endorsing him

 

 

——

 

Jan. 5th

 

Lance (3:56 PM): do spellcasters have concepts of sexuality

 

Hot Sauce (3:56 PM): yes? Why is this important?

 

Lance (3:56 PM): It’s for science

 

Hot Sauce (3:57 PM): Not an explanation.

 

Lance (3:58 PM): Too bad cuz it’s all you’re getting

 

——

 

Jan. 8th

 

Pidgeon (10:34 AM): So like, hypothetically, how would someone know they're a spellcaster?

 

Lance (10:34 AM): Find a hot guy?? Idk I don't know how the game works I just play it and hope for the best

 

Pidgeon (10:35 AM): Is

 

Pidgeon (10:35 AM): Is that a pun?

 

Lance (10:35 AM): .....

 

Lance (10:36 AM): No?

 

Magic Mike (Shiro. It's Shiro.) (10:36 AM): Yes. Yes it is.

 

Pidgeon (10:37 AM): Blocked

 

Lance (10:37 AM):  Wait Pidge unblock me I have to tell you something

 

Pidgeon (10:37 AM): ,,,,Unblocked

 

Lance (10:37 AM): Bitch

 

 

 

 

——

 

 

Jan. 10th

 

Lance (11:12 PM): are you sure you’re alright? Florona kinda handed your ass to you on a platter

 

Hot Sauce (11:13 PM): Positive.

 

Lance (11:13 PM): Ok

 

Lance (11:13 PM): I’m here if you need me

 

Hot Sauce (12:08 PM): I know.

 

 

________________

 

 

 

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people backstage since Lance and Estella almost kicked the bucket,” Finn says from somewhere behind Lance. The murmur of chatter engulfs the room and even louder conversations filter from the audience.

 

Hyun snorts from Lance’s side, leaning a little too close to the mirror to perfect his makeup. “Why do you think there’s more people here?”

 

“I don’t know, figured we got more actors. Hey, furry, you got any blush in there?”

 

“Nothing that’ll work for your pale ass.” Lance’s voice comes out several octaves lower, a rumbling sort of noise. The mask and his gloves feel itchy against his skin. Didn’t Allura say Keith could fix that? Finn makes some offended noise in the back. Lance opens one of his eyes to see a sad little container of blush hurdle itself into the back of his head. “Maddy, am I done?”

 

The pudgy girl absolutely covered in makeup powder, swatches, etcetera, gives him the once over, getting a little too close to his face. She pulls Lance's mask up with a scowl, ensuring he hadn't somehow fucked up his makeup in the process of fucking around with his friends' hard work, cracks her back, and goes, “as done as you can ever be. You better hope that friend of yours really knows how to program and macgyver shit.”

 

“You obviously haven’t met Pidge.” Leon snags some hair gel from Lance’s plethora supplies, his thieving hand snagged before it can make a getaway.

 

“Return that, or you owe me so much money,” threatens Lance, fixing Leon with a cold glare. Without Lance even realizing it, Leon’s bright eyes go dull, and he nods his head slowly. He recoils from Leon’s mind-- too similar to his own to even notice that he had a grip on it in the first place-- staring at him like a deer in the headlights. He thinks to himself, in one second, we’re back to normal . The second drags on like hours. Then he’s leaning into a fist resting on his chair, grinning through his mask. “Got it, dude?”

 

Leon finger guns him like nothing happened.

 

“Lance, did you fucking steal my eyeshadow?” Adina screeches from the next dressing room over. The door slams open and Lance only sees a flash of blue and white before he’s face-to-face with the beast.

 

He kicks his bag on the floor. “Might’ve ended up in the mix.”

 

“Goddammit, show time in fifteen fucking minutes--”

“Adina, chill,” Vanessa soothes from the doorway. Beside her is Estella, already decked out in her townie ensemble. She's holding a spork, for some reason. “Do you see anyone else ready?”

 

Fingers point to Lance. “He doesn’t count, he’s been in that chair for the past five hours,” Estella says.

 

“I can’t feel my legs!” Chirps Lance with a little too much cheer. “Or my face!”

 

“How fast can we get the rest of my makeup on and microphone stuck to my face?” Adina asks, finding her eyeshadow in the very bottom of Lance’s bag. He thanks everything holy that he had seen something of the sort coming and shoved his wand in his costume’s back pocket. Estella gives an estimated six minutes if all three of them work together. Maddy offers her assistance, bringing the total time down to four. Adina’s furrowed brows loosen by a bit. She lets out an exasperated sigh, gestures for her gaggle to follow, and storms back. On the way, she almost absolutely decks Caldwell.

 

“We need you upstairs for the prologue,” he says to Lance, who cannot look him in the eye because fucking Christ , Caldwell has all of his wrinkles dramatically outlined, dirt haphazardly on his face, and the jet-black backstage headphone set atop his head. “Maria should be up there already.”

 

Lance bursts from his seat, feeling pins and needles cascade up his legs. Hyun pulls the cowl off of his head before he can go running headfirst into a wall. He stretches his long limbs once or twice, says thanks to Caldwell, and makes his way up the stairs. A mental clock ticks in his thoughts. For the rest of the cast, they have fourteen minutes left to get ready. For Lance, he has ten minutes of waiting to do. He finds the hidden door that leads out to the lobby, sees Maria across the stage waiting at the paired door. Her hood is down, glowing rose in hand. She taunts him with it, mouthing ‘get fucked, hairball’ before anyone else could pass between them.

 

The door leading to the audience busts open in front of Lance. He expects to see a stagehand-- maybe Hunk and Pidge sneaking in to patronize the tech team at the least. Instead, Keith stares at him with unblinking eyes. He holds out his hand.

 

Lance places his wand in Keith’s. The hand not currently holding an enchanted stick grips onto his wand arm, pale light spiraling from his fingertips and traveling across his skin. The numbness in his legs vanish, and the itching stops. Lance presses his own hand against Keith’s forearm, sending a chill up his shoulder. It’s a small gesture and doesn’t last very long. Suddenly, Lance’s wand is vanishing up Keith’s sleeve, and the warmth is gone, leaving only a tingle covering his whole body.

 

“Try not to die,” he whispers. Then he’s gone, stalking after a flash of purple hair and pale skin.

 

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to perform-- to Lance, at least. When you get out onto the stage (in this case, wait patiently in the shadows while Maria tells the narration) and see all these people sitting, waiting, watching, to see just how far you’ve come, the adrenaline sets in and overrides any doubt that you’re not good enough. Because at this moment, who the hell cares? People want to see you blow their fucking socks off. People want to be drawn into your performance. Drawn into you. Magically, this is simple to Lance. But normally, it’s a job in of itself if you’re not the natural crowd pleaser he is.

 

The prologue was tricky. Lance had to not be seen before the lights dimmed, which is hard when you’re wearing a blue french revolutionist ensemble. Then he had to keep a disgusted face while Maria shoves a glowing rose in his face because to the audience, her face was concealed. To him, she was making an exaggerated replication of what he looked like to her. Then he was cursed, screaming and growling and clutching himself while Maria looks down on him in all of her... Enchantress-y glory. When the lights dim, the make off their separate ways and Adina takes over. Things got bizarre though when Caldwell comes on stage. Lance is lounging on a cold metal chair when he does, and from beside him, Dean the tech kid gestures to the vaguely tanned man (translation: Caldwell was a darker shade of pasty) and very not white girl  and goes, “They’re just the spitting image of father and daughter.”

 

The giggles that erupt from that side of the wing are difficult to muffle. Lance catches Adina trying not to give them the stink-eye while she’s wrapping some shitty scarf around Caldwell’s neck. He only forms his hands into a heart, blowing a kiss at her, which is hard to do through the cowl but everything be damned he was doing it. Her scowl deepens.

 

Then he’s back on stage, and now everyone ’s with him. Finn and Hyun’s banter as Lumiere and Cogsworth comes naturally, and it’s easy for all of them to slip into this pre-molded dynamic set before them. There’s some unscripted jabs added by Finn at both Hyun and Lance, including the furry joke, who respond with underlying themes of aggression. Adina even falls into the pattern, giving fond looks to Finn early in the play and, as it progresses, more to Lance. 

 

Which, ew.

 

When Leon and Lucy come into play, it’s easier to pretend to hate them than the rest. Everyone else had worked with Lance for years. Leon and Lucy were new-- freshmen in college and a little too eager to see what this place could hold. So Lance only feels a little bit bad when he fake-scares the shit out of Leon, sends him packing his bags. He tears the fake knife out of his side (was there illusion magic that could make it look more real?), tosses it across the stage, and promptly collapses on the spot. 

 

When Lance feels his body lift into the air, he has to act fast. He tears off his cowl, leaves it dangling inside the cloak, and stuffs his gloves inside a compartment in the mask. He nudges the cloak to fall back over his shoulders before the lights revealed him in all of his glory.

 

Now, he feels like he should mention the following. 1, Lance took a shot before the battle scene so he could fall over a bit easier, and he’s fairly certain that Finn’s taken several to get the French accent a little too nasally.  2, Adina and Lance didn’t kiss, as much as Caldwell wanted them to. Instead, they pressed their foreheads together and exchanged lines. Lance calls it ‘Bi solidarity in its finest’. Adina says she just doesn’t want to kiss Lance because he smells like feet. He asks her how she knew that.

 

His eyes meet Keith’s offstage. He doesn’t know what exactly he tries to convey with that fiery look of his, clouded by ever-dark eyes. 

 

But Lance can make a few guesses.

 

The final bows are kind of a dumpster fire. Estella forgets to go out with the rest of the Bimbettes initially, so Leon and Lucy make the move any bullshitter would make, and do their bows with Estella on Leon’s arm. Finn has to actually be supported by Hyun for their vows because yes, he did take shots and Hyun wasn’t around to stop him. They make it seem like they were just ‘attached at the hip’ and it kinda flies over everyone’s heads.

 

Lance’s bow was with Adina, and the latter almost tripped over her ridiculous yellow dress going down center stage. When everyone is gathered on stage to bow, all lined up, the crowd goes wild. They feed into Lance’s desire for attention-- desire to be loved. Just as they did after the prologue, and when he pulled off the transformation scene. And he was loving every second of it.

 

Lance, Adina, and Caldwell are the only three that remain on stage. Lance brings out the makeup artists and set designers, calls out Luis, Hunk and Pidge in the crowd for helping with his cowl, and bows with them because he can goddammit. Adina brings out the Faux EMTs and the tech crew and is Dean crying? Yep, Dean’s crying.

 

Fuck.

 

Caldwell makes the conductor do her bows-- his fiancee, apparently, which he just never managed to mention up until this point? Weird. He also thanks everyone for coming, tells them that photos will be done in the lobby for fifteen minutes.

 

Naturally, no one takes photos in the lobby. Lance all but hurdles himself into his family’s embraces. They shower him with praises (and by 'they' Lance means his parents, his siblings said he was terrible), before filtering out to praise the others. Allura, Coran, Matt, Shiro, Pidge, and Hunk remain with Lance. Hunk places a large bouquet at the top of Lance’s pile, a little forlorn at the fact that his was one among many. Lance reassures him that his flowers mean the most out of all of them.

 

“Okay, so I need to get out of this and probably talk to some kids and shit, but anyone up for a good ol’ nighttime snack in the worst part of town?” Lance asks, hauling his flowers into a better position.

 

“That sounds like the best thing ever,” says Matt, stretching out his arms dramatically. “Think we’ll see our pal, Hank?”

 

“I sure hope so. He better not have gotten arrested again. I’ve put too much money and faith into him,” Lance says solemnly.

 

“Who the hell is Hank?” Keith asks, suddenly there and in the conversation and there. Lance only trusts the flowers into his hands and leans forward until his lips brush against wisps of black hair instead of giving a proper response. His voice comes out dangerously low.

 

“Some homeless guy the police department hates because racism and classism. Wand?”

 

“In my left glove. Don’t try and get it.” There’s a rustle of flowers while Lance slowly leans back, creating space between them so they’re a little less suspicious to their friends. His wand thrusts through the bouquets and vanishes into Lance’s sleeve. Keith raises his voice when Lance spins around, bowing with grandeur to his friends who had very much seen the brief exchange. “Shiro, please, take these.”

 

“Nah.”

 

Lance makes record time of changing and getting his stuff back in order for tomorrow night. Granted, Hyun also makes record time, so the two of them almost end up decking one another on accident. They high-five in passing when Lance is fully reverted to his beloved religion of super soft sweats and Hyun is pulling on his right shoe. On his left foot. He only looks down at his feet, shrugs, and continues to lace them up.

 

“--Okay, but is he good ,” Pidge is saying when Lance makes his way over. The room is empty by this point, save for some tech kids blaring music on the stage. So the concept of Pidge? Conversing someone? In the state she's been in? Lance is ecstatic. When he notices that she’s talking to Keith of all people, he’s bubbling over with excitement. She’d been even more hesitant to come back around to Keith especially.

 

Matt says that it’s because she thought she knew everything about him.

 

“Definitely not,” Keith says without hesitance.

 

“Hey!” Lance cries in his own defense, “I took out someone who’s spent years training!”

 

“Yeah, because of sheer luck .” His words are biting, but a distant smile creeps across his lips.

 

Allura coughs a little bit into her hand, everyone turning their attention to her. “Some spellcasters, in certain circumstances, can speedily catch up to spellcasters that have trained their whole lives. Lance is one of these spellcasters. But,” she gestures between Keith and Shiro, “so are they.”

 

“I wouldn’t say that much of me, really,” Shiro says, scratching the back of his neck. A nervous tick that even Lance has managed to notice by this point. Allura, Coran, and Matt only deadpan him.

 

“Okay, so then why do they exist?” Hunk pries, barely flinching when Lance leans himself on one of his shoulders.

 

Allura’s brows furrow. She glances at Coran, then Shiro, then back to Coran. The elder nods his head briefly. “A curse in the highest degree. When the time is right, I’ll explain further. As of right now, any and all information on the curse is confidential to Altea and its affiliates.”

 

Matt nervously makes some comment about how the information ‘isn’t online, right?’, sharing a knowing look with an equally nervous Shiro. Keith only looks at Lance and shrugs his shoulders. So, Keith doesn’t know much about it either, which should be comforting, except Shiro and Matt know. Which makes sense. Matt doesn't worry about Shiro in the way Keith does. Meaning, this is something that Keith would lose his shit over.

 

Meaning Lance would lose his shit, too. But it's fine. Yup. Totally fine.

 

“--You’ll tell me when you know, right?” Hunk asks,  holding the door open for everyone behind him. Lance spins on his heels, giving finger guns to his friend and grinning like he hadn't had a minor crisis.

 

“Abso-fucking-lutely my guy. Who wants to bet Hank’s still there?” Lance calls out. Pidge immediately puts five dollars in the betting pool. Coran puts ten because he ‘hasn’t met Hank but fully trusts him to be there’. Allura doesn’t put anything in on either side. Not because she knows, she reassures everyone (“seriously, I don’t know everything . Just what the cards think are important.”), and leaves the conversation at that.

 

Hank ends up there. The twenty-five dollars in the betting pool end up getting handed to him in passing. Allura offers to pay for a meal for him, which Hank happily accepts.

 

“It’s this ritual I’ve got,” Lance is explaining to Keith while he flips through the menu. “After every performance, I take a group here to eat. Changes every time. And every night, I order one item. Next performance, it’s something different.”

 

“Who did you bring last year after your first performance?” Keith asks, his elbows resting over his own menu. He seems determined on a milkshake.

 

Lance takes a sip from his water, clearing his throat. “I think I took most of the main cast for this year’s production. Some of them wanted to go straight home like Leon, but a lot of them were too hungry to decline. Year before that was Hunk and Pidge, one before that was my mami, Papi, Abella, and Emeline.”

Shiro makes some comment about Matt being super bummed he couldn’t go last year and the conversation sort of descends into madness from there. Lance gets his omelet half an hour later, and Keith is happily devouring his strawberry milkshake. Lance remembers making some stupid joke that makes Pidge roll her eyes, Keith snorting into his straw. He cracks a smile genuine enough for Lance’s cheeks to set themselves on fire, his attention hurriedly turning to Allura and Hank at the bar making small talk.

 

She seems to be reading his tarot, judging by the cards spread out between the two. Coran follows Lance’s gaze and smiles fondly at the girl. “She had a feeling about him,” he explains quietly. “And she decided to trust her instincts. I know a few people who could take a lesson or two from her.” Coran’s twinkling eyes turn to Lance and his reddened cheeks. He makes some off-hand comment about how he already trusts his instincts so he’s fine. Coran only smiles and returns to his pancakes.

 

 

________________

 

It’s a Friday night when Lance gets home to an empty house. There’s a note on the fridge from his mami, and a warning from Abella to not get too crazy with Keith. Lance scoffs at the note, crumbling it up and tossing it in the trash.

 

He sends a text to the platonic love of his life. Partly to spite Abella. Mostly because he misses quality bro time.

 

Within fifteen minutes, Hunk’s over with a notebook, and Lance is sprawled out on the couch, twirling his wand between his fingers. “I need to practice,” he says when Hunk locks the door and plops himself beneath Lance’s legs. “And I thought you’d want to see.”

 

“You know me so well, dude,” breathes Hunk.

 

“I know, right? Just make sure I don’t do something stupid.” Lance rolls off of his rock and onto the floor, plopping himself smack-dab in the middle of the rug.

 

“Like?”

 

“Well, I’ve almost drowned once, almost drowned Keith, and I’m like 70% sure I almost broke the plumbing last week.”

 

“Great. I can do that.”

 

Lance thumbs-ups Hunk, and closes his eyes. His hands rest open in his lap with the palms facing upwards. The cold air grows humid, and then the world falls away. Just him, in the darkest depths of the ocean. He reaches himself out into the ocean, grappling to find the voice of the ocean once more.

 

Something resembling fingertips brush against his hand, and a sense of mourning washes over him. Not enough to make salty tears spill, but just enough for his heart to seize. Something cold dances across the back of his other hand. No emotion follows, just the empty cold. Every second feels like days where he just stands there with his body swaying with every motion of the water.

 

Hunk’s warm hand on his shoulder, shaking gently, brings him back out of his trance. But when he opens his eyes, Hunk is nowhere near him. In his stead is a blanket thrown around his shoulders. Hunk himself is sitting across from Lance, peering a little too close. He exhales deeply in relief when Lance blinks calmly at him. “How long was I out?” He asks, glancing down to his eerily cold hand. Jagged ice forms an erratic ice-sculpture of a lioness, the frost crawling down his forearm. The ice immediately melts into a pool in his palm, racing up his arm and vanishing to god-knows-where. 

 

He should talk to someone about this soon. Someone who knows what it means.

 

Hunk glances down at his phone, up at Lance, back down at his phone, back up at Lance. “Forty-Five minutes.” Lance lets out a little ‘huh’, stretching himself out on the rug. “What… what were you doing?”

 

“Meditating,” Lance easily answers, hauling himself off of the rug and heading for the kitchen with a dancer’s grace. Hunk follows. Grabbing two mugs from the shelf he continues, “There’s a voice that speaks to me when I use my secondary magic. I saw the owner of the voice in a dream once, or what I think he’d look like. He hasn’t really spoken to me since.”

 

“That’s freaky, man. What did Keith say it was?” Hunk pulls coffee grounds from one of the shelves while Lance desperately tries to beat his family’s sad little coffee machine into submission. His previously indifferent expression goes sour, brows furrowing.

 

“He won’t tell me. It’s not his thing.”

 

“What does he even teach you?”

 

“How to fight.” Lance leans back on the counter. He watches Hunk get the brew going, a suspicious look tossing itself over his shoulder, a prompting to elaborate. “How to use magic for mundane tasks. And that apparently a ton of things I do and say make me get my way so there’s no telling what decisions of others were actually theirs. It’s a mix. Allura’s the one that gives me information of substance, but I get the feeling she won’t answer my questions the way I need them answered.”

 

“Why don’t you use your magic on them, then? If you’d use it so easily on us.”  Hunk turns around to face Lance.

 

“I can’t make anyone spill out their darkest secrets for my own personal benefit, Hunkules. It’s just not my thing. So if everyone wants to keep me in the dark about their pasts and what we are or what's wrong with me, I’ll let them. When I find the answers myself, then we’ll deal with the consequences.”

 

The coffee pot dings obnoxiously. Hunk pours the coffee with ease, adding creamer and such to both of their tastes. A mug is passed into Lance’s freezing hands, down the hatch faster than Hunk can say, “that’s actually really mature of you.” He almost chokes on his coffee. Actually, he does choke on his coffee. 

 

“Character development,” He wheezes. Slamming his hands on the counter, he looks up at his best friend feverishly. “Hunk, my man, you gotta help me.”

 

“I can’t help you egg Iverson’s office. Not after last time.” His otherwise amiable expression turns unreadable, the recollection of the aftermath flashing through his thoughts.

 

“That’s super respectable, but not what I wanted. I’m about to get super deep right now, okay?”

 

Hunk nods quickly. Lance returns it.

 

“How do I get Keith to like me?” Just as expected, the only one of the two still drinking coffee does a spit take into the convenient sink. “I’m serious. You know just as well as anyone else that I’m super attracted to him-- hell, I’m attracted to a lot of spellcasters, and if Allura wasn’t focusing her whole attention on her family’s legacy, I might be asking about a different person but the more time I spend with him the more I want to know about him, who he is, where he lives, how he kisses--”

 

“--I get it, Lance.” Hunk looks down at Lance, who’s very skeptical and very...small. He knows he shouldn’t be rambling, especially about something so important to him. But with Hunk, his control over his words slip just a bit more. “I do. You don’t know how to go about this because Keith’s still closed off from you and everyone else you’ve dated opened themselves before you could develop feelings, right?”

 

He nods, a slow thing. He doesn’t speak, only allowing Hunk to continue. “So the best course of action would be to get him to trust you with that information. And for the record, he doesn’t hate you.”

 

Lance knows that. Deep down, he does. But Keith’s… not exactly adept at expressing himself, so it ends with mixed signals and a thundering heart. Mixed signals and a broken heart or a yearning heart. “I know. So,” he says, running his mug through water, shaking hands aching and still a bit colder than he’d like.  “Wanna help me with my homework?”

 

“You bet your sweet ass. Help me with physics?” Hunk offers, washing off his own mug and joining Lance as he treks up the stairs. Hunk was always just a little bit imperfect at physics, and Lance somehow wasn’t, so they made a deal in high school. Hunk would help Lance with the assignments that he just couldn’t focus for, and Lance would help him with physics and Spanish.

 

“Is water wet?”

 

“I don’t know, dude, there’s some really valid arguments against water actually being wet--”

“Hunk. The answer is yes. We can have this conversation at a later time.”

 

________________



Hunk (12:22 AM): How do you know you’re a spellcaster? Lance isn’t explaining it right

 

Keith (12:24 AM): You don’t really know in a physical sense. If you were born into a spellcasting family, you would know before you could even walk. If you’re a case like Lance, you know you’re a spellcaster in a loose sense, but find yourself unavailable to the resources until someone who does can find you. I figure there’s something you’re trying to figure out?

 

Hunk (12:24 AM): something like that. I just want to understand this world a little bit better since Lance is still learning and not like an expert or anything

 

Keith (12:24 AM): if you want to learn more about the fundamentals, go to Allura. She’s spent her whole life learning how magic comes to be so she can probably teach you more than I ever could. Don't ask Coran. He knows too much, and I think Shiro had to knock himself out to get out of an explanation on the history of wandmaking once.

 

Hunk (12:25 AM): Thanks dude. One more thing

 

Keith (12:25 AM): ??

 

Hunk (12:25 AM): you can trust Lance. He might be a dick sometimes, but he won’t do whatever you think he might do

 

Keith (12:25 AM): Yeah. I know.

 

Keith (12:26 AM): Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

________________

 

 

April 12th

 

The phone rings throughout the room, droning on for a good thirty seconds. He glares at his alarm clock that reads the date, and in bold, angry red numbers-- Two-thirty AM. A loud groan reaches the furthest depths of the apartment, hand struggling to find the phone on the nightstand. He sits up, feet swinging over the side of his bed and free hand idly rubbing the sleep from his eyes. The floor is cold. Cold like ice. Cold like Lance. He was seeing Lance tomorrow. That's good. He wanted to tell him something last time they spoke. “Black Lion amenities, How can I help you?” He asks, voice rough and groggy as he runs through the typical polite customs. When the person on the other line speaks, he freezes mid-stretch, eyes widening and phone almost toppling to the floor. 

 

“Keith. It’s Narti. When’s your first open appointment tomorrow? It’s urgent.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s ten AM when Narti arrives. She, unlike many of his clients, actually followed the policy of scheduling an appointment for higher difficulty issues. Lance had been sent upstairs to practice, left alone in a room that holds too many secrets. Shiro had been wise enough to move their box of tunes downstairs.

 

Narti’s wand is unique in nature. It spans a good four feet, the black limba polished topped with an intricate kyanite handle. She places it on the table carefully, double checking to make sure she knew where it is.

 

In short, it’s her magical probing cane.

 

Her glasses cover her eyes, and a pale hijab covers her head. Still, she looks straight ahead, exactly where Keith sits across the table and follows his movements. “Nothing’s wrong with your wand,” he says after a quick investigation. “So it may be a problem with yourself.”

 

“Of course it is. I already knew that much in the least. There’s… someone getting into my mind. I don’t know who, just that they’re definitely not anyone I know. But I can’t be too confident in their loyalty to me, so…” Narti gestures vaguely. “Here I am.”

 

“Who lives near you?”

 

“Acxa, Zethrid, And Ezor. There are no other spellcasters in the vicinity for mental manipulation. And even if they were, I doubt they would be able to get to me through the barriers Acxa helped me set up.”

 

Keith pauses his hands just above her wand. Without really thinking about it, he pulls old runes from under the table, recharging it between both of his hands. “Use this,” He says, placing it in Narti’s outstretched hand. “Wear it, sleep with it under your pillow, whatever you have to do. To help with it, I’ll have to cast a protection spell over your mind. Stay still.”

 

He reaches out with both hands, pressing his fingertips gently against her exposed temples. Turquoise symbols form beneath his hands, fading into Narti’s skin. She releases a sigh, shoulders slumping. “Thank you so much. Here,” she says, extending a wad of cash to him. “I thought I should pay in advance for my check in.”

 

Keith takes the cash hesitantly, counting and double checking with their set rate for an industrial protection ward, set before he was even born and changed temporarily when Keith and Shiro were… not quite as skilled. It matches up to the cent. He ensures she gets the earliest appointment in two weeks (it was entirely empty since no one in San Rosa knows how to fucking schedule appointments. We’re not fucking Seinfeld, guys), and lingers for a bit. He gives her his personal number and tells her to call if anything changes.

 

Narti’s just getting ready to leave when Lance bursts through the door. He’s rambling about how he ‘finally got the hang of it’, cutting himself short at the sight of Narti. He gapes for a bit, face shifting through an array of equally hilarious expressions. “You’re a spellcaster?” He asks, dumbfounded.

 

“I should be asking you the same,” Narti says cooly, feeling for the door. “Goodbye, Keith. I can’t express how thankful I am for your assistance.”

 

Then she’s gone. Keith lets out a loud groan, slumping back into his seat. He tilts his head back, eyeing Lance out of the corner of his eye. “Get me that coke over there, will you?” He asks, gesturing to the mini fridge that is sometimes in existence. Most of the time it isn’t. Lance opens it with an elbow, grabbing two cans and shutting it with his foot.

 

“What did she need?” He asks, sliding a can over. He seats himself on the edge of the table.

 

“I can’t tell you that, Lance. It’s confidential.”

 

Lance quirks a brow. He’s about to remind Keith that they already broke the confidential rule last week when he accidentally let it slip that Shay and her family was a common client of his when they were on the topic of her and Hunk. So, Keith cuts him off with, “protection ward against high caliber mental manipulation.” The words sit with him for a bit, his dark brows furrowed until a deep crease forms between them. He decides to change the topic before Lance can fully dissect the explanation and break the patient confidentiality further. “What did you figure out?”

 

He instantly changes, bouncing off the table and almost knocking over his own soda in the process. His face glows as he positions himself, a broad grin across his face. “Watch this,” he says. The room grows cold, humidity clinging to his face and solidifying into frost. Water bursts from Lance’s palm, his hand gracefully twirling it. The water freezes over after the first twirl, leaving him with a sword made of glass in his hand. It was too theatrical for battle, Keith admits, but it has promise. “Pretty cool, right?”

 

“It sure is something,” Keith says, running a hand along the edge of the blade. The heat from his hand melts part of the blade, but Lance acts fast, the melting water returning to its previous home. Keith fully looks down at his hand and sees blood pooling on his index finger. “If you don’t want to kill someone, dull the edge.” Lance startles at this, insisting on seeing Keith’s hand.

 

“Shit, sorry, dude I really didn’t think that it would cut,” Lance says, voice wavering slightly. His free hand encases Keith’s, a blue light bringing the warmth back to him and dulling the sting. Healing magic? Keith thought that he wasn’t able to use it properly. Hell, Keith didn’t even think Lance would ever be able to get anywhere close to using it, which is hilarious considering all spellcasters should be feasible in the department of their primary. When he has his hand back, he finds a scab where he cut himself. He covers his hand with the other, numbness settling over the scab. “You good?”

 

“Great. A little cut isn’t the worst thing I’ve gone through.”

 

“Keith!” Shiro shouts from the other side of the door, his way of telling him that he wants to switch businesses. Keith takes his soda in one hand and Lance’s with the other, leading him through the door. He fist bumps Shiro with his soda hand in passing, his sights set on the problem Shiro had deemed out of his hands on the non-spellcaster aspect of the shop.

 

Lance helps Keith to the best of his ability. He knows how to convince people into buying things they really don’t need, which is a nice plus to his general presence, but he really doesn’t understand the meaning of any of the plants, woods, or crystals. So at some point Keith forces him behind the counter and makes him ring everybody up. Despite this, they carry on conversations about what to do later. “I think we should head over to Hunk’s dorm. He’s offering a nice game of Cards Against Humanity, Pictionary, and his usual truth or dare, as is the tradition. Pidge wants you to suffer through it, and has extended the offer to your brother, Allura, and Shay.”

 

“Sounds wonderful,” Keith says dryly, helping a couple looking for lucky charms. From the sound of it, they’re engaged and trying to come out to their family. There’s a tang of familiarity, longing, and a mourning for something long taken from him that he squashes down with an iron fist. “I’m assuming it’s her master plan to get Shay and Hunk together?”

“Naturally. I’m informally inviting you before Pidge can do it officially via text so we can plot on how absolutely ruin the whole affair.” Lance looks down at his phone, expression void of emotion. His eyes tell a different tale, sparkling with mischief and fondness. “Maybe get fucking smashed for funsies.”

 

“Sure. I don’t have anything to do tonight anyway. Well, other than a fourteen-page essay but I can do that later.”

 

Keith stalks away from the couple, watching out of the corner of his eye as Lance sets down his phone, giving the couple his most dazzling smile and asking them if that was all they needed. The couple nods slowly, listening intently as he rambles on and on while dealing with the transaction. He rests a hand on either of their shoulders, cheery smile turning into something reassuring. “You’ll do perfectly. Don’t worry too much.”

 

The couple leaves with their heads a little higher. Lance takes a long swig of his coke. “You… was that you?”

 

Blue eyes look at him in a deadpan. “No. It was the fucking Easter Bunny.” Lance pauses, pursing his lips and inspecting a pot of sage near the cash register. “Of course it was me. I can’t just let them go out there and face their parents and siblings and aunts with some bullshit luck tokens. If I were them, I would want someone to ensure my success, too.”

 

Keith nods, a silent offering of agreement. If his mother and father were still around, he’d want magic on his side before he even thought of coming out.

 

The day continues without any other notable events. Shiro pops in from time to time with a question or some bullshit words of encouragement he probably read from a fortune cookie, and Lance nods seriously to everything he says. At another point, Lance leaves entirely for a good few hours. He returns with sandwiches and finds himself very disappointed when he finds the mini fridge to currently not exist on this plane. Matt stops by at some point, casually crosses the magical barrier to the back of the shop, and leaves with a computer and a sour look.

 

Keith still doesn’t ask how he’s allowed to cross into a room only spellcasters can enter. Shiro must have lowered the barrier for him. Or Allura gave him a charm that allows him to cross magical barriers. That was a reasonable explanation. Definitely.

 

Lance doesn’t let Keith water the plants before closing. He goes on about ‘leaving it to the pros’ while he rolls up his sleeves. Drops of water form over each pot, dropping down into the pot with the snap of his fingers. A mist settles over the room with it, steam bouncing off of Keith’s fingertips. Shiro shouts a list of the inventory set to arrive in a few days, all crystals and waxed and wicks. Then they set off, headed in opposite directions with the same destination in mind. Keith shoves his lock off of his motorcycle, running a hand over the new red and black handles. It was once an old thing in all accounts— an old thing that Shiro loves more than anything. He said it used to belong to his mother, and their father sure as hell didn’t want it.

 

In the end, it ended up with Keith. Shiro and him named it Red because they were emotionally unstable adolescent idiots.

 

Pulling his leather suit on and shoving his helmet over his face, Keith revs it up. Red purrs in a greeting, and roars when he sends it racing down the street. He passes Shiro first, who grins to the ears. Then he passes by Plaxum and Florona stuck in traffic, Iverson on a street corner (just to piss him off, Keith revs the engine right as he passes), and Estella in a car singing loudly surrounded by friends. No sign of Lance, despite him leaving just a little bit before everyone else.

 

He ends up stopping next to Lance at a red light just before the Garrison dorms. He looks at him, shock hidden behind a dark visor. Lance stops dramatically singing to a song, contemplates for a second, and turns the volume all the way up until Keith can hear ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ loud as daylight. Lance continues his serenade, pointing at Keith at several occasions. He returns with his own sign of affection— a middle finger raised right as the light turns green. He can hear Lance’s shitty car struggling to keep on his tail. Nevertheless, Keith is still there before Lance by thirty seconds, already locking his bike into place.

 

“That wasn’t fair,” Lance whines as he crawls out of the driver’s seat. Keith can barely hear him through his helmet. With a huff, he tugs it off. Hair falls across his cheeks and caresses his neck, undoubtedly a mess.

 

So then why did Lance instantly turn crimson?

 

“Get a better car,” Keith advises, plopping his helmet on the seat of his motorcycle. He meets smoldering blue eyes and is wise enough to turn around and head inside before he does something stupid. He ignores Lance’s stuttering excuses that continue until he’s by his side. “Shiro’s going to be a few minutes. He might be in a fucking Prius, but his road rage gets him places.”

 

“Sweet. Hunk said he’s still waiting on Allura— apparently, some Mom asked to see the manager and wasn’t very accepting that she was the manager.” Lance holds his student I.D up to the man at the desk, Keith following suit. They continue down a hall to an elevator. Lance passes by Rollo in the hall, a fist-bump truce shared in passing, as if to say ‘no harm done’. He even says hi to other students gathered outside, all the way until they reach Hunk’s room. Pidge answers, letting them in with a wide berth.

 

“How did she get in here?” Keith asks, bewildered. If it was a spellcaster, it would make more sense. Someone like Lance could just ask to go up and no one would be the wiser. Hunk only looks up from his little couch and winks. Matt seems to not really care much for this interaction, his face illuminated by a screen.

 

“Secret,” He says. Lance just kicks off his socks, exasperatedly looking at Keith.

 

“Fake student I.D. The people at the desk don’t really know that Pidge Gunderson is really Katie Holt, so she’s been using it to her advantage.” Lance leans against the wall, glancing from Keith to the wall.

 

Keith doesn’t call out Lance for ogling at him while he takes off his suit. Nor does he tease him about his flushed cheeks, because that’s hypocrisy. Besides—

 

Pidge and Hunk are faster than Keith ever was. “Lance! Stop eye-Fucking Keith and help me set up the snacks!” Hunk calls from his kitchen set-up, bowls, and wrappers littering the table serving as a counter. Lance barks out about he ‘isn’t eye fucking Keith, how dare you,’ now red to the ears. He stalks off, leaving Pidge in his place

 

“Gay,” she says simply, that smug smile of hers taunting enough. Keith scoffs, shoving his leather boots against a corner.

 

“Back at you,” he says, shoving against her playfully with a shoulder. She shoves back, making herself at home on the couch with a simple, ungraceful flip. Keith claims the bean-bag and stares at the ceiling until there’s a shift in the air. Then Allura’s sitting on Hunk’s couch, exasperated and tired. There’s a bag of opened chips in her lap. Pidge screams at the sudden appearance while Keith just blinks at her, unfazed.  “Told you-you should’ve let Coran take over for today.”

 

She throws her head back, letting out a prolonged groan solely belonging to the agony of retail. “I hate it when you’re right, Keith. I really do. Someone feed me chips.”

 

“Not gonna happen, princess ,” Keith says, jabbing his foot into her side. “Feed yourself.”

 

“But that requires effort and time ,” she moans. Pidge sighs sympathetically, patting Allura’s head without any of said sympathy.

 

Allura ends up eating the entire bag of chips by the time Shiro and Shay show up. She gains all of her energy back in a split second, playing a life-sized game of Tetris where the pieces are all of the people gathered. It ends with Shiro, Shay, and Hunk sitting on the floor, Allura, Pidge, and Matt very adamant about keeping their seats on the couch, and Lance squeezing himself onto the yellow bean chair with Keith. There’s an arm that’s almost around his shoulders, so nonchalant he doubts Lance meant to do it in the first place.

 

Keith finds himself unsurprised when Lance and Shiro tie for cards against humanity and end up having a jury to decide the winner (Shiro), and Pidge and Matt absolutely dominating the duo Pictionary scene. Lance and Keith create beautiful, beautiful little monstrosities together, too amused by their creations to accept their loss.

 

Truth or dare starts out normal. Everyone goes easy, mostly aiming for truth. In this phase, Keith learns that Pidge once proposed to a girl in the fourth grade with one of the circular pretzels from a bag of Chex mix, Allura’s most embarrassing memory, and confirmation that Matt has, in fact, hacked the Garrison database. For reasons.

 

The second round begins with everyone taking a shot of vodka, toasting to regret. Shiro and Pidge are the only ones to not drink, former claiming he’s ‘the designated driver’, and the latter being just a few years shy of the legal age. Allura ends up with a bottle of champagne that is wholly hers, as it materialized out of thin air and is a little too expensive for the broke college students gathered. Everyone else gets stuck with a bottle of tequila Lance had left in here for… safe keeping.

 

“Allura,” Pidge says, leaning forward until her face almost touched her knees. “Truth or dare.”

 

“Truth,” she says, eyeing Pidge suspiciously.

 

“Who was your worst ex?”

 

“Oh, Lotor, definitely,” Allura says, snapping her fingers for drama. Lance and Pidge eye one another, pretending to be sly. They hate him as much as Allura to the point where even Keith knew within two weeks of knowing them. “It lasted for a week or two a few years back. Ended terribly, if I’m remembering correctly.”

 

Shiro winces, recalling some memory Keith wasn’t present to witness for himself. “You’re remembering correctly.” He turns to Keith and mouths ‘pocket dimension’, giving no elaboration to the rest of the room.

 

Allura turns to Keith, watching as the tequila of honor gets passed from Lance’s hands to his. The bottle is freezing against his hands. “Pick your poison,” she says. Lance eyes him intently, seemingly hopeful he picks the one answer he never picks.

 

“Dare,” Keith responds. He doesn’t look anyone but Allura in the eye, a go-ahead for her to lay her best on him.

 

And so she does.

 

“I dare you to drink that entire bottle of tequila, starting in two seconds.”

 

Lance cries out for his alcohol, desperately reaching out to no avail. Keith cringes at the prospect, but a dare’s a dare. The remainder of the tequila vanishes, burning the whole way down. Lance looks pained the entire time, face scrunched in a look torn between disgust and agony. Soon enough the glass slams on the table, Keith rubbing the back of his hand across his mouth. “Done,” He says, voice raspy. A light dances in Allura’s eyes, not knowing as it typically was, but hopeful. He turns to the only Holt within the legal drinking age. “Matt.”

 

“Ah, fuck.”

 

In about thirty minutes, Allura and Pidge’s entirely separate plans set into effect. The game of Truth or Dare had long ended, everyone just enjoying life and whatever the hell Shiro has put on the TV. Hunk and Shay are a tad tipsy, just enough for their cheeks to flush. And conversation to flow naturally between them.

 

To contrast, Lance and Keith are absolutely smashed . Keith can nearly recall that Lance had taken a few more shots than anyone else, claiming he didn’t want Keith to suffer alone. A champagne drunk Allura only nods seriously and mutters her agreements. “Dude, I’m so dead,” Lance groans while Pidge makes Shiro take off his arm and reenact a scene from Toy Story, his sweaty forehead landing on Keith’s shoulder. “My papi’s going to kill me tomorrow. He always gets super pissed when I do this, ‘cuz I’m a nightmare in the mornings already.”

 

“If he gets mad, then you know he loves you,” Keith says, the words leaving his lips before he can stop them, set loose by fucking alcohol. “My mom would beat the shit out of me if she saw what I’ve been up to.” Lance gives him a strange look. Not one of pity, like most people, but of confusion. He’s trying to figure out something about his slurred sentence, digging beneath the surface just as he normally does.

 

He looks vaguely frustrated when he can’t figure it out, Keith notes. “Is that why you’re mad all the time?” He asks with a sloppy grin plastered across his face, white teeth glaring. Keith’s already burning cheeks turn to molten lava, stuttering noises leaving him instead of a coherent answer. His grin only broadens. “Ah, I see. I’ve cracked the code, with the cost of breaking Keith. Alas, how cruel fate is to the star-crossed romantics.” Lance drops into a typical damsel in distress pose, one hand dainty held against his forehead.

 

“Haha. Very funny, Lance,” Keith drawls, giving him the most pathetic attempt of a glare. Suddenly, as if all at once, his chest burns with an emptiness, like water has filled them up to the brim while he continues living like normal. It was something new, but not out of the ordinary to him. His body was constantly trying to kill him, anyway. “Did you know that you died for a second when we first met?”

 

Sober Lance would have sputtered, Keith guesses and freaked out on Keith. Drunk Lance glares up at the ceiling, at the floor, then looks at Keith with a nearly unreadable look. “No,” he admits. “I think I knew I was going to, eventually. From blood loss or something.”

 

The new feeling in his chest prods him on. “Or something sounds about right. It wasn’t blood loss.” Keith turns from his view of the others arguing about something stupid to Lance’s lidded eyes. He drags fingers from Lance’s limp forearm to his shoulder, then breaks his hands. One goes down to where his heart is, remaining pressed against him with a gentleness. The other drifts upwards, index and middle finger resting gently against his pulsing temple. “The force of the impact overloaded you, coursing through your veins and stopping both your heart and your brain.”

 

“Then?” Lance asks, breathless. “What did you do?”

 

Keith applies pressure on both hands. Releases it. Does this once or twice, eyes unbreaking with Lances. “I used everything I’ve ever learned about healing magic to restart both of them. I kept a life rune right here,” he shifts the hand over his heart to the center of his chest, “to ensure your survival. I wasn’t able to function properly for the rest of the day. Metamorphoses magic does that to you.”

 

Lance’s brows furrow, then the knot between his brows loosens. Understanding dawns across his face. “You created a pulse that wasn’t there.”

 

Nodding seriously, Keith breathes out deeply. “I wasn’t going to lose an innocent life in my own store.” If he were soberer, he would have stopped himself from saying, “I never regret that decision for a second in my life.”

 

Tan cheeks turn a little brighter, his ears a wonderful firetruck red. He opens his mouth to respond, an intense and burning cold look in those eyes of his, when Pidge calls out from across the room, “Keith!”

 

He turns his head slightly to look at Pidge, only to find everyone else staring at him. Instinctively, his hands spring away from Lance, fingertips cool and the sensation of him still lingering. Pidge seems unfazed, leaning forward on a fist. Matt and Hunk mirror her, despite Shay slightly leaning on the last. “Truth or dare?”

 

Wait. Keith thought they were done playing this game. Why suddenly restart it after a good half hour of not playing? Why have one person ask with three people backing her up? Keith decides that he’ll answer his own questions later. “Dare,” he says, running on autopilot. Lance glances warily from his friends and Keith, finally settling on Allura to watch her reactions. Smart.

 

“I dare you,” Pidge announces a wicked look dancing across her face. Keith never liked that look. It always led to bad things. The bad thing comes sooner than he’d like. “To teach the three of us magic.”

 

“Absolutely not.” A feeling of Deja vu settles over Keith. He glances to Allura like Lance, hoping that she gives some kind of tell. He doesn’t know why he hopes, or why he deflates at the sight of her looking apathetically around. She’s the only one with the capability of telling who holds magic genetics, and every time Keith’s needed her help with it, she’s been the absolute worst help imaginable. “There are too many risks. I might have been willing to take the risk with Lance at the time, but not for you. You can die.”

 

“Great! Two birds with one stone,” Matt says, quirking a brow. “I’ve spent two years watching Shiro and you use magic. What I can gather in two years, you can teach them in two minutes.”

 

“He’s got a point,” Lance says. Wasn’t he supposed to be on Keith’s side? “And if you, Shay, or Shiro won’t do it, I’ll gladly do it.”

 

Alarms blare in Keith’s mind, pulsing in his skull. He sees all of the risks with Lance teaching them, especially if Pidge or Hunk have elemental-focused talents like Lance, who doesn't even know the extent of his abilities. He can’t risk them-- “I’ll do it,”  he says, frantic and panicked. “I can’t guarantee you’ll be able to do anything, and I’m not letting you anywhere near metamorphoses magic until we ensure you’re capable of something.”

 

“Last time you doubted someone’s ability in magic, you ended up with a Soothsaying elemental powerhouse,” Shiro points out, with a fond look to Lance. “I’ll help with Matt. It’ll be easier for us since I know how much he knows. What do you think about that, Allura?”

 

Allura hums, downing the last of her champagne. “I think that’s wonderful. You all can meet in the Coalition if you’d like. I doubt any of you two are willing to lend the Black Lion to be prey to possible spellcasters.”

 

Has Keith mentioned that he loves Allura? Like sure, he’s gay and currently very conflicted about the entirety of Lance, but God does he praise her and her saving graces every second of the day. Letting out a sigh of relief, he thinks of places to purchase sacrificial animals to pledge to Allura’s name and everything her and her father’s legacy stands for. “That would be perfect.”

 

“Okay, that was it,” Hunk says, winking at Lance, “resume your flirting.”

 

“We weren’t flirting!” Lance and Keith cry in unison. Like the lying, pants on fire assholes they are. Lance continues, “ you’re the one flirting!”

 

Hunk turns crimson but gives no retort. Lance grins, closing his eyes and muttering a victorious ‘got him’. Keith deadpans him, knowing fully well that a smile creeps across his face to entirely contradict the apathy in his eyes.

 

 

 

 

________________

 

 

 

Keith, Lance, and Pidge were the only guests to stick around for, what a fully drunk Pidge called ‘the aftershock sleepover’. Keith doesn’t have the heart to tell them that he’s not voluntarily here since he drove Red over and was too smashed to drive it home and didn't want to burden Shiro with a third drunken friend to deal with. It’s currently 2:30 AM, the TV’s humming away, Hunk’s snoring loudly, Lance is sprawled all over his best friend, and Pidge is practical upside down on the couch. At least, Keith thinks so. It’s hard to tell when you’re in between the back of the couch and the bed, laying on a throne of bedsheets, jackets, and crushed childhood dreams. Keith finds himself looking from Lance’s hand dangling over the edge of the bed-- his wand hand, lightly calloused at the palm and just as lanky as the rest of him-- then to the ceiling, the couch, rinse and repeat. After a good few cycles of this, he sighs loudly and says to whoever might be listening, “I’m so gone for him.”

 

“No. Really?” Pidge’s voice says quietly, sarcasm still managing to seep through. Her face appears over the edge of the couch, chin resting on the pillow and blanket over her hair. She looks like E.T, Keith realizes after a second of staring, snickering at his own little comparison. “I think even Shay could tell, and she was kind of busy if you catch my drift.”

 

Keith rubs against his eyes with the heel of his hands, groaning. “I was that obvious?”

 

“You don’t really get touchy with many people, so… yeah. It’s chill, though. Doubt anyone minds.” Pidge shifts, eyeing Lance and Hunk before continuing, “how do you figure out your primary and secondary magic? Matt kinda told me what they are, but he doesn’t seem to know how to figure it out.”

 

Ah. A topic change. Keith’s favorite thing. “You don’t figure it out. I had an affinity for fire growing up-- literally, I think I set some of the Black Lion’s plants on fire when I was a kid, so I guess it was only natural that it was my primary. But the healing was a shock, and we only figured it out a little bit before my mom... anyway, we had to go to Allura and her father to know for certain. Shiro was even more of a mess. No one knew what he was proficient in because he was so good at everything.”

 

“And Lance?”

 

“He figured out his primary on his own. Contradictory, I know, but the signs were always there for him. It just took him being made available to the proper information to get a name for it.” Even then, he had to ask Keith if there was a magic for it, and he wasn’t just really great at smooth talking. Some teacher he was. “We went to Allura for his secondary beforehand, so she wouldn’t give us any hint other than it being passive. Turns out, fate hated me and thought I literally needed to cool off.”

 

Pidge snorts. It’s quieter than typical, meaning she did it on purpose. She hasn't done that much as of recent. “You do, though. I thought you just had a fever most of your life.”

 

“I was… sporadic in that period of time. I promise my body heat leveled itself. Here,” Keith says, offering his hand to Pidge lazily. She grabs it without the eagerness she typically does, eyeing his still-present gloves warily.

 

Humming, she releases him. “About checks out. Keith, about your gloves--”

 

Great. Another one of these assumptions from people who’ve known him since before he started wearing the gloves. If he hadn’t quit boy scouts after a week, he would give scouts honor that the gloves were nothing more than a lifestyle meant to give him some funky tan lines. “--They’re not what you think they are--”

 

“--Do they cover something magic related? Like how Shiro covers up the runes he wears even though, now that I’m aware, it’s super obvious they’re not dog tags? Or how Allura covers her little pointy ears with that chunk of hair she ties up?”

 

Oh . That generalization's a new one.

Chapter Text

“You’re going at it wrong.”

 

Keith and Shiro made the unfortunate decision of trying to figure out Pidge, Hunk, and Matt’s capability of magic by first taking them in through the coalition doors. Which, it worked, but Lance and Matt pointed out several flaws to that plan after the fact. This then led into a crash course of magic, Allura fitting them for their wands and optional uniforms (their tarot reading was brief and apparently Pidge and Matt already know what the other’s cards were), and now Lance fixing their mistakes. It had been a week of absolutely no progress, a trend that Lance was starting to catch on to when it comes to Keith teaching magic.

 

He unfolds his arms with a sigh when Keith lets out a frustrated yell, pulling his wand from his competition jacket and turning until he’s sandwiched between Hunk and Pidge. “Ease yourself into a pose that comes naturally to you,” he instructs, watching as Pidge’s shoulders slump and Hunk breathes deeply. “Clear your mind of all of your calculating thoughts. Right now, this isn’t a theory to understand. This is a feeling, and you have to chase it. Find that feeling. Once you find it, it’ll reach out to you, wash over you. Grab it, make it your own to manipulate.”

 

Matt closes his eyes, breathes out deeply, in sync with his sister.

 

Lance can’t explain what follows. Just that he’s backing away, slinking back to Keith and Shiro, watching as the air shifts. In an instant, everything settles and quiets. Then he feels his own presence, cold and warm all at once, paired with the heat from Keith and a vortex of space from Shiro, indescribable and infinite. Then there’s the familiar feeling of a forest settling into the fray, and Pidge’s eyes snap open. A satisfied smile crosses her lips, smug and prideful. The feeling repeats a bit later, with a shift of everything in the room merging together, pushing out. Matt’s eyes open, the same smug look on his face. He fist bumps his sister, unaware of his phone clambering to the floor from a spot where it was previously levitating.

 

Which just leaves Hunk. He seems to struggle a bit, diving deep into himself. Keith and Shiro try their best to help, but Hunk can’t seem to find it. Which leads Lance to the most simple conclusion of-- “maybe it’s just such a big part of him he can’t find it? Like my soothsaying.” A light switches off in Keith’s head, obvious from the way his face lights up. He thanks Lance briefly, grabbing Hunk by the wrist and practically dragging him over to a low-hanging viewing deck that wasn’t previously in the pit in which Allura sits. He lingers on Keith for a while, stopping his obvious staring when Allura catches his eye and smiles knowingly. Turning to Pidge and Matt, he rolls on his heels. “I knew you guys could do it. Must be putting Keith through the wringer, though.”

 

Shiro makes a pained look when Matt lets out a little chuckle. “I’m hopeful that he’s changed his attitude towards being wrong since you came around. He’s never had the penchant for seeking out spellcasters in the accurate way Allura can, and let's be honest, none of us do.”

 

“But he’s stubborn as an ox,” Pidge says, pushing her faux glasses up to her nose. “Aren’t you guys going to ask us what our primaries are?”

 

Lance shrugs. “I can kinda guess.”

 

Shiro holds similar sentiment, except he gives an answer with sustenance. “Earth Elemental,” he says, gesturing to Pidge, “and Telekinesis.” He gestures to Matt. “Most spellcasting families have similar abilities, so my best guess would be that Pidge’s secondary is your primary.”

 

Matt quirks a brow, that Holt looks on his face-- the one where they try and figure out the answer before they ask the question. “But Keith and you… Neither of your primaries or secondaries matchup.”

 

“Different moms, both spellcasters,” is the simplified answer Shiro gives. With a shuddering breath, “Keith’s mom has his secondary as her primary. As did mine.”

 

The air shifts, something distant but still as overwhelming as the first. Allura cancels out Keith’s raging fire, pulling herself back inch by inch until it returns. Then there’s a calm that settles over the room in a burst. Not one of silence like Allura, but of a warm, content calm that makes Lance’s heart strain. “They figured out Hunk,” he says, turning his gaze up to the viewing deck. Hunk’s already gone, racing down the steps two at a time. Allura says something to Keith, who turns crimson and glances over to Lance before responding, turning on his heels and launching himself from the viewing deck to the ground. He lands with a thud, muffled by a ripple on the floor. Then he sees Keith no more, obscured by Hunk nearly tackling him to the ground. Letting out a cry, Lance absolves into bursts of laughter. “Good job, buddy! What did Allura say it was?”

 

“Quelling! She didn’t really get the chance to explain it, but it sounds neat!” Hunk says, bubbling over with excitement. Lance racks his memory for any sort of explanation he got on the magic, only coming up with an echo of a voice that definitely wasn’t his. A cognitive magic used to soothe the nerves of others, useful in battle to rid them of their competitive rush.

 

Keith pops into view in the corner of Lance’s vision, surveying the trio and sighing in some sort of defeat. “I’m hungry,” he says. Hunk eases his grip on Lance to turn to Keith, suggesting they stop here and get food. Keith agrees without hesitance, nor asking the opinion of anyone else because, if Lance is gonna be honest, he’s fairly certain Matt and Pidge’s stomachs growled at the mere mention of food.

 

The car ride to food is crowded and loud. Matt, Hunk, and Pidge crowd themselves into the backseat, Shiro a little too quick to call shotgun. They blast the cheesiest Disney songs they could think of, rolling down the left side windows to serenade Keith when he finds himself once again stuck at a red light on his motorcycle. Lance extends his arms dramatically to him, resulting in a car behind him honking loudly a second after the light changes. Because even though San Rosa is a nicer town with mostly patient people, it’s still California, and well… California drivers are a special breed.

 

Keith ends up sharing his fries with Lance.

 

 

________________

 



Lance rushes off stage, a mess of sweat hidden beneath blue clothing and his stupid prosthetic mask. He finds Keith waiting on one of the many makeshift seats, and all but runs into him. To prevent total failure, he steels himself with a hand on the poor man’s knee. “Keith,” he hisses, barely a whisper, “What do you think?”

 

“It’s the same as always, Lance,” Keith says, shaking his head and looking down at the hand on his knee. When he looks back up, there’s a different look to him. Lance can’t exactly pinpoint what it is, but it doesn’t feel like a bad sort of look. He just looks... softer? “You just change your lines a bit.”

 

“Because I have to make it interesting,” he says pointedly, “be honest, is it good for our second to last performance?”

 

“Of course it’s good. Better since the last shift I had here,” he says, leaning forward until he’s inches away from Lance. His breath hitches under the prosthetics, thanking the lord of stage makeup for the cover granted for his burning cheeks. Hands trace over the particularly rough patches of makeup, the itchiness underneath fading. “You’re amazing at what you do.”

 

“Really?” Lance asks, breathless. Keith opens his mouth, about to respond, but is promptly cut off by Estella yanking Lance back by the ear.

 

“You little shit,” she hisses, stomping off with Lance muffling yelps of pain whilst mouthing farewells to Keith, “your next scene is up in forty seconds and you’re not only on the wrong side of the stage but flirting with Keith! I mean I get it, he hasn’t been the medic here for a month or two and the two of you are still hopelessly pining, but this is way more important!”

 

“Oh thank god you found him,” Hyun breathes, tense shoulders dropping in just the slightest. His relief turns to something cold with a threat in his eyes. “I’m actually going to kill you if you do that again.”

 

“God, please,” Lance drawls, sauntering to his entry wing. He gestures for Hyun and Finn to follow, all silent in the few seconds before tech turns on his mic. At the center stage, he sees Adina, her green eyes passing over to meet him for the briefest second. She quirks a questioning brow, a signal that someone was going to have to fill her in later.

 

And that someone was definitely not going to be Lance. No way was he going to subjugate himself to such embarrassment. So, naturally, the changes as fast as humanly possible after the show and hauls ass out of the theater, practically dragging Keith by the collar.

 

 

________________

 

 

 

It’s five PM during Easter Vacation when Pidge calls Lance from upstairs. He’s in the middle of talking to his Papi and Abella about job interviews, and the gremlin freeloader’s shrill voice makes all three wince. With an apologetic glance to his sister and Papi, he heads up the stairs to Pidge’s now ajar door. Her gaze meets his from where she sits in her desk, eyes wide with awe.

 

Her entire room is a mess of invading plant life. Vines crawl up her arms, knocking her glasses ajar. Her computer sits in an untouched space on the desk, the light illuminating her every expression. Hydrangeas litter the floor and walls. Everything smells too… nature-y, even for Lance’s tastes. Which means, to Pidge, it must be insufferable. She never did like nature much. Bugs were always trying to kill her and she always ended up killing her plants without really meaning to. “How do I get rid of them?” She asks, hands shaking.

 

“Will them to leave,” Lance says lowly, hand following across one of the vines on the doorframe. “See them retracting into you, returning into that hole it left.”

 

Pidge takes a shuddering breath and opens her palms. The vines on her face retract, vanishing beneath her shirt. Flowers wilt and fall in on themselves, bundled up by leaves and vines that contract and pull up her arms, vanishing down sleeves. “Thanks.”

 

Lance hesitates, surveying the room. No trace of her magic remains. “No problem. Don’t try and use your magic without one of us near you.”

 

She spins her chair so she’s facing her computer again, already typing like mad again. “I wasn’t. I fell asleep, and woke up to that.” She doesn’t seem very keen on elaborating, so Lance takes it as his cue to leave.

 

“What did she want?” Abella asks when Lance slips back into the kitchen. He shrugs, easing himself into a stool and pulling out a buzzing phone. Keith messages him with nonsensical questions, meaning that A, Shiro was spouting nonsense again, or B, Keith was bored. Swiping to the messages, he responds to all of them without glancing up at his sister.

 

“Something stupid, honestly. She just likes to inconvenience me.” Abella looks unconvinced but says nothing. She returns to her food with a grunt.

 

Tapatio (5:04 PM): Okay, but is a Calzone an omelet because Shiro and Matt won’t accept the answer being no.

 

Lance (5:04 PM): Nah, it’s not

 

Tapatio (5:04 PM): Thank God, someone with some common sense around here. I’d kill to have you on my side in person right now.

 

Lance (5:05 PM): Well what’s stopping you?

 

Tapatio (5:06 PM): Actually, yeah, what is stopping me? Please come and save me from my dumbass brother and his stupid roommate. I might reward you.

 

Lance (5:06 PM): Kinky ;)

 

Tapatio (5:07 PM): I revoke the possibility of a reward.

 

Lance (5:07 PM): :’(

 

Lance (5:07 PM): You wound me, Keith

 

Tapatio (5:08 PM): I can do worse if you don’t get your ass over here and help me. They’re /this/ close to getting onto the ‘is water wet’ topic.

 

Lance (5:08 PM): Shit,, omw

 

 

________________

 



Turns out, Lance and Keith were up for an unfair battle. Matt and Shiro turned up with a powerpoint explaining their bullshit, despite Keith and Lance insistent on the facts of the matter. Really, one of them should have seen that coming when they knew they were up against Matt of all people. If there was anything Lance learned from the years he’s known him and his family, it’s that if they believe something stupid, they go balls deep.

 

On another note, Keith and Shiro’s apartment is… cramped. It’s spacious, sure, but everything feels closed into Lance. There are boxes shoved in a corner by the TV labeled ‘safe keeping’ in shaky handwriting he recognizes as Keith’s, books on magic, scientific theories, anatomy, diseases, and space-related technologies litter every open space. Plants fill every windowsill, labeled on the pots in handwriting that were neither Keith nor Shiro’s. The dining room table is covered with mail, mostly letters addressed from ‘Grandpa Shirogane’ to Shiro and Keith, all torn open. The key dish by the door has necklaces, keys, runes, and Matt’s wand piled in it. Their shoes are scattered throughout the apartment, a flip-flop even found in a cramped kitchen. Shiro and Matt’s rooms are the only ones with doors left ajar, revealing one meticulously clean room, save for the consistent plants, runes, and tarot cards, and one messy room similar to Pidge’s chaos. Keith’s door is closed, so Lance doesn’t really get to see it on his way to the bathroom.

 

Still, Lance makes himself at home as always, Lounges himself across Keith, who doesn’t seem to mind much, and talks nonsense with everyone. Notes how Keith keeps a bag by the door and a jacket on the hook, always ready to leave if given the circumstances. How he wears his gloves even though the apartment, despite the cold still lingering outside, is hotter than a motherfucker.

 

“Hey, Lance?” Keith asks, head cast to the ceiling. Shiro and Matt’s chatter from the kitchen drifts to them, the popcorn popping in the microwave background noise. “How come you’ve never forced me to tell you the truth?”

 

Lance glances up to Keith, neck aching against the armrest of the couch. “I’m not that terrible of a person. You’ve made it clear you don’t want to tell me yet, and even though I don’t--”

 

“-- I do want to tell you.” Keith cuts Lance off, head turning to look at him, bangs shifting and covering his right eye. “I’ve wanted to for a while. There are so many things I want to tell you. I just never knew how.”

 

“Then what’s stopping you?” Lance already knows the answer. A hesitation to trust, a hesitation to love. A hesitation to get close to someone you can lose so easily. But he wants to hear it from Keith, not everyone around him--

 

“Nothing.” Keith looks away from Lance to the silent TV. He looks just as shocked as Lance, a realization finally settling in him-- one that seems to have been on the brink for ages, just now deciding to boil over. Quieter, “there was never anything stopping me but myself.”

 

He lightly pushes Lance’s legs out of his lap, standing up and stretching himself out. He trudges to the key dish, shoving his feet into his riding boots. He unlocks the door with ease, calling out over his shoulder to Shiro that they’re going out for a bit. Shiro shouts something back, something Lance can’t hear over the blood pounding in his ears as Keith pulls open the door, gesturing for Lance to follow. The cautious look in his eyes is something Lance only saw once in his time of knowing Keith, back when he was just someone who saw more than a normal human could. Just like the first time he saw it, it quickly turns into steely resolve. Shoving himself out of the couch, Lance follows Keith without question.

 

Keith leads Lance to the apartment garage, taking an old black helmet off of the shelf. His hands shake as he traces over the scratches across it, before holding it out to Lance. “This was Shiro’s,” he says quietly. His eyes flicker to a motorcycle covered up by a sheet-- the silhouette looks a bit too similar to the one Lance saw in Keith’s memories. The helmet passes into Lance’s hands, feeling heavier than it actually is. Keith pulls his own from the shelf, sleek and red without any signs of damage. “He doesn’t use it anymore.”

 

Lance only rode on a motorcycle once before in his life. He was fifteen, and Luis had just got a sweet deal on some old shitty thing. Naturally, he insisted that his brother take him on a ride around the neighborhood unbeknownst to their parents. He remembers the wind whipping at his hair, whoops and laughter leaving him as he sat up and stretched out his arms, only to immediately cling back onto his brother’s waist, screaming in shock while he cackled.

 

With Keith, he got the same adrenaline rush, the same awe of how fast everything moves. But Lance finds himself occupied with rushing thoughts of where Keith was taking him, and what he was thinking right now, even as he weaves in and out of cars. When he sees the Black Lion in the distance, he expects Keith to stop there. Instead, he races by without but a glance towards it. Cramped townhouses and small businesses morph into high-end apartments and fancy buildings until the streets start looking vastly different. Though he’s sure he’s been here, there are very few fond memories he holds in this sector of San Rosa. So when Keith pulls up to some valet sign, a fancily dressed man looking at him with vague indifference, Lance starts questioning reality. Keith pulls his helmet off, staring at the valet man with the same indifference. “I’m leaving this here.”

 

“You’re not allowed to do that.”

 

“Bring it up with Allura, then. Bet she’ll love the interruption,” Keith immediately bites, placing his helmet down on the seat. He pulls off Lance’s before he can even reach for it, gesturing for him to follow once more. Lance smiles nervously at the indifferent man, who just glares after Keith.

 

“Very friendly to the workers here, I see,” Lance says as he matches Keith’s pace, sliding door opening before they even reach the sensor. The front desk has ‘Altea Co.’ sprawled across it in bright blue, some boring looking woman behind the counter. “Care to tell me why we’re here?”

 

Keith nods to the woman, who returns the favor and presses some button. “When Shiro was a kid, his mother fell ill and died. Our father found himself in a hole, too distressed to take care of himself, let alone Shiro. So our grandpa sent himself over to his house, took care of Shiro and tried to shove his son in the right direction. He got desperate enough to send him to some self-acclaimed ‘spellcaster establishment’.” Keith leads Lance into an area marked ‘employees only’, unlocking under his touch. He looks over to him, a bittersweet expression on that often apathetic face of his. “That’s where he met my mom. She knew he wasn’t a spellcaster, but she could see all of the pains in him and knew this was someone who needed her help. So she did what anyone with a heart would do, and gave him runes to ease his suffering instead of bullshit incense, and extended her number to him if he needed someone to talk to.”

 

There’s an elevator at the end of the restricted hall. It opens upon Keith’s approach, closes once Lance crosses into it. Keith presses his fingertips against a panel, breathing out deeply. The number at the top starts to change, going all the way to floor one-hundred and forty-six. Words flash on a bar underneath, reading ‘Level 6- VOLTRON’. The doors open, revealing only six color-coded doors. Three line the left side of the wall, blue and red doors on either side of a purple door, two on the right are respectively yellow and green, and one with double doors at the end of the hall is lined with pink.  “You know how it goes from there. She helps him get better, they fall in love and boom, a marriage and a second spellcasting baby, which was convenient for me, because when your dad’s a firefighter, you can set everything on fire without worrying about killing someone most of the time... We were happy for a while. Shiro thought highly of her, though not really as a mother, per se. More of a mentor that helps you live and shit. She taught me how to use healing in metamorphoses, kept me from blowing up our house.” Keith halts in front of a door with red accents, taking a deep breath.

 

“And then, our father died. Some spellcaster went over the deep end, desperate to find magic in non-spellcasters for his wife. My mother… She didn’t react well. Especially given her secondary. She took it out on our hometown at the time, turning it upside down and inside out to find the spellcaster. She changed everything around her, turned buildings upside down in her grief. Then she saw us, scared and crying and begging her to stop before it’s too late. Something fixed itself in her, I think. Because she used that last ounce of strength in her to save us-- to save the city. She fixed everything.”

 

Keith closes his eyes. Lance thinks he sees a tear roll down his cheek. “You get lucky if you have a passive magic as your primary and secondary, Lance. No one in our family is lucky. Metamorphoses magic takes your strength from you at the least, if you use it for something on a small scale, say bringing someone recently dead back to life. But when you tear up an entire town and fix it back up, the body needs to regain all of your mana back, or else you’ll die off a slow and painful death.” His shaking hand reaches out to the door. Turns the knob, slowly. “So, our bodies have adapted for metamorphoses magic. When you overuse your magic, it…. Does this.”

 

He tosses the door open, and it doesn’t creak for dramatic effect, just opens in a still, eerie quiet. The room inside is dark, and dark curtains cover the window. Keith steps in slowly, glancing nervously at Lance, whose nerves are trying to catch up with him. Anxiety, nervousness, and a terrible excitement ripples through him. He’s waited months to know this-- something that Keith could have gone his entire life without showing.

 

So he steps through the door.

 

And his heart crawls up into his throat.

 

Hot wax litters the floor, new candles and old, stubby candles are lit across the room, illuminating a figure in the center of a circle of candles and runes. There’s a stack of tarot cards in front of her, facing down. A book with sprawled notes is beside them. All of these were noticed as an afterthought, as he finds himself unable to tear his gaze away from the woman in the center. Her eyes are closed, hands limp and feet hovering above the ground. Purple hair cascades down her face, long and coursing over her shoulders and black at the roots. She…. She looks painfully similar to Keith. Lance forces himself to look away from the woman to Keith, who looks at her with a pained expression. “She’s been like this for twelve years. After she collapsed, Shiro had enough sense to teleport us right on Alfor’s doorstep. If it wasn't for him, she would have died.”

 

Lance can only blink-- can only stare-- while Keith tears himself away from his mother to face him, illuminated by the candlelight. If things had been different, Lance would tell him he looks beautiful. Every little thing about Keith almost makes sense, down to why he left the party so early. He was only eleven and left without either of his parents. Being surrounded by three sets of parents and their armies of children would no doubt be overwhelming to anyone in a situation like that. “When will she wake up?” Lance asks without realizing it.

 

“I don’t know. I hope soon. So that she can genuinely cope.” Keith looks at Lance, that same intense and unreadable expression on his face and in his eyes. “And see what a mess her son turned into.”

 

“You’re not a mess-” Lance begins, cut off by Keith holding a finger to his lips.

 

“I am. I let my fear of history repeating itself get in the way of teaching you the most valuable part about magic. Magic isn’t free, Lance. All of them take a toll on you in different ways.” Keith holds his hands out, palms facing the ceiling “So that when you use your magic without thought of the consequences, it can take the toll from you itself.”

 

Lance gets the numbing feeling that he isn’t talking about his mother.

 

Keith lifts his shaking hands, pulls off his leather jacket, and tosses it to the side. He repeats the motion with his gloves. Lance keeps his gaze locked with Keith all the while, waiting for permission to look and finally know the answer to a question he’s been asking for so long. Because he doesn't want to cross that line, in the slim case that he isn't doing this to finally give Lance answers. “You can look,” he says quietly, a golden light flickers between them.

 

He doesn’t expect to see what he actually sees. He expects battle scars, burns, mangles, torn ligaments. Instead, he sees sporadic black curves coursing up his forearms like lightning bolts, starting from the center of his palm. A sickness infecting his very being, currently illuminated by a golden glow beneath his skin. Keith turns over one of his arms briefly to reveal the same on the back. It’s not the same black as his hair, or the darkness enveloping them. This one is a charcoal, like the ashes of a fire seeping into human skin in the same way a parasite latches to its host.

 

Lance can’t even see his veins, where his magic corrupted him. Just an outline of where they should be, for the ones closer to the top of his skin.

 

Keith takes one of Lance’s hands in his own and presses it against his forearm. Instead of feeling the same heat about the rest of him, he feels nothing but the cold emptiness that yearns for more to take, more to use. “I’ve burnt myself out over the years,” Keith says. “Lost my sight of what it meant to live. Started to find repetition boring. Found brutal fights with other spellcasters more entertaining. Found lashing out at my friends better than telling them I was hurting myself in a way that can’t be fixed by going to therapy.”

 

Pale eyes look up into blue ones, shaking and clammy hands now steady. “Then some stranger decides he wants to die on my store floor and flirt with me using his dying breath like an idiot. And even after I fix him, he finds a way back into my life and makes himself a home in it without asking permission. That’s when I find life interesting again. And it becomes terrifying to me because I spent my whole life destroying myself only to find out that it’s not what I want anymore.” Keith presses his fingertips against Lance’s, bringing his hand up until their arms are between each other, Keith’s fire balanced out by the ocean, leaving nothing but steam in its wake. Even the emptiness where he’s burned out emits a cold flame that gets swept with the tide. “Even more terrifying when I realized what I do want. Someone to hold me, to fight alongside me even if we’re up against the world, to tell me everything’s going to be alright when it isn’t so that we just have that hope , to love me for the reckless, hot-headed person I am. Someone to even me out so I can realize that my temper can be longer if I want it to be. I’m tired of shutting people out to protect myself from getting hurt when I'm just going on hurting myself, Lance. Tired of all of it.”

 

“I’m tired of people thinking I’ll hurt them,” Lance says, pressing gently against Keith’s fingertips. “When I won’t.”

 

“You won’t hurt me,” Keith echoes. His free hand lifts, cupping Lance’s cheek. His hand is cold and warm at the same time, drawing every bit of heat from his face and into that desolate nothingness “And you wouldn’t hurt yourself. I know.”

 

His hands fall with a sigh, face turning away from Lance and back to his mother. He regards her with a pensive sorrow, something that Lance has only seen a few times in his months of knowing him. Steeled determination replaces his brooding melancholy, and he’s bringing Lance’s face closer to his own, breaking that unspoken barrier without uttering a word.

 

Keith’s lips taste like smoke, Lance notes through his daze. Not cigarette smoke-- the kind of smoke you inhale from a campfire. He’s never liked the taste of bonfire smoke before. And yet here he is, hand resting on the back of Keith’s dark hair like he was going to suddenly vanish when their kiss broke, never wanting to leave.

 

And yet the smoke doesn’t drown out the sea salt in the back of Lance’s throat. They exist in perfect harmony, neither one or the other overpowering.

 

They can’t hurt each other, as they are in their natural states.

 

But they’ve reached the point of no return.

 

________________



Narti wakes up to a voice in the back of her head. It’s distant, mostly blocked out by the new protection ward Keith set up a few weeks ago. Still, it gets through. When the voice speaks, she sees an entirely different sight than what her wand shows her. Well, it's not quite seeing. More like her mind constructing a scene in her thoughts alone, real enough to be recorded by the memory of someone in that room. She sees a dark room, with a hall that seems to stretch on forever, and a man, standing just to her side. “The tides are changing,” the owner of her host says in a croaking, rough voice, “the paladins are finding their successors faster than we can break the curse.”

 

“Then we find their successors,” says the man, familiar in stature and voice. Narti knows she’s never seen him personally, but when you spend time with Lotor you… hear things. Things that no other spellcaster should hear. “And get those measly paladins out of them by force. You can do that, can’t you?”

 

Narti’s host lets out a cackling laugh. “Of course I can. You haven’t doubted me before, why doubt me now?”

 

“There is nothing to gain in faithless trust, Demiurge.”

 

Her host speaks in a quieter voice, more human than prior. She sounds… hurt. In mourning. No, Narti knows what it is to mourn. She's wistful. Yearning. “Of course.”

 

And then she’s back in her own body, seeing nothing but the black abyss. Her bed creaks under her when she sits up, fingertips rubbing an aching temple. She doesn’t know what’s going on, who she just saw, only that she knows what paladins they refer to.

 

Those paladins are long dead, leaving only Allura and their legacies in their wake.

 

But what if they left more than that?

 

Chapter Text

Matt bursts into the room, shouting incoherent words over his shoulder. There’s a shit eating grin across his face, one that quickly falls when he meets Allura’s frighteningly calm gaze, and Lance facing away from him, his hand extended just above hers. He doesn’t even seem to notice his entry, still mindlessly rambling.

 

“And I know it’s kind of stupid, but I know that it’s not just me who hears these things , gets these surges of power that doesn’t feel like my own. But this? This is so much weirder, ‘llura.” Lance’s voice is still it’s normal, bubbly tone, but there’s something serious about it. “I mean, ever since that training session with Keith—“

 

“The one we weren’t around to witness, correct?” Allura interjects. Lance had kicked Matt, Allura, Coran, Nyma, And a few other spellcasters out of the Pit to do some team training with Keith, Pidge, Hunk, himself, and, possibly Shiro. They were in the process of convincing him to return to the dueling scene so that he could keep busy-- they were all planning on doing it in varying ways, with Pidge and Hunk opting for duo dueling. It’s been proven… difficult. He has no incentive, other than Allura’s insistence. And besides, no one brings it up directly.

 

“—yeah, exactly. Ever since then, it’s been fucking weird . And now? I can do this.” Lance removes his hands, and a blue light bursts from his palms. A flame dances in the center of his hands, still remaining that teal color. “Please help.”

 

Allura places her hands over Lance’s, and the flames subside. “It’s just an after effect. Don’t worry about it too much and until you gain control or they stop forming, refrain from summoning the fire. Worst comes to worst, get Keith or call me. He’ll be able to take your flame forcefully, and I can fix whatever damage you might ensue.”

 

“After effect? Allura, I love you, but what the fuck?”

 

“It’s complicated magical jargon you won’t care about. Keith, happily enough, will find he’s now able to sufficiently water his products at the Black Lion for the next week or two. That’s all you need to know.” Allura looks up from Lance, and directly to Matt. “Matt. What can I do for you?”

 

Lance freezes and turned his head just a little bit. His chest burns with the lingering flame and his temples pulse, but not even this pain should have kept him from noticing the Holt standing there like a deer in the headlights.

 

Said Holt answers eloquently. “Um.”

 

Lance takes it as his cue to leave, heaving himself off of one of Allura’s plush curtains with a sigh. He crosses through the curtain, passing the threshold of whatever spell she placed over the doorframe to have her existing simultaneously in Altea and the Coalition. Before he crosses over, however, he hears Matt begin to speak.

 

“When the fuck did Keith and Lance—“

 

That’s all he needs to hear.

 

The Pit is alive with activity, blades swinging from various points in the walls and spellcasters bouncing off of them and zooming through them. In the center stands Keith and Shiro, the two duking it out with nothing but their bare fists. Occasionally sparks form and black matter dances between them from instinct alone. They laugh and shout biting words at one another, occasionally replying to some other spellcasters.

 

‘Some other spellcasters’ happen to be Pidge and Hunk. Pidge is perched on one of the lowest swinging blades, balancing on her feet with shocking ease. Hunk follows the blade with his eyebrows furrowing. He shouts at Pidge, and a blur of motion follows. One second Lance sees Pidge leaving the blade with a yelp, the other he sees Hunk soaring through the air, large hands slamming into either side of the blade. The air distorts, and soon the blade is nothing but a sad crumpled ball of metal in his hands.

 

“Holy shit Hunk!” Lance cries, seeing himself racing down the steps to the Pit and, subsequently, almost decking Keith in the process. “That was amazing!”

 

“I— you think?” Asks his large friend, seemingly shocked with himself as Lance launches straight into his chest, metal landing in the dirt with a thud. A bubbling feeling of serenity washes over Lance, soothing any of his lingering nerves.

 

“Hunk!” Shouts a voice of authority, the sense of calm vanishing in an instant as the spellcaster holding him fiercely tenses instantly. Lance cranes his head to see Allura standing just outside of the hall leading to her office, already tying her hair into a ponytail. Matt lingers behind her, hidden in her shadow. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t practice Metamorphic magic without me present!” Hunk immediately melts into blabbering apologies as she descends the stairs swiftly, other spellcasters snickering and smug. Even Shiro looks on in amusement from where he‘s crouched, a squirming Keith trapped in a headlock now. Lance slips out of Hunk’s grip easily, backing up in a very unsubtle fashion until he’s next to the dueling siblings.

 

“So, uh…” he trails off, staring transfixed at the empty spot where the obstacle was. “Do you reckon I could do something like that?”

 

Shiro blinks at Allura, watching as the air distorts around her, seemingly folding in on itself. He mutters ‘show-off’, before returning his focus back to a Keith currently in the process of trying to surrender. “If you want to risk destroying your current body, sure, be my guest. But in my personal experience?” He releases his little brother, hand moving to rest over the wand embedded in his wooden forearm. The metal ball on the floor unfurls in an instant, and her half of the floor folds in on the wall where it used to be. Any spellcasters on that half of the room are, obviously, waiting patiently on Lance’s half. “You shouldn’t try something that’ll kill you, worst case scenario.”

 

Lance shoots a glance to Keith, quirking a brow. Judging by the way he scowls at the floor, tugging at his gloves, Shiro’s had a similar conversation with him.

 

Obviously, it didn’t really work.

 

Allura huffs once the Pit resets itself, brushing the dirt off of her hand. Glowing marks under her eyes and in the center of her forehead fade into dark skin, visible to all spellcasters and gone the next. She turns to face Hunk, glancing from him to everyone else. Matt lingers just outside of the Pit, conversing with his sister silently. “Will the six of you follow me?”

 

“Oooh, you’re in trouble!” Croons Nyma, hands cupped around her mouth. Keith scoffs, flipping her the bird over his shoulder. He mutters something about how she acts like an elementary school student, hand mindlessly seeking out Lance’s. They don’t make eye contact, gazes set dead ahead. Fixated on the back of Allura’s Head, then Coran’s, then Pidge and Hunk’s. All out of sight from the two of them. Shiro, of course, lingers, but what was there that he wasn’t aware of when it came to Keith?

 

Allura stops in front of a door, eyes clouded. Eyes doubtful. But then she’s shoving through with twice the determination, leading them into the room he had just left. “Most of you weren’t born into spellcasting families.”

 

Anyone within a mile radius could hear Pidge mutter, “No shit.” Thankfully, Keith elbows her into silence. Allura continues on, unbothered, as the group takes seats on the pillows forming a large circle.

 

“With that in mind, you need context. My father, Alfor, brought Altea to its current prosperity in both the real world and the supernatural world. He… He founded the Coalition, but detached his name from it in favor of putting it under the names of his closest allies.” Allura pulls a box from the center, mindlessly fiddling with the lock. “Then he created a team. Each of them harnessed one of the five elements as a primary. One to harness nature, in the plant-life aspect,” Allura pulls a rune from the box, pressing it in front of Pidge. She does the same to the others in an identical fashion. “Another to harness the destructive force of nature. One to start fires that destroy everything in its path, another to end fires before they can rage. And finally—“ Allura looks at Shiro, who’s more like a deer in the headlights at this point. “Empty space, to balance out all of them. Now, he left the namesake of the team to me, to use it as I see fit. I see it fit that the world needs Voltron again.”

 

“Wow, guess I’m moral support? I mean, considering the fact I don’t fit into any of what you described and, well, you only listed five.” Matt pipes up from his seat between Pidge and Shiro. Allura frowns, opening her mouth to respond, when— “I know, I’m kidding. She’s going to do it anyway, so I’m not going to like… give you my blessing to abduct my sister into your magical biker gang. Besides, Nyma and Rollo are getting together a team, and they want me in it.”

 

“Ah. I figured as such. Do you still want a rune?”

 

“Hell yeah, I do.”

 

Matt excused himself shortly after receiving a rune, blabbering on about something nonsensical. As soon as the door shuts behind him, Allura and Keith wheel on Shiro, who looks equally as conflicted and shocked, if not more. “I—I don’t know, Allura. Me?”

 

Before she can get a word in, Keith is jumping the gun. “Yeah, can’t it be someone else? As in, not Shiro someone else?”

 

“Listen, Shiro.” Allura leans forward, seeming to completely ignore everyone else in the room. Keith let’s out a frustrated huff, folding his arms stubbornly. Lance pays him sympathetically on the back, still more interested in whatever the hell’s going on with Shiro than Keith’s angst. “This is an entirely different situation. Everyone here? Competent spellcasters that cannot only defend themselves but you , amongst many other non-spellcasters. What happened with Adam wasn’t something caused by team duels. It was something entirely resting on my shoulders, as someone who should have foreseen such a thing. I’ve… made sure such a thing can never happen again.”

 

Lance quirks a brow at Keith, gauging his expression for any telltale on who the hell this ‘Adam’ was. Or, more specifically, what happened to him. But Keith just stares at Allura with an unreadable intensity. Spares Lance only a single glance for a fraction of a second, something that tells him everything he needs to know. It wasn’t his place to tell. “You’ll make sure the team stays safe?” Asks Shiro, a hand resting on his prosthetic uneasily. Allura nods— reassures him, even. To paraphrase, she tells him that ‘no one would fuck with the team’ if she was around. Then, after a minute of silence that seems to drag on for hours, “Alright.”

 

“Shiro—“

 

“—Keith, shut up for five seconds,” Shiro says quickly, effectively shutting up his brother with one sentence and a sharp glare. “I’ve got some terms that you need to meet if you really want me on this team. I want a new arm. And a new wand. I love this one, trust me, but it’s not sturdy enough to withstand dueling. No amount of enchantments can change that.”

 

Allura nods, sitting back. She smiles a genuine smile. “Of course. You always did want one made of a stronger material. We can talk shop later. However, right now, I request you gather your runes and follow me.”

 

Lance’s rune-- made from white marble--  has an unfamiliar pattern etched into it, yellow paint making the symbol stand out. It looked more or less like an infinity symbol. He must have been staring at it like it was a severed hand, though, because a hand edges into Lance’s peripheral, turning his hand away from him. Keith raises one of his brows with a huff and returns his attention to Allura’s back. “Dagaz rune. Evens out opposite magics.” He turns his own hand into Lance’s view. An open-ended rectangle with a slanted top. “Power rune, basically.”

 

“Yo, Pidge, Hunk, what rune did you get?” Lance elbows his large friend with a little smile, now rune-less hand intertwining with Keith’s wordlessly. A surge of something sparks between them, adrenaline surging through their locked hands like it was simply background noise. Hunk turns his rune to face him, shrugging.

 

“Don’t know,” he says, “but it looks neat.”

 

“Keith, what does the Harry Potter scar looking rune stand for?”

 

Keith furrows his brows, throwing a puzzled look to Lance. “The what?”

 

“Nevermind, don’t speak to me or my rock son ever again.” Contradictory to Lance’s words, his hand still grips Keith’s with a childish attachment.

 

Allura, ever so helpful, says, “It’s the Sowulo rune.”

 

“Ah. Clarity rune,” elaborates Keith, pausing behind his brother as Allura has Coran step to the side, her hands hovering over the doorknob. The air shifts for a half a second, everyone momentarily freezing. Lance’s breath even catches in his throat, mind a whirl as if he’d just been thrown into a teacup ride with Pidge and Matt.

 

“I’ve got the greater than rune. I thought math wasn’t in magic,” complains Pidge, holding her rune out for Keith to analyze. An arrow pointing to the left is carved into it and is lined with yellow pigment.

 

“Knowledge rune.”

 

Coran clears his throat. Lance straightens up, snapping his head to return his gaze to Allura, still paused in front of the door. “Sorry, Coran.”

 

“It’s fine, my boy. Try not to do it again.”

 

Allura, seemingly satisfied with the new quiet, throws open the door and vanishes through. Coran and Shiro follow suit without question, Lance and Keith almost getting stuck in the doorframe because they were too stubborn to let the other go first. Pidge crawls through the space by their legs while they bicker, and Hunk shoves them through with a single push.

 

Lance expects to be in her father’s old office-- the one with the wands. Instead, he’s standing at the end of a hall he’d just been in a week earlier, the pink door shutting behind Hunk. Keith freezes, shooting a questioning look to Allura, who only marches down the hall. “My father made these rooms to connect to the typical places he could find his team. Shiro, this is especially useful for that concern of yours. Pick a room and stand in front of it, please.”

 

Keith’s puzzled, troubled look seldom lessening as he strides to his red door, stopping in front of it. Lance stops in front of the blue door, shooting a look to Shiro, who mutters about how obvious everyone’s choice is. “You’re sure one to talk,” he says, gesturing to the purple door he’s stopped in front of.

 

Shiro only points to Hunk and Pidge, standing in front of yellow and green doors. “I’m just pointing out the obvious.”

 

“Alright, good. I’m going to assign locations to your doors, if you don’t mind,” Allura says, already passing by Keith and stopping at Shiro. “Just think about what home is to you.”

 

Easy, Lance thinks as Allura skips over Keith and places one of her hands against Shiro’s temple, home is his house, a safe space carved out by his Cuban parents to house their armada of children. Home is a stage, home is a dressing room, home is his friends, home is the way Keith’s gaze lingers after duels. Home is the beach. Home is wherever Lance goes.

 

Home is whoever holds Lance’s heart.

 

 

 

________________

 

 

Lance never thought he’d had to deal with that godforsaken ‘mind meld’ exercise ever again. And yet he doesn’t feel surprised in the slightest when Allura pulls that box out, handing colored bracelets to each of the spellcasters strewn across the Coalition’s VIP deck.

 

“Remember, I don’t want to be seeing anything like your siblings naked,” Hunk is saying, fiddling with his bracelet uncomfortably. “Like, I’m serious. I know all of your siblings too personally to have that burned into my mind.”

 

“Then don’t make us think about it, dude,” Lance replies, patting his face from an awkward angle. Lance is strewn across Keith and Hunk’s laps, his head in the latter’s lap and thighs on the former’s. Shiro and Pidge sit on either arm awkwardly.

 

“Bracelets on, paladins,” Allura says over her shoulder, gaze cast to the training spellcasters below. Knowing her, she wants to grant them as much privacy as humanly possible in this situation while still maintaining a hold on the stability.

 

Most of what Lance sees is a repeat of information he already knew. But it was overwhelming, having it all slamming into him at once, so he does what he does best. He hyper focuses. Homes in on Shiro’s distant memories, shockingly unoccupied by Keith (there was a small fire in the back of his throat that answered the question of where he was instead), and blocks out all else.

 

His memories are calmer than the ones Keith showed him. They don’t have the same sense of urgency, only an underlying need to protect and defend. It varies by the person, and Lance can only see snippets, but one memory, in particular, lingers, just for a bit.

 

“Jesus Christ you scared the shit out of me,” says Shiro, his heartbeat seldom calming and adrenaline still racing through his veins. Lance can recognize this street— wait, they’re outside of the Coalition. That makes sense-- Shiro's known Allura for ages. What he’s more focused on, though, is the grinning man rounding from behind Shiro's shoulder. “You’ve got to stop sneaking up on me like that.”

 

“Okay, yeah, sure, and you’ll actually go to sleep on time. Come on, Keith’s going to start complaining if you don’t get home soon, and you promised me that you'd have popcorn next time I came over.” There’s an unfamiliar peace that settles in past Shiro’s heart, a warmth in his hand as the man pulls him along with him.

 

“I actually am planning on going to sleep on time. It’s in my New Years resolution for this year.”

 

The man laughs. Shiro’s heart soars. “Babe, it’s August.”

 

“Makes no difference. Time is just an illusion made by society.”

 

The memory is taken from Lance with a gentleness unlike how abruptly Keith took away his own memories. There’s a quick “ You shouldn’t have seen that ” followed by, “ I’m sorry.

 

It’s cool, Lance reassured him, his memories subconsciously drifting back to high school and a conversation he’d once overheard between two people that sounded remarkably similar to past Shiro and this mystery man.

 

It takes exactly two minutes for everything to go to shit. Lance wasn’t counting or anything— in fact, Pidge had sent out a mental stop-watch to the group with no explanation the instant the connection opened. But in all honesty? Two minutes was longer than anything even Allura could have predicted.

 

“What the fuck . You little shit—“ Pidge is saying, breaking the unspoken rule of… well, not speaking at all. She lunges across the circle and pulls Lance’s shirt until her bony knuckles knock the wind out of him. “ You were the bastard that spilled orange juice on my science fair project!

 

Wait. Lance wasn’t thinking about the science fair, he was thinking about that time he got into a fight with James in their senior year. And he’s only told exactly two people about the science fair incident: Hunk, and Emeline. Well, her and Cement Block, but the little furry shit can’t speak English anyway.

 

Lance drags Hunk away from the group and into the tussle, as one does in this situation, shouting, “stop snitching, motherfucker!”

 

“I’m not!” Cries Hunk, desperately trying to peel himself out of the death grip Lance now has him trapped in, his legs worked around his waist and torso victim to Pidge’s pathetic little punches. “I swear! You can check for yourself!”

 

“Uh, I'm a little busy here!” Lance shouts in return, slapping Pidge with a sweaty, sweaty hand. Then Lance is weightless, Hunk is sliding from his death grip with shocking ease and Pidge is torn away from him.

 

Quiet ,” comes Shiro’s thoughts, cool and stern at the same time. Allura turns her gaze from the window briefly, then a weight drops off of Lance’s shoulders. She’d been quelling them, for just a split second. Neat trick. “That was Keith’s memory.”

 

Heads turn to Keith, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but here. “Um,” He says like the wordsmith he is. “I can explain?”

 

“Dude you didn’t even go to school with us,” Pidge is saying from beside Lance. Shiro has the two of them suspended by their collars, both of them swinging with folded arms and disgruntled expressions. “Why were you even there ?”

 

“Well I didn’t go to school there, but uh… one of Shiro’s… boyfriends… did? And I wanted to check out the ventilation system because that’s what you do, apparently, when you’re bored and thirteen.” The connection opens up on Keith’s end, and an image of some kid helping him up into the vents floods through. “I didn’t even know it was Lance, honestly. Just some dumbass that decided to drink orange juice around electrical circuits.”

 

That sort of stings. Keith flinches at the thought that Lance accidentally sends his way, but no response follows from his end. “You still won second place, though!” Lance points out, wheeling on Pidge.

 

“Uh, yeah, but only because Hunk is a literal godsend. And I lost to some nerd named Leif! Who the fuck names their kid Leif !”

 

White people ?” Suggests Shiro’s thoughts, echoing Lance’s identical sentiment. Keith gives their thoughts both a thorough shin-kicking. When he prompts for them to apologize, the spellcaster still lifting two idiotic college students like a sack of potatoes responds “ It’s true and you know it.

 

Allura clears her throat from the window. Shiro immediately drops Lance and Pidge to the ground, heads, and bodies turning to face her bemused smile. “I believe you’ve all found what you were looking for in this exercise, have you not?”

 

Something like that.

 

Lance suggests they play Monopoly as the next exercise, an idea that is quickly shut down by anyone with common sense. Shiro suggests some good, wholesome cardio. Keith was the only person who thought that sounded fun in the slightest. Needless to say, they ended up turning to Hunk for suggestions. “Magic laser tag?” He suggests, glancing to Allura for confirmation that this is something that’s even remotely possible.

 

Allura narrows her eyes at the Pit briefly. Sighing, she says, “Alright, fine.”

 

 

 

________________

 

 

“Remember, this is every man for himself,” Coran is saying shortly after over the intercom, Allura forcing the last obstacle into place. She had turned the circular room into a post-apocalyptic scene, crates and metal boxes serving as cover and fire escapes as a mode of transport for those who can’t send themselves fifteen feet into the air on cue. “You leave your personal boundaries at the door, along with any personal relations. I’m looking at you, Hunk, Shiro, Keith, and Lance .”

 

“Why was that more targeted at us than them?” Lance asks no one in particular, chugging the last of his water bottle in one swift motion. Keith deadpans him without giving much of a response before returning his focus back to a specific point in the course.

 

“Oh, you know why,” says Shiro knowingly, human hand gripping his wooden arm. “Allura, can you set up a scoreboard? That empty wall should work.”

 

Allura’s head falls to the floor, arms falling limp at her side. Her hand lifts above her head to give a weak thumbs up, and a glowing blue scoreboard forms at said wall. Twelve competitors, including Matt and Nyma. Keith makes a pleased sound when he notices that, lip twisting into a smug smile. Coran’s voice cuts in, “Oh, also, try not to kill each other. We don’t have a medic with us and although Allura is competent and Keith is excellent, we can’t risk anything.” Keith’s smile fades.

 

Lights burst across the chests of everyone with one sweeping motion from Allura, her active body vanishing in a similar pink light. “You have six seconds to get into position,” Her cool voice says over Coran’s intercom, then, with a more light and airy voice, “Good luck, Coalition.”

 

Coran gives a cheerful countdown that sends everyone scrambling in different directions, Pidge even going as far as jumping off of Hunk’s back to get to a higher elevation. Lance takes cover on one of the fire escapes, climbing up to about the fourth floor and hiding behind a convenient crate. By the time he gets there, the shitstorm had already begun, blasts of magic whizzing through the air.

 

Nyma is the first person to say something, breaking through the tension with a loud, “Okay, whoever’s getting me in the back every second, can you not ?”

 

“Sorry!” Shouts Shay.

 

“No, you’re not.”

 

Lance peers over the crate, closing his eyes and resting either hand in front of him. He opens one eye after he feels a fire settle over him, imaginary hands forming an imaginary bow. He draws back the string until his fingertips touch his cheek, then releases.

 

“What the fu-- Lance !” Shouts Keith from somewhere down below. There’s an orange glow that forms from behind a toppled semi-truck. “I’m going to kill you!”

 

“Rules are rules, hot stuff! No murder!” He shouts back, honing in on Shiro. He’s harder to find, flickering in and out between the fabric of reality with ease. But when he stops somewhere around the green disaster that is the Holt siblings going batshit on each other, Lance makes his move.  Matt and Pidge follow. All of them shout out in unison. Nyma and Shay are harder to find, same as that Ryan kid Lance recognizes from the cinematography classes. Nevertheless, they drop like flies.

 

Lance is just about to get around to finally going after Hunk when there’s a fire that puts the hairs on the back of his neck on edge. “So this is where you’ve been hiding, you bastard,” Keith says lowly, and Lance rolls out of the way just in enough time to miss a streamline of sparks. Keith moves with him, following every move in step, until Lance is cornered and his hands are held above his head. “You know, you could have just asked nicely instead of drenching me.”

 

“Yeah, like you’d listen,” he manages, watching every one of Keith’s movements. “Besides, I have more fun this way.”

 

A dark brow is quirked dubiously at him, taunting smirk faltering for only a split second, eyes searching. “More fun?” He echoes, sparks dancing from his fingertips, inches above the hit marker. It’s enough, Lance decides through his adrenaline rush, throwing all of his magic into the sparks.

 

“Yeah. The faces you make when you think you’ve won… I treasure them, babe.” Lance grins to the ears at Keith, barely waiting for registration to cross his features before he sends Keith’s sparks back at himself, purple-blue flame piercing through the pink hit marker and spreading across his torso. He’s released in a swift motion, Keith barreling back a few steps and frantically rerouting all fire back to his own control. When he turns back to Lance with a furious and awestruck look, mouth opening to shout something at him, he instead finds empty space, Lance having thrown himself backward over the railing the instant Keith wasn’t looking at him.

 

Falling feels weightless at first, Lance realizes, his heart and mind soaring as he descends rapidly to the ground. Turning himself to be feet first, he finds the joy to quickly drain the closer the floor approaches. Briefly, it crosses his mind that he should have thought further. But then there’s a familiar weight crashing into him and bringing him to the ground, and Hunk is grinning at him with exhausted eyes. And that lightness is back. “Hey, dude,” he says, breathless. “Thanks.”

 

“No problem. Best friends gotta stick together, in tiring times like this,” Hunk says simply, setting Lance back to the ground. He watches him put out a small flame on his sleeve with amusement before asking, “Keith?”

 

He looks back up to the fourth floor to see a figure leaning over the edge, a second form appearing behind him briefly and knocking him over. He curses the whole way down but kicks himself off of the second story railing and bolts across the course for a specific point. “Keith,” Lance confirms. “Hey, wanna gang up on Shay and Rax? Last I heard they were by the faux Wal-Mart truck.”

 

Or , we team up with them and gang up on Matt and Pidge, then assimilate Pidge to our ranks after she betrays her own blood and gang up on Shiro to see which side Keith picks.”

 

“That sounds fantastic, you wonderful, friendly sadist in disguise. Let’s do it.”

 

 

________________

 

 

Huh.

 

“Hey, Lance?”

 

“Yes, Keith?”

 

“How the fuck did we tie?”

 

“You know, I was just going to ask myself the same thing. The real question is how Ryan got first.”

 

Ryan blinks at the scoreboard once, then twice at Keith and Lance, and shrugs. “You were both distracted on the fire escape.”

 

“‘Distracted’?” Echos Pidge, suddenly interested in their conversation. “In like, normal Lance and Keith terms?”

 

Ryan only shrugs again and stalks off. Pidge seems to contemplate following, before giving up herself and turning to the subjects of her inquiry. “Normal you terms?” She repeats, and they only share a silent conversation that involves lazy hand gestures before, saying in unison,

 

“Something like that.”

 

“They were definitely making out,” Nyma says from her perch on one of the obstacles, busy chewing gum and looking at her phone. She glances up to everyone’s varying expressions, purple eyes nearly rolling into the back of her head. “Come on, we were all thinking that. If you want to know, you gotta ask them specifically. Or you just root around in Lance’s head. He’s very open about what he’s thinking if you can manage to get in there.”

 

“Nyma, I will pay you twenty dollars right now if you stop talking.”

 

“Pay up, then. You won’t, I know. You only have seven fifty on you right now.”

 

“Keith, pay her off.”

 

“I only have a ten.”

 

“...Shit.”

 

 

________________

 

 

 

Lance has added Shiro, Pidger, Hunkules, and Tapatio <3 to the group

Lance has named the group ‘form Voltron’

Lance has changed Tapatio <3’s name to Ghost Pepper

Lance has changed Ghost Pepper’s name to Hot Stuff

Lance has changed Hot stuff’s name to Keith.

 

Lance: Smh I can’t have any fun with your nicknames, I guess

 

Keith:  I’ll change it on my own accord.

 

Pidger: I for one think it gives him power to tell him you want your nickname changed.

Hunkules: Yeah to get him to stop you just gotta kinda

 

Hunkules has changed Lance’s name to Kayne

Hunkules has changed his name to Dwayne

Dwayne has changed Shiro’s name to [Bruce] Wayne

Dwayne has changed Pidger’s name to Payne

 

Dwayne: Assert yourself

 

[Bruce] Wayne: Kayne?

 

Dwayne: Kayne.

 

Kayne: It was one fuckign typomfk,ms dnj

 

Kayne: Keith, light of my life, my salvation,, join us,,

 

Keith: ….

 

Keith has changed his name to Layne

 

Layne: Happy?

 

Kayne: If I was financially stable and trusted the government, I would marry you right now immediately.

 

Dwayne: ???????????????????

 

Dwayne: Wait Lance where are you Emeline says you’re not on campus

 

Payne: Give us three guesses, Lance. You won’t regret it.

 

[Bruce] Wayne: You’re with Keith, aren’t you.

 

Kayne: [Image attached]

 

Kayne: Lmao yeah

 

Layne: He’s very persuasive.

 

Layne: Also we should practice tomorrow. Lance says that’s a bad idea but I don’t see why not.

 

Payne: He just wants to sleep in

 

Dwayne: God so do I. I haven’t slept properly in a week, you guys.

 

[Bruce] Wayne: Then we can practice tomorrow at one. Lance and Keith might have a team dynamic down, but none of us are at team standards. We’ll get our asses handed to us if we don’t practice diligently.

 

Kayne: But daaaaad

 

[Bruce] Wayne has left the group

 

Kayne: Lmao

 

Payne: Lmao

 

Dwayne: Lmao

 

Layne has added shiro to the group

Layne has changed shiro’s name to [Bruce] Wayne

 

Layne: It’s your own damn fault you’re our pseudo dad and you need to come to terms with that.

 

[Bruce] Wayne: Fuck you

 

Layne: Coward.

 

[Bruce] Wayne: Oh, we’re playing this game? Hey Keith, hey Lance, want to tell the class why you’re hanging out right now?

 

Kayne: Nah I’m good bro

 

Layne: You’re the one that got scared by a dog named cement block.

 

Payne: Quick, before they banish you to the astral plane

 

Payne: Tell the truth of the K/L hangout, you brave son of a bitch

 

[Bruce] Wayne: They’re on a study date

 

Layne has removed [Bruce] Wayne from the group

Layne has left the group

 

Kayne: I hate this fucking family

 

Kayne: But since he already said it I can tell y’all that I’m not a coward and I actually confront my feelings so Hunk how’s it going with Shay?

 

Dwayne has removed Kayne from the group

 

Dwayne: The evil has been defeated.

 

Payne: I’ll drink to that

 

Payne: Also they’ve been dating for like a week now? I thought everyone knew?

 

Dwayne: I

 

Dwayne has left the group

 

Payne: Okay valid

 

Chapter Text

Lance, Hunk, and Pidge had made an agreement with one another a couple weeks back. They agreed that, when they weren’t trying to smack intelligence into one another, they would review everything they knew about their magic, compiled into three separate lists. Lance decided that they would review it before their first team duel. Hunk suggested that they would write questions they had after they reviewed and, at their next duel, they can see if they’ve found any answers.

 

They find that Lance, unsurprisingly, has more information than the other two combined.

 

“I get this… voice, that tells me what to do. When no one else is around to help me,” Pidge says, explaining one of her notes that just says ‘Trigel’, the word circled numerous times. Keith’s head snaps up from whatever he was working on, hands gripping his forearms. Lance purses his lips but says nothing. Only turns his head back to Pidge’s notes. The writing doesn’t look like her own. It’s too neat, and as far as Lance is concerned, the last time he’d heard of Pidge using cursive was the third grade. “I woke up with this on my notes after a dream about losing control.”

 

“Mine doesn’t tell me his name,” Lance murmurs before he can stop himself. “But he helps me learn about everything I’m just barely able to comprehend.” Clicking his pen, he looks up to Hunk to speak next.

 

“Oh… Uh. Well, I found out that my quelling doesn’t really work on certain people? Like if what they’re feeling is what I’m feeling, I can’t get them to calm down.” Hunk wrings his hands together nervously, still clutching a barf bag in fists. His uniform is identical to the rest of the team-- a simple bodysuit with white boots. He has a belt and a vest over his, though. Pidge has her hoodie wrapped around her waist. “Like-- Like earlier this week my mom and I got really frustrated with this food that wouldn’t turn out right and she started crying so I tried to calm her down but I just ended up crying with her and then we got pizza.”

 

“Your family is a gift, truly,” drawls Lance from where he’s draped, pulling one of his boots all the way up. He leans over with his left hand outstretched and writes down a simple question at the bottom of his notes.

 

Find out the name of the Voice of the Sea?? (Probably not Chad)

 

“Hey, Shiro, give me a hand?” Keith calls out, looking up from his work with just enough time to start to tell him to stop. But it’s too late. Keith had already done his damage. There’s a look of sheer acceptance that takes over him as Shiro’s old wooden arm back-hands him with as much force as the other spellcaster can muster, hands limply extending to catch it as it falls down. “Thanks. Lance, come here.”

 

Their leader's laughter cuts short for a brief second. “But--”

 

“--I’m sorry, did someone say something?” Keith asks, looking across the room to where Shiro stands, wheezing and trying to apologize at the same time. His new arm, made of a metallic material with a dark purple connecting the plating, clutches his stomach. “No? Must have been the wind.”

 

Laughing, Lance pulls himself to his feet from the floor and approaches Keith, who, he notices, is in the process of digging through a box with a note from Allura taped to the top instructing the team to find communication devices previously used by her father’s team. Resting behind Keith he juts his chin out until it’s atop his right shoulder, hands snaking from behind Keith to in front of him. “Aren’t communication devices outlawed or something? He asks, searching for the remaining three communication devices. Without help from anyone, he’d already located Pidge and Lance’s communication device, some earplug with a color-coded microphone small enough to be hidden under whatever sad amount of hair you might have.

 

“Not for team duels,” Shiro says, adjusting his arm and snapping his fingers to adjust how quickly it responds to his will. A purple spark dances across his limb, small and barely there, but there nevertheless. It vanishes when a satisfied grunt leaves the owner. “I used to use one, too. Lost it a while back. You won’t find it in that box.”

 

Duly noted. Lance fishes out a yellow communicator from the box, unceremoniously dropping it next to his own. Keith finds his soon after, eyes shining with pride as he locks the box again, fiddling with his communicator in another hand. Allura enters shortly thereafter, dressed in some fancy suit, hair tied up. She only lets out a brief, “Hello, paladins,” before promptly collapsing into Lance’s previous seat, hands extended and head falling so far back that it’d pain anyone other than her.

 

Pidge scoots her seat closer to Allura, poking her in the cheek with her closed pen. “You alright, Allura?”

 

Allura is, in fact, not alright. Even Lance can see it from where he’s standing. Her cheeks have lost her color, her eyes their spark, and she’s got a big enough eye bags to hold Lance’s stage makeup. Still, she only lifts her head up to regard Pidge, saying in a tired voice, “I’ll be fine later.”

 

“Shiro, you got the last of the cokes from our flighty bastard of a fridge, right?” Keith says without looking directly to him, too busy following Lance’s hand as it vanishes under his dueling gloves, made of the same material as their boots. The skin underneath is cold, unwarmed even by the enchanted fabric. It reaches out to Lance, grasping at the warmth in his skin, feels for the buzz of magic from his fingertips alone.

 

There’s a flash of purple instead of a verbal response on Shiro’s end, and a coke is soon falling into Allura’s extended hand, opened, and downed without a second thought. “I’m never letting the audience pick the terrain again for team duels. Spellcasters are a vicious evil, and no one in this room is an exception. Except for you, Hunk.”

 

Lance looks at Allura suspiciously, hand escaping Keith's freezing abyss of an arm for the wonderful, wonderful feeling of body heat. “You just said no exceptions..?”

 

“Well, when you’re barely clinging to life by sheer willpower alone, you tend to forget certain things.”

 

“Ah. Forgive me.”

 

She mumbles something in response, eyes falling shut. Then she’s speaking intelligibly, though her words sort of blur together. “You’re up in thirty minutes. Someone set a timer for twenty.”

 

Lance instigates a silent game of nose goes, in which Shiro loses for the sheer fact that he wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation in the first place. That and Keith had attempted to throw everyone off by utilizing his brother’s old arm, something that was, in fact, very effective at its job.

 

They spend the next twenty minutes not reviewing battle formation, as Keith suggested, but instead playing Uno, on Shiro’s insistence. It’s a terrible idea, admittedly, but it does get them riled up and thirsting for blood, which, apparently, is what typically has Keith leaving his opponents with lung cancer. So. That’s fun.

 

Allura wakes up the moment Shiro’s alarm goes off, despite the fact that the entire team had previously been screaming at each other and threatening to break off all sorts of relationships-- Lance threatened to break up with Keith for pulling a reverse on his ass, Keith threatened to disown Shiro, and Pidge threatened to confess her ‘undying love’ for Abella entirely to piss off Lance. Hunk, unsurprisingly, made no such threats. “So,” Allura says, newly risen from the dead and re-tucking her white dress shirt, “how do we all feel?”

 

“Terrible,” Lance says while Hunk alerts her that he’s going to throw up. “Do I really have to work with them?”

 

“It’s a team for a reason, jackass,” Pidge helpfully reminds him.

 

“Yeah, dude, there’s no ‘i’ in team,” Hunk says, letting his hyperventilation paper bag fall to the floor, “And don’t say it’s ‘in the 'a' hole’, we all know that’s bullshit especially considering it’s only in a capital ‘A’.”

 

“I’m going to prove to my family that magic is real so I can complain about what fucking traitors you all are. Don’t forget who got you here,” Lance warns, shoving his wand into the band of his boots and pulling his sweater over his head.

 

“I don’t know about the rest of you bitches, but Matt carpooled Hunk and me here.”

 

“Shiro,” Keith simply says.

 

“Me,” says Shiro.

 

“Coran drove me so I could get some sleep,” Allura helpfully adds.

 

“Was I the only person who drove here alone? What the fuck?”

 

Pidge pauses in her seat, eyes narrowed and hands pressed together in front of her mouth. Lowering them, she says, “Have you considered carpooling with Lotor.”

 

“I’m going to beat the shit out of you--”

 

“-- Anyway ,” Allura says pointedly, checking her phone, “You are all due to be up in five minutes. I have to head back to the VIP deck and deal with… the other spellcasters.” She says this with a grim expression, shuddering. She assures the team that she’ll meet up with them afterward to discuss what to improve upon, and vanishes with a tired flourish.

 

Shiro looks after her with a similarly exhausted expression, then turns back to the team, holding the door open with his prosthetic. “Well,” he says, deadpan, “let’s get this over with.”

 

“Loving the enthusiasm, team leader.”

 

_______

 

Okay, so Lance wasn’t exactly expecting an alien-themed set. The Pit is floored with yellow sand, orange fog filling the air. The obstacles vary from faux cliffs jutting out from the walls to hovering scraps of metal, matching the variously broken spacecrafts stuck in the sand. Keith is immediately disappointed to see that there isn’t anything flammable in the set, lower lip sticking out. Lance leans over and reminds him that sand retains heat, and metal can be melted, earning a smile from the spellcaster behind him, and an attempted quick, discreet kiss on the cheek.

 

Lance says ‘attempted’, because it was in the doorway to the Pit, and Coran is already on the intercom. “Oh, my!” He croons, and a zoom-in of the two of them appears on a floating box in the center of the Pit meant to broadcast the key moments of the duel. “Looks like old duo duelists Lance and Keith are sharing a moment! Let’s not interrupt now, folks--”

 

“--Coran, you’re the reason why Allura has white hair in the first place!” Shouts Keith, ears, and cheeks just as red as the material of his gear. An uproar in the crowd parting around them has Coran laughing over the intercom, a joyous sound that calms every one of Lance’s nerves, currently fried from his previous stunt. The camera pans away from Keith and Lance after they decide to fixate on where it was recording them, the entire team staring blankly into the lens until Coran notices.

 

After a minute of the crowd buzzing, Coran manages to bring order back. “Alright, alright! Welcome back to the Coalition, folks, don’t forget to tip your local announcer-- tonight, we have a monumental duel ahead of us!”

 

“Testing, testing,” Says Hunk through their communication devices, tapping the little thing in his ear. “Oh, sweet.”

 

“Joining us as team Bakku comes Luxia, Florona, Plaxum, Blumfump, and Swirn!” Five girls enter the ring using the provided gate, the leader of the group waving to a few people with a broad grin. The only girl in the group Lance knows-- Plaxum-- looks across the arena and straight to him. She says nothing.

 

The sea is storming in his blood.

 

“What the fuck kind of names are Blumfump and Swirn?” Asks Pidge of the communication device.

 

“Oh, I don’t know Pidge , what kind of fucking names are they?” Lance retaliates, blinking at her plainly with the same bored expression as Keith and Shiro.

 

“And, namesake returning to the dueling scene comes team Voltron, led by a previous legend in the dueling scene, Shiro, followed by your favorite duo duelists Keith and Lance, and joining us in the dueling scene, Pidge, and Hunk!”

 

The crowd bursts into cheers at the mentioning of Voltron. They break into roars at the mentioning of Shiro, who flinches at the sound as he leads the group into the ring. They stop in the center of the Pit, lined up and facing team Baku. Luxia and Shiro shake hands, sharking some quiet words of well-wishing. Plaxum continues to look at Lance, then to Keith. Then back to Lance.

 

The storm is raging.

 

“Now, just a few quick rules before we get started! There is absolutely no cheating, which means you can not use any sort of strengthening rune in the course. Of course, you should all be aware of this for team duels. And Florona, Keith, I’m looking at you with this one-- play nice.” Keith and Florona glare up at where Coran must be situated, muttering various expletives to themselves. “That being said, I wish you both the best of luck, and may the best spellcasters win!”

 

The countdown is drowned out by the sea raging in Lance. “So, guys, I don’t know if anyone else can feel this,” Lance says as he backs up from team Bakku, “but these girls are mad water elementals. Like, all of them.”

 

“Oh, I feel it,” Keith says, his voice cracking over the communication. He’s rounding behind one of the crashed spaceships, eyes meeting briefly with Lance. “I’ll focus on healing everyone.”

 

“Got it,” Pidge says, speaking in a rushed voice. “The rest of us should be fine. If someone’s struggling, help them.”

 

Shiro looks over his shoulder to Lance. “You’re in your element, Lance, but there are too many people that can use your magic against you. Be careful.”

 

And then everyone’s moving, all at once. Shiro sends himself in the air to meet with Luxia, who seems set on attacking from above, sparks all around him. He vanishes before she can land a hit in his side. Vines shoot past Lance’s head, a gutted scream leaving Pidge. The metal creaks of a broken spaceship nearby.

 

Plaxum stares at Lance, unmoving. He can feel her in his mind, whispering and prodding for him to step closer. He says nothing, grounding himself in the yellow sand. She lifts her hand. Slowly. Her wand is in her tight grasp, fixated on Lance.

 

He feels the water before it forms. It’s a ravine that flows right through him, past him, further, further, seeking fire to extinguish. Finds fire to snuff out. Lance turns and races through the sand, a cloud of yellow covering him as he slides behind a crouching Keith at one of the spaceships. Keith Stumbles back a bit, watching as he holds his hands high out in front of him, urging for everything he’s got to come back to him to keep him from drowning in someone else’s ocean. He braces himself for the impact, knowing that this is always a gamble for him-- something that Keith has told him time and time again to avoid in duels.

 

The impact of water never comes. Instead, he opens his eyes slowly to see a distorted blue light barricading him from the tsunami crashing down on them. “Lance!” Shouts someone over the comms, the crowd shouting and roaring. Drowning out all noise but what's right in front of him, blinking with wide eyes.

 

“Hi,” Lance says, meeting Keith inches from his face, regarding him with some shock. “Figured you needed some SPF me?”

 

“That’s terrible,” Keith says despite the laughter that immediately leaves him. His lips meet Lance’s briefly, then there are hands pushing against his chest without much force, but just enough to put some space between them. There's a heat that settles where his hands had made contact with his chest, seeping through his skin. “I’ll back you up, sharpshooter.”

 

Lance finds himself grinning to the ear at Keith as he rises, stumbling backward out from the shelter to find Plaxum and Florona looking wildly around, finally settling on Lance. “Hey, guys, do you think that punching the shit out of them would work for Keith?”

 

“Hasn’t stopped him before,” says Shiro, followed by a grunt of pain.

 

“Cool, cool. Keith, hot stuff, I need you to help me beat the shit out a very nice aquatic lesbian couple.”

 

“You shouldn't really phrase it like that,” Keith says, voice coming from both Lance's ear and just over his left shoulder. He cracks his neck and rests a hand on his hip, crouching to the ground and digging his hand into the sand. “I’ll take Florona. Plaxum knows how to beat me, so I’m trusting you to preoccupy her.” And then he’s gone, racing across the sand and sending himself sliding through it no problem, bringing Florona into the sand with her.

 

Leaving Plauxm and Lance, closer now. She speaks, still making eye contact, her expression schooled into something calm. “Didn’t know you were dueling,” she says plainly.

 

“Didn’t know you were a spellcaster. Funny how this works,” Lance says, rolling his shoulders. Then he’s rushing at her, and they’re scrambling, matching each other punch for punch, step for step, kick for kick. When he steps right, she steps left. When she sends water barreling for his arms, he parts it around him with barely a glance to see where it ends up.

 

When Florona comes crashing into the sand next to Lance, he doesn’t give her a second glance. Coughing, she scrambles to her feet, hyper-fixated on a Keith above her. She glances to Plaxum, who nods seriously. They turn away from Lance, turn their gaze up to Keith.

 

“Guys, I need a little help!” Calls Hunk from where he’s crouched, a small form stuck in a murky sea. He had bent one of the various scrap metals to serve as protection, but the metal is melting at the edges, splattering over Hunk’s shoulder. He won’t last at the rate Blumfump is going.

 

“I’ve got you!” Lance is calling out through their comms, nodding once to Keith and setting off through the sand with a desperation. He skids through the burning, murky water without much second thought, wand supporting a more reliable forcefield than his previous creation. Taking Hunk with him, his face hits dry sand just outside of Blumfump’s swamp. When they stand, magic sparks to life at Hunk’s fingertips, his face twisted into a look of concentration. Sand shoots up around Blumfump, grabbing at his hands and pulling harshly. He vanishes under the sand soon after, just in time for a shout to leave Keith, pained and desperate.

 

The salt water in the back of Lance’s throat rises to the tip of his tongue, moisture drawing out from every bit of him, transferring to Plaxum and Florona without any hesitation. He can feel Keith’s fire now, sparking and raging, contained with a tight lid inside of him. Turning his head to the sound, he can see three figures, two standing and one on his knees in the sand, hands extended on either side of him, water grounding him in the sand.

 

They’re going to extinguish his fire.

 

“Go,” Hunk says from Lance’s side, voice solemn. “I can deal with this.”

 

So he’s running again, headed straight for Keith. But at the rate he’s going, he’ll be too late; already, he can feel Keith’s blaze flickering.

 

He’s still going to have to try.

 

Keith lets out another scream, head thrown back and hands balled into fists. “Shiro!” He manages to cry out, “Do it!”

 

The air around Lance stills and distorts, folding out on intself instead of in on itself like Allura's magic. In one second there’s a purple light, distant and far up in the Pit, the next darkness, everyone left enveloped in a sea of orange, yellow, and blue. A blinding light covers Lance’s vision, blinding for only the briefest of seconds. When it clears, he sees Shiro in the place of Keith, purple sparks coursing through the aquatic restraints and to the hosts. Plaxum and Florona let out a guttural scream in unison, their magic bursting and soaking the sand without so much as a fight. Their stray hairs stand on edge, hands shaking. There’s a fire raging above Lance, high, high up.

 

Then Shiro is gone in the blink of an eye, and Keith is back, standing, panting, with smoke trailing off of the palms of his hands. He approaches Lance with trembling steps, gripping his other forearm tightly. Then he’s gripping onto Lance for support, gesturing to Florona and Plaxum. “Oh,” Lance says, “Don’t move from this spot until the duel is over.” His words come off the tip of his tongue feeling thick like honey, and when FLorona and Plaxum’s eyes go dull, a sense of pride settles in him. He soaks yellow sand and molds it around their feet, having Keith melt them to a solid glass in case there’s a timer on his ability, a ticking time bomb in the depths of all of his energy.

 


“I think Pidge needs help with Swirn,” Keith says, still leaning heavily on Lance. “Swirn is accidentally keeping her plants alive, but they move too much.”

 

“I’ve got an idea to fix that,” is all Lance says before they set off, running again despite Keith’s exhaustion. He insists repeatedly that he’s fine, just tired, but Lance knows him better. Knows his fire better.

 

Lance’s idea, unsurprisingly, was to have Keith distract Swirn while Pidge and he trap her in a frozen, plant prison. There are bursts of light from inside after they have her cocooned inside, frantic and unwavering. Nothing bursts through. “What’s the status?” Pidge asks no one in particular after the ordeal, leaning one shoulder against their cold masterpiece.

 

“Uh, I think Blumfump is still alive, but I kind of… sort of… trapped him in one of the spaceships?” Comes Hunk’s crackled update. He doesn’t sound nervous, just a little bit worried about his competitor's sake. The three spot him a little somewhere above, standing on the hood of a spaceship torn in two.

 

Instead of responding verbally, Luxia comes crashing into the sand in the center of the pit, Shiro flickering into view above her, hand forcing her to the ground with an intense look in his eyes. Lightning sparks all around him, frying the tips of her hair. Hunk lands in the sand next to them, and Keith gestures for Pidge and Lance to follow him.

 

“--Surrender,” Shiro is saying when they approach, voice low and gravelly. “You can’t fight all of us.”

 

“I can damn well try,” She growls, hands wrapped around Shiro’s prosthetic with such a tight grip that her fingertips turn white. “I’m not losing to you again.”

 

“Then pick your paladin,” Lance suggests, leaning against Hunk. “It’s either accept defeat at the hands of the most experienced of us, Keith, or us three new kids.”

 

Luxia glares at him, lips pressed to a thin line. “I’m not losing to any of you.”

 

Shiro glances up to Lance. “You’ve been practicing Mental Manipulation, haven’t you?” He asks, voice quiet. When he gets an affirmative, he looks back down to Luxia and guides Lance’s hands to either side of her head.

 

I can’t afford to lose to them, not when there’s so much at stake, ” The thoughts of Luxia bite, berating herself and reviewing every second of her fight with Shiro with disdain. With a sigh, Lance closes his eyes and forces himself into her mind. Already a grunt leaves her as she struggles to push him out, a difficult feat when you’re unable to reach your wand.

 

Lance wills a simple, simple command. Puts his own thoughts into her’s, the effect of his own words sending his mind reeling. “ Give up ,” he urges. And she does, resisting first at first, the spark in her eyes brighter than ever before. But then her hands are falling limp around Shiro’s, eyes dull and brows relaxing.

 

Hunk pulls him out of Luxia’s mindspace as he starts to tip backward, the room spinning. “I’ve got you, dude," he says, voice quiet over the roar of an ocean crashing back down to land. Lance breathes in once or twice.

 

You’ve still yet to learn ,” says the roar of the ocean, sea salt still heavy on his tongue. And when the ocean stills, Lance’s eyes focus back in on Keith, leaning against Shiro for support as they all stand, the Pit erupting in deafening cheers. “ Just how powerful you are .”

 

Keith meets his gaze, tired and weary. When he smiles, Lance feels his mind spinning again, and he finds himself smiling in return. His emotions are muddled, a mix of Hunk’s quelling magic soothing his own nerves and the joy he feels from winning, the adrenaline rush of it all, paired with the constant strain in his mind finally lifting as his control on Plaxum and Florona lifts.

 

He can’t comprehend when Hunk starts moving with Lance, but by the time he’s fully back into himself, everyone’s changing back into their normal clothes, with Lance slouched down in his chair, a lukewarm coke in hand. “I’m going to sleep for like, a week,” Hunk is saying excitedly next to Lance to no one in particular, nearly falling as he pulls on his pants. Keith glances over his shoulder to see Lance back in his right mind, nods once, and throws his bag across the room to him. His arms are bare, but from the looks of it, he’s in the process of reverting back to his normal gloves.

 

“I don’t think I’ll wake up tomorrow in general,” Lance comments, pulling his clothes from his bag, responding to an army of texts in his family group chat. There was an ongoing argument between Emeline and Veronica about taking that job at the Garrison again, one that, unfortunately, has led to the whole family’s opinion suddenly being vital. Abella’s hot take was that Iverson and Sanda were going to have collective aneurysms if more than three McClains were on campus at once.  Lance reminds her that that’s not exactly a bad thing-- Iverson and Sanda were both miserable professors, and they’ve had karma building up against them for years now.

 

Keith snorts, adjusting one of his gloves. “Sure. I bet you’re going to sleep in until noon, wake up, and then complain about how tired you are.”

 

Lance gasps dramatically, clutching at his now bare chest. “How dare you? I’ll have you know I’m aiming to wake up at noon and then lay in bed until at least two, then complain about how tired I am. To you specifically. Because you can’t read me to filth like that unpunished.”

 

He shrugs his shoulders a fraction, turning around and leaning back on the table he’d been using earlier, elbows resting on the edge. “It’s the price you have to pay for speaking the truth.” He tilts his head back, a smug grin breaking out across his features, purple-grey eyes sparkling. “Besides, what are you going to do? Fight me?”

 

“Oh, fuck you.”

 

“You wish.”

 

“Pidge, stay out of this.”

 

Pidge raises her hands innocently, slinging her backpack over her shoulder. Everyone waits for Lance, with varying levels of impatience, and soon enough they’re making way for the back exit to the Coalition, avoiding eye contact with anyone from team Bakku not currently being seen by a doctor. Apparently, Keith was the only one from our team that needed a healer but refused to see anyone, claiming that he could fix it himself.

 

Lance has a sneaking suspicion that wasn’t the only reason he refused treatment from someone else.

 

“Congratulations,” Allura says to the team when she manages to join them, looking just as exhausted as before, if not more. Coran is nowhere to be seen, no doubt lost or stuck in a conversation with other spellcasters. “You’ve all shown great development from the last time I’ve seen you practice.”

 

“Thank you, Allura. I’m glad we’re improving,” says Shiro, sparing her a tired smile. “I don’t think I would have been able to take down Luxia if Coran hadn’t suggested Lance start practicing mental manipulation.”

 

“They always go hand-in-hand, mental manipulation and soothsaying. It’s a much more efficient way in terms of battle, you know.” She’s smiling now, though it’s not at anyone in particular. She pushes the door open with her back, cold air biting into Lance’s face. Everyone splits with ease, Shiro and Keith leaving with a few tired waves and a promise to review the duel the next time they meet, Pidge and Hunk high-fiving Matt and taking off in a bustle of noise.

 

Which leaves Lance and Allura, alone on an empty street. “Allow me to walk you to your car, Lance,” she offers with that kind smile of hers, trailing a little bit behind Lance when he gives her a go-ahead. “I’m sorry about earlier. Coran’s never quite had a sense of personal sense, I’m afraid.”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Lance says, forcing his cold hands further into his jacket pockets. “I wasn’t bothered by it. Keith probably was, but he already gave Coran a piece of his mind.”

 

Allura laughs briefly, and then the two settle into a silence. Shadows dance in the corner of Lance’s vision, unnoticed at first. He makes a comment to Allura about how cold it’s been lately. She tells him that it’s bound to let up soon. She doesn’t look certain.

 

Something dark edges into Lance’s head, pounding against his skull. He pushes back, and his mind goes reeling, vision blurry. When it clears, he’s on the cold cement, and white hair is draped over him, sparks of light erupting from the floor around a hand planted flat on the space in front of him. "--I won’t let you take anything else from me again!” She cries at something in front of them-- a figure, though Lance can’t see much of them.

 

He can’t taste the salt on his tongue.

 

Allura lets out a guttural scream, bursts of magic erupting all around them. There are footsteps, and then the person is crouching to her level. Lance cranes his head upwards, shaking hands frantic as they force more power into Allura, more magic for her to use. But the figure in front of them only lifts one hand, slowly, up to her forehead, where a third eye is glowing brightly as day. They press hands to either side of Allura’s forehead. The glowing eye bursts into shards of light, magic uproar fizzling out. The fire in her eyes doesn’t dim, even when her eyes close and her head lolls, body collapsing atop of Lance.

 

Hands press themselves to either side of Lance’s head. In the last moments his mind grants him, he finds himself thinking about the floor of the Black Lion, with glass digging into Lance’s flesh and a fire crawling through his lungs and gentle hands making all of the pain go away with a spell and a look.

 

There is no longer a distant fire settled comfortably in Lance, reassuring his pounding heart that danger will pass. The sea is at low tide inside of him, weak and feeble and barely there but there nevertheless. A voice calls out to him, from far into the ocean. The voice of the sea is desperate. His seaside chanty can’t reach Lance from where he is, separated by polluted water.

 

So Lance steps into the black, murky water, and lets it swallow him whole.

Chapter Text

Cement Block is Mothman in Disguise?1!? (Not Clickbait)

 

Abella (5:00 AM): Lance you better answer your phone I swear to god even if you got laid you can’t just tell any of us you’re staying at Keith’s

 

Emeline (5:01 AM): ??? Lance was with Keith yesterday??

 

Luis (5:01 AM): yeah all of their friends were getting together for something last I asked?

 

Marco (5:02 AM): Jesus Christ do any of you fucking sleep

 

Mama (5:02 AM): Language, Marco. Has Lance contacted any of you since last night?

 

Abella (5:02 AM): No

 

Luis (5:02 AM): Nada

 

Marco (5:02 AM): Nope

 

Veronica (5:03 AM): I haven’t spoken to him directly since Wednesday.

 

Emeline (5:03 AM): He stopped by sometime on Friday but that’s it.

 

Freeloader (Pidge) (5:04 AM): Lance should have come home last night. Keith left before he did. Maybe he slept over at Allura’s? They’ve been talking more recently.

 

Mama (5:12 AM): We give him until dinner to show up. No more, no less.

 

 

________________

 

 

 

Coran Smythe (7:00 AM): Sorry about last night, Allura, I seemed to have gotten myself into quite the pickle! No worries, I’ll still be able to help you find a way to replenish your energy as I promised.

 

Coran Smythe (7:45 AM): Allura?

 

 

________________

 

 

 

 

If Keith is going, to be honest, he hates working the front part of the Black Lion. Sure, some interesting people come by, but most of the time it’s just boring people trying to do magic they have no potential for. Nothing interesting seems to be set out to happen on this Saturday at first, Keith half asleep at the counter with the sound of an old lady messing with wooden wind chimes lulling him to unconsciousness.

 

Then the bell is ringing at the front of the store, startling Keith back into himself. “Welcome to the Black Lion,” he says out of instinct more than anything. Shiro had drilled it into him a couple years back that he had to greet absolutely every customer that walked through that goddamn door. Over time he’d stopped enforcing it and caring altogether, but sometimes Keith found himself slipping up. The girl in the entrance blinks at him with lavender, owlish eyes. Then she’s stumbling forward, still hugging her shaking form. She continues until she’s at the counter and uses the wood as support. Magic slams into him at full force, not as any sort of attack, but as something that is afraid , grabbing to defend its user with everything it has. She brushes blonde hair from her face to reveal the slightly pointed ears unique to demiurges, and, shakily, begins to speak.

 

“I need your help.”

 

“With…?” It can’t possibly be anything magic-related, if she’s in the front part of the Black Lion. Everyone knows to use the back door, even if you’re visiting from a different city or country.

 

She blinks, brows furrowing. “I don’t know. I can’t remember. I just… I just knew I had to be here.” The girl looks up to Keith and, with clarity and certainty in her voice, says, “I made sure that I would remember to go here for help.”

 

Keith takes one look into her eyes, pleading and absolutely certain that this was the place she needed to be, then turns to the old woman at the wind chime. “Ma’am, I’m very sorry, but I’m going to ask you to leave.”

 

It takes two minutes for the old woman to leave. Once the door shuts behind her, Keith is rounding out from behind the counter. “Shiro,” he calls over his shoulder, “I don’t know if you’re busy, but this is important.”

 

Shiro appears at the door connecting to the back a second later, confirming he’d been up to absolutely nothing. “Is it Lance?” He asks, expression bored. Then the woman’s magic hits him, too, and he’s falling forward, catching himself only on the doorframe with his foot. He vanishes into thin air, appearing at the side of the girl, who only jumps in surprise at the sight. Her tense shoulders fall when he extends his prosthetic, face now gentle and approachable. “Hi. My name is Takashi Shirogane. I’m the owner.”

 

The girl takes his hand, shaking it with a gentleness. “My name is Romelle. I can’t remember anything else.”

 

Shiro shares a look with Keith, one that conveys a message he’s been on the receiving end of on several occasions. They’re going to try and deal with this before they contact Allura. It’s always the system they’ve used, ever since taking over the shop. Before Alfor died, they would contact him with a call and he’d be at the back door before the call even had time to end. With Allura, she’s often longer to arrive due to Coran’s insistence to never leave her side. “Alright. Do you know what you are?” He asks, gesturing to the back room. Keith steps back into the doorway and finds their interdimensional fridge to be gone. He shakes his head at his brother, a disappointed sigh leaving his lips.

 

“I know not,” says Romelle, skittish eyes darting between the two. “Why? Am I in danger?”

 

“No, no. If anything, we would be in danger. Drink this, please.” A coke materializes in Shiro’s metal hand, extended out to Romelle.

 

“Your blood sugar is low,” Keith quickly interjects, easing his way next to his brother. “Among other things. We’ll deal with it when it becomes a problem, though.”

 

“Right. As I was saying, you are a Demiurge. Magic made human, bottled up tightly into one being. Your prowess is never set to one or two magics, with the sky seldom being the limit.” Shiro pulls on his own ear. “This was the telltale.”

 

Romelle lifts a slow hand up to her ear, feeling the sharp edge with childish fascination. “Marvelous. And the two of you--?”

 

“--Are spellcasters,” Keith quickly says, beating his brother to the punch. “We’re like you, except our talents and capabilities, are given from birth.”

 

Her brows furrow as she digests everything, then blinking at the taste of the soda. “Forgive me, but I must direct the conversation elsewhere, if only for a brief second. When I found myself arriving here, I was overcome with a sense of urgency. I felt as if something was wrong.”

 

Shiro and Keith share a look. “Romelle, we’re going to ask you to follow us upstairs.”



 

______________________

 

 

Romelle sits in a chair with her hands folded primly in her lap, bright eyes following Keith and Shiro as they throw papers around and dig through drawers until Keith pulls a single, tiny rune out from a book with a victorious “aha!”. They pass it to Romelle, explaining that it should help the memories come back to her with ease.

 

There’s a look in the way her expression shifts that tells them that she doesn’t exactly comprehend what they’re saying, just that she gets the bare minimum. That’s decidedly enough for the two, as they pull two more chairs up on either side of her, wands (or hand, in Shiro’s case) pressed against either side of her head. “This might feel… invasive. Weird. Painful. Endure it, ignore it, do what you must.”

 

“Then tell me a story,” suggests Romelle, “So that I don't mind the sensation.”

 

And they do. Keith stumbles through the beginning before Shiro takes over with impeccable precision and detail, leaving his younger brother to retrain his focus on sorting through Romelle’s mind for any curses. It’s a story he’s heard a thousand times, but always finds himself reacting as if it was the first. It was about a young spellcaster, bold and reckless, finding himself at his lowest point before he had time to enjoy life to the fullest. This spellcaster returns to the place he’d left, broken and tired, and meets another spellcaster that he knew long ago in a different light. This spellcaster was changed, too, now a calmer version that cared for people with a nurturing unforeseen in his character. Both of them clashed as they once had when they were younger, taking out all of their frustrations on each other through useless banter. But over a course of a couple of months, they found the story to have two sides and found themselves coming back to each other. The story always follows different paths from there, but the version Shiro tells brings something short of a happy ending. The two spellcasters get back together and find that those they know believe the sad spellcaster to be bad for the calm spellcaster, entirely forgetting the arguments instigated by the latter. Still, they stay together and spend their days comforting one another on every terror that racks their bodies. The sad spellcaster never becomes whole again, but he smiles now and continues his search for peace with another by his side. “That’s lovely,” Romelle says, as Shiro finishes his story, “But why was the spellcaster sad?”

 

“Everyone changes it,” says Shiro as Keith finds a door of sorts in her empty mind, chained with the strongest curse Keith had seen in his life. “But what we were told as kids was that he did what no spellcaster should do, and killed another. It wasn’t on his own accord, though he’d argue otherwise. The blame fell on those who raised him, for never training him. It’s… sobering, to be told that as a child, but it’s nothing you have to worry about in most cases. Since we catch most spellcasters before they start school.”

 

“Fascinating,” says Romelle. Keith projects a dramatic gesture from Shiro to the imaginary door of Romelle’s memories, as if that alone will explain everything. “Oh, I felt that. What did you find?”

 

“A curse,” Shiro says easily before Keith can interject with nasty details that would scare her straight, “it will take a while to break, though. And a lot of energy we haven’t regained yet. Are you hungry?”

 

“Well, I suppose I could eat. Don’t know what I’ll like, but that’s part of the surprise of life for me, it seems,” chirps Romelle. She’s too happy for someone who can’t remember anything about themselves, Keith notes. Too… peaceful, contradicting the fear that grips her magic.

 

Romelle continues talking, never stopping even for a breath, as Shiro forces everyone into his car. Talks about the smallest things as if they were the most important thing in the world to her, and asks questions as they come to her. Shiro and Keith flip-flop between who answers her questions, though she seems more content with Keith’s blunt answers than the delicate way Shiro goes about it.

 

Shiro, however, makes the genius idea that they should take an amnesiac to McDonald's as a reintroduction to American cuisine.

 

_____

 

“Keith, Shiro, listen, we know you don’t usually check your phones while you’re running the shop, but this is really important--” Pidge cuts herself short, halting at the door connecting the back of the Black Lion to the front. The entire store is empty, save for Keith’s phone, still buzzing in one of the drawers.

 

Matt makes a disgruntled noise from beside Pidge, folding his arms and glaring at nothing. “Great,” he says, “We missed them.”

 

“I thought you said this tracking spell was up to date!”

 

“Of course it is, you little shit! Look!” To prove his point, Matt brings his wand out from his pocket with grandeur, a map bursting to life in the space in front of the two, detailing every twist and turn of San Rosa. A green dot denotes their location and, nearly halfway across town, a purple dot denotes Shiro’s wand. They’d tried to find Lance first, only to find his wand in some alleyway by the Coalition. Matt’s face falls, and his free hand reaches up to rub at his temples. Pidge looks back and forth between her brother and the purple dot before she mirrors his pose.

 

“They’re on their fucking lunch break.”

 

 

________________

 

 

 

Romelle watches with fascination as her own hand brings her french fry dripping with ice cream into her mouth, expression shifting as she chews. She hums in surprise, frantically reaching for five or more fries, repeating the process.

 

“Why would she go to the front of the shop, though?” Keith asks in a low voice, leaning closer to Shiro and grabbing one of his chicken nuggets. They each have a hand up to shield her from overhearing their conversation or reading their lips and have been debating the true cause of her amnesia for the past fifteen minutes.

 

Shiro shrugs, taking one of Keith’s fries as payment for the nugget. “I would say she didn’t know that what she’s been doing is actual magic, but she doesn’t seem surprised at all when we do magic she shouldn’t be able to know about.” Further proving his point, Romelle raises her hands above her food dramatically, eyes twinkling when a second ice cream cone appears next to the first, her fry pile doubling in size. The two make surprised noises and return to their conversation. “It could be that she’s not from San Rosa, but I don’t believe that either.”

 

“Alright, so we know what isn’t possible. But do we have even the slightest clue as to what the hell caused this?” Keith glances back to Romelle, who is currently in the process of reheating her fries using a bizarre mixture of fire and storm magic. “I think she just hit her head really hard.”

 

“...It’s possible,” says the elder spellcaster, nudging Keith out of the way to finish his burger. “Or, it’s another sadistic spellcaster, this time set on erasing the memories of harmless Demiurges. We’ve seen enough of them in San Rosa, what’s one more?”

 

It’s plausible, sure, but Keith has a hard time believing it. The last time he heard of a spellcaster gone rogue was when the old team Voltron died. Even then-- they didn’t die. Not really. When you’re as powerful as they are, it takes more than death to get rid of you. The closest he’s gotten to seeing a spellcaster gone rogue was when he met Lance. But he found out the day after that it was just Hira pissing off some other spellcaster across the street after she’d accidentally spilled coffee all over them. “Maybe,” he settles on staying instead, “Or she pissed a spellcaster off.”

 

Now that is more likely. Keith has only known Romelle for a short while, but she seems to be the… oblivious sort. She could have said or done the wrong thing, and set in motion someone’s deadly plot. But Shiro only tilts his head to the side, and lowers his hand from his lips. “Romelle,” he says, watching as her head whips up from her current plot of shoving as many fries as possible into her ice cream cone, “does this town feel familiar to you at all?”

 

Her brows furrow. “No,” she says, “but that fancy building I saw in the financial district is kind of familiar. Like a distant memory.”

 

“Altea’s corporate office is familiar to you?” Asks Keith, unable to hide his shock under a guise of apathy. Not many people have strong ties to it for it to break through amnesia, and for her to only have an association with that building is most curious. Her eyes sparkle with recognition at the name, her head whipping up and down with enthusiasm.

“Yes! Not much else, though.” Her enthusiasm filters off into an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, I wish I could help more.”

 

“We--”

 

“--it’s fine,” Shiro cuts off Keith with a sharp look, one that changes to his typical amiable expression when he turns back to Romelle. “The fact that you can find something familiar is a good sign. It means we can still find a way to unlock your memories.”

 

She looks infinitely more happy to hear that, blissfully returning to her Eldritch monstrosity. Against popular belief, they don’t end up having to wait for Romelle to finish said creation, as she bites down on the ice cream without as much as a wince. Shiro tells her that they’re going to take the long route back, and advises that she pay attention and point out any familiar buildings so they can point out any trends.

 

Romelle only speaks up once, on the entire drive back to the shop, to point out a single building. Shiro slows the car to a halt, turning to meet Keith’s scrunched expression as they look up at the building to confirm their suspicions.

 

Juniberry Bookstore sits next to them, closed and forgotten. It’s suspicious, considering Coran was supposed to keep it running, but Keith dismisses it due to the time being around their lunch break. Keith turns to face Romelle, who is currently very proud of herself for recognizing something. “Romelle,” he says, voice low, “This building is owned by Altea incorporated.”

 

The expression she gives him after the realization hits is nothing short of confusion.

 

 

________________

 

 

“Matt, I’m never trusting you with anything ever again.” Pidge turns her head from where it was previously resting against the dashboard, the dark circles under her eyes more prominent than ever. “You had one fucking job.”

 

“Okay, sure, blame me for these dumbasses never staying somewhere for longer than an hour!” Cries Matt, promptly throwing his head into the steering wheel. He starts to sob, a dramatic thing for such a small situation. Well, a small situation in comparison to the current Lance ordeal.

 

“Can I just--” Pidge pulls her wand from where she’d stuck it in Matt’s ponytail earlier, waving it in front of her. The map forms, purple dot appearing at a ten-minute drive from their current point, still moving down the street. “Okay, I found him. Floor it.”

 

“Pidge we’ll get a ticke--”

 

“Floor. It.”

 

“Shit, alright, but you’re paying the ticket.”

 

“So be it. Get going, fuckwad.”

 

 

 

________________

 


Romelle follows close to Keith as they walk back up to the second floor, and sits down in the chair with a perplexed look that appeared after they’d driven away from Juniberry books.

 

“Does the name Allura sound familiar to you?” Shiro asks, as casual as can be. She shakes her head, just slightly. He sighs. “How about Alfor? Voltron?”

 

Her head whips up at the sound of Voltron. “Yes,” she says, voice as quiet as a mouse. “I’ve heard of Voltron. What is it?”

 

Shiro and Keith share a look before the latter pulls a chair up in front of her. “Voltron was-- is a team of spellcasters that used to go around the world to try and better it, dueling against other teams to earn money and the right to help. It got disbanded at the death of all members excluding their former leader, and the title was passed down to Allura, Alfor’s daughter, and the team’s only living successor. She recently brought the team back. I’m one of the new members, and Shiro is our leader.”

 

Romelle hums, leaning forward with newfound fascination. “I believe I’ve only heard of it since no memories seem to be coming up.”

 

They trade off from there, Shiro detailing more on Voltron and what they’ve done-- hoping that she could recall any memories associated with their exploits. This continues for a short while until Shiro gets into detail on how the disbanded. He talks about how Zarkon’s wife had fallen ill, and he had driven himself mad searching for a magic that could cure her. He tells her that the story gets blurry from there, Allura herself being unable to recall every detail. But what he knows for certain is that he found the cure, but traded his team’s lives for his wife’s well-being. “Her name was Honerva,” Shiro said after Romelle had inquired on the wife’s name, “But she was better known as her dueling alias, Haggar--”

 

Shiro cuts himself off at the sight of the girl in front of him sitting up, straight as a rod, and eyes widened as far as they can go. “I was running,” She says, voice a ghost. “I was running from some building. It was coming back in bits and pieces so I didn’t say anything, but I know that whoever had me kept talking about her, and how pleased she was going to be.” Her voice falls short, hands clutching at a necklace around her neck. “I don’t remember anything from my time before, just that I had to make it from wherever I was to safety, where I could find people like me.”

 

Keith is about to speak, talking about how that’s ridiculous, how they would have found out about something like this before she escaped when the door slams open. Matt’s hand falls from the door, Pidge worming past him. Both of them are out of breath and adjusting their glasses, barely giving Romelle a second glance. “Keith, Shiro,” says Pidge, after she caught her breath, “We’ve got a situation.”

 

 

 

________________

 

 

His arms have never felt colder than they do now, bare against the night sky. His heart pounds in his head, reverberating in his chest cavity, and his breathing comes out uneven. His eyes will him to sleep, to turn away from where he stands and face the coming day with all the energy he can muster.

 

But he can’t sleep. Not when he knows Lance is out there. Not when he knows that Coran is in the room over, pacing back and forth relentlessly and muttering to himself on how he should have been with Allura.

 

“Keith,” says Shiro, voice quiet from the doorway. He doesn’t turn his head to look at him, only slouches further. His head is caught halfway through the windowsill, the spindling waves of corrupted skin on his forearms illuminated by the light in the hallway. Shiro seems to want to say more, but he can’t. He doesn’t know how to comfort Keith when he couldn’t comfort himself. Instead, he says, “You should sleep.”

 

“Why? Pidge and Matt won’t. Hunk won’t. Coran won’t. Romelle won’t even sleep. I can hear them all, restless in the living room. Besides, you won’t sleep either.” Keith turns his head to the side, catching a glimpse at how Shiro holds his prosthetic, stroking the metal for any sort of comfort. “This won’t be like how it was with Adam, you know.”

 

Shiro opens his mouth to say something, immediately closing it. Keith only quirks a brow at him. “Say it,” he says, “Say that I can’t say that like he doesn’t have Allura with him or us to find them.”

 

Already clouded eyes turn dull. “Keith--”

 

“--Sorry. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I know how much he meant to you.” Turning his head away from Shiro, Keith instead focuses on the city full of life. They don’t speak, for a while, until Shiro is nudging Keith over, resting an arm on the windowsill next to him.

 

“Sometimes I wonder if he’s alive out there. I know, it’s ridiculous, you don’t have to say it.” He rubs at his nose with his hand. “But it keeps me going. Just thinking about the slim chance that I can find him again.”

 

“It’s not ridiculous,” Keith says, voice heavy. “I used to think he was still alive, too. I don’t know when I stopped believing it.”

 

Shiro remains silent, for a long while. Then, quietly, he says, “You stopped believing he was alive when you moved on.”

 

He did, didn’t he? Keith moved on from Adam-- it wasn’t like he was his father or his mother. He was just someone in Keith’s life who understood him, despite having no idea that every one of his impulses somehow led back to magic. He made new friends, found Lance. Shiro never moved on because he never received proper closure. He’s always needed closure in order to move on, Keith has come to find. He moved on from the people that Keith has yet to stop dwelling on-- their father, Alfor, and his mother, just to name a few. But never Adam.

 

Adam was everything Shiro needed. Even now, he’s incomplete without him. It’s like how Lance and Keith are right now-- an ocean to match a wildfire, the two meeting in harmonious ways their elements would never tolerate.

 

So, just for right now, Shiro and Keith need to keep each other focused. So that at least one of them can be complete.

 

“Come on,” Keith says, gesturing to the door, “We should tell the others.”

 

“Tell them what?”

 

“Everything we’ve been avoiding.”

 

It takes Shiro three minutes to get everyone together and at least somewhat in control of themselves. Coran still paces, but he’s the exception-- he knows more about magic than this entire room combined. Especially when Romelle comes into consideration. She’s sitting on the floor, a little ways away from everyone else. Hunk is nervous, fidgeting and rubbing his hands together, his quelling coming out in waves and evening out everyone else’s nerves. Pidge and Matt at practically sitting on top of each other, both previously hyper-fixated on a magical map of San Rosa. “Where should we start?” Asks Keith. Shiro looks at him with such calm that it’s terrifying .

 

“From the beginning.”

 

Chapter Text

Lance’s brain practically pounds against his skull as he comes back into himself. He can’t hear or see much at first, the room tilting, spinning, and blurry as he pulls himself to his feet, using a cold wall as support. But then he’s able to see, glaring at black walls lit by purple light. There’s an airtight door against a wall, but not much else.

 

The events of last night hit him as he holds his shaking hands in front of him, desperately trying to call the sea back to him. Nothing happens, much to his disappointment. Something in him feels broken, though he doesn’t really care to inspect and find out-- it was like how he used to deal with having feelings for Keith-- out of body, out of mind. Instead, he feels against the walls for any way to get out, to no avail.

 

There’s a shuffle, barely able to reach Lance through the thick walls. Then a voice muffled but able to be heard. “Lance?”

 

A weight lifts off of his shoulders at the sound of the familiar voice, and he sighs out deeply. “Allura,” he says, feeling relief wash over him. The panic rises when he feels the coldness of the walls seeps through his shirt.  “Can you get us out of here?”

 

“Unfortunately, no. There’s a curse over the rooms, blocking our magic. I would say that I know the counter-curse, but without my powers--”

 

“--you’re a sitting duck. Alright.” Lance rubs at his palm, slumping against the wall where Allura’s voice comes most clearly, desperately trying to calm his rapid heartbeat, quell his racing nerves and anxiety. It’s a hard thing to do when you don’t have Hunk a few blocks over. “What… exactly… happened?”

 

Allura doesn’t respond in the way Lance expects her to. “I failed the one promise I made to Shiro. If I had slept in yesterday, I would have been able to defend you properly.” Then, after another silence, “the people who killed my father want Voltron. They want me. Because as long as I live, Voltron lives.”

 

Solid logic, Lance guesses. Because there’s no reason for them to really want Lance . He was just an unnecessary and unpredicted factor in their waiting game. But, he realizes, after staring at one of the purple lights in the ceiling until black spots dot across his vision, if they were the same people who killed Alfor, why would they keep him alive?

 

He decides not to think about it. He’s alive. Allura’s alive. Soon enough, someone will come for them. For now, that’s enough.

 

Silence settles over the cells for what feels like hours to Lance. He’s in the middle of planning some elaborate escape that banks on the slot in the door meant for food, an outlandish flip-kick that Keith and Shiro once taught him at four AM when they were high out of their minds (Lance would like to take a moment to tell God and his mami’s telepathic abilities that he wasn’t partaking in said drugs, praise the Lord our Saviour and God Bless America, amen), and said guard having keys.

 

The sound of a door opening in close proximity to Lance’s makes him snap out of planning-mode, and back into reality. “Oh, you better have brought me actual food this time, I know you have some you motherfucks--” says a voice as the door slams shut, rough from either a lack of water or exhaustion.

 

A sharp, piercing scream gives Lance the answer he needs. “Well, fuck,” says Allura from the cell behind him, “I suppose we should expect the same fate.”

 

“Allura you don’t just fucking say these things--” Another scream cuts off Lance. The same person shouts something about how they’ve already seen everything. When he delves into a cross of loud sobbing and screaming, he finds himself reaching to his azabache, securely tucked underneath the collar of his shirt. The stone is warm compared to the cold of the wall. He closes his eyes, breathes deep, and opens his eyes again. “I was trying not to think about that.”

 

“Sorry, Lance. I’m a little stressed if you can’t tell.”

 

“I can tell.”

 

“Jesus Christ alright, fine! If you want to see my sexual endeavors go ahead, pal, be my fucking guest! You’re not going to get jack squat for your little tests, though, so the trauma’s all you, buddy!” Cries the person in the other cell. Approximately a minute later, their cell slams open and closed again. Another one opens closer to Lance.

 

“Oh, wow, their fetishes were that disgusting?” Allura’s muffled voice says, flat and emotionless. “Unfortunately I won’t be swayed quite so easily. I’d rather die before revealing any secrets to the likes of you.”

 

Footsteps approach Allura. Lance straightens against the wall, both hands clutched over his azabache-- clasped over his heart. A cold sweat forms at the back of his neck, and something evil settles in the pit of his stomach. “Good,” says the stranger, “we never expect anything less than a challenge from you.”

 

Allura lets out a strangled yelp, accompanied by a scuffle on the floor, distancing her further and further away from where Lance sits. A bang causes him to jump, head hitting the wall. Screams pierce his eardrums, ripping his mind into pieces and blurring his vision until he sees nothing but purple. When she lets out a broken sob, he brings his knees to his face, thoughts ushering him on, reassuring him.

 

No pasa nada said his mother when he used to cry from nightmares as a child, her warm hand brushing through his hair.

 

“Give up yet, princess?”

 

“Your grave will be sealed by the gates of hell.”

 

“So, no. Good.”

 

Allura screams again.

 

No pasa nada , whispered Abella, wiping away his tears with pudgy fingers, her black eye fresh as rain.

 

The door to her cell closes. The passage of time is such a fickle thing-- Lance suddenly can’t recall if it’s been hours or minutes since the stranger had entered her cell. But a soft thud and heavy breathing tell him she’s back to her spot against the wall. “Your will is what makes you strong, Lance,” She breathes, just as his door opens. He glares at some soldier that regards him with a cold air, bringing her face down to his once she crosses the room. “Don’t lose it so easily.”

 

“Get up,” says the woman.

 

“No,” says Lance, chin held high with trembling fingers clasping the floor. He feels no moisture in his hands, tastes no salt on his tongue.

 

Her foot connects with his jaw half a second later, sending his head to the floor. “Get up,” she repeats.”

 

Lance stares at the purple lights, blinking until the room stops spinning.

 

No pasa nada, said Lance’s Papi, giving him a rare smile as he handed Lance the role of paper towels and reached for the broom to clean the broken glass.

 

The woman hauls him up until he’s barely kneeling, head still staring her in the eyes. His jaw aches. She presses something against the center of his chest, cold and unfamiliar. The pain that follows is scalding, a sheet of white blanketing Lance’s vision, muscles seizing and twitching and mind automatically shoving against the force of… whatever this is with all the strength it has.

 

His scream is deafening-- or, well, he supposes it is. He can’t hear much over a loud ringing in his ears, mind reeling and grasping for anything to ground himself on. He finds a ledge to catch himself on, the one thing that everyone in his life has always told him when something hurt.

 

No pasa nada .

 

No pasa nada.

 

No pasa nada.

 

Keith looks at Lance from where he’s sitting, blanket mostly covering his face. His nose is red and constantly sniffling, and there’s dried tears underneath puffy eyes. “I can’t teach them the way they need me to teach them. I’ve never been good at teaching… well, teaching anyone, and you’re the prime example of why I shouldn’t even be doing this!” He cries, flailing his blanket out on either side of him. “I should just let Allura or Coran take over for me. They’d do it better.”

 

Lance moves before he even really thinks about it, edging closer and closer to Keith until they’re touching. Then he kneels up on the side of the bed, bringing Keith’s blanketed head against his chest and resting his chin on the spot where blanket turns to black hair. “No pasa nada,” he says, because it’s all he can say.

 

“I don’t know what that means,” Keith mumbles against his chest.

 

“You don’t have to know. Just… don’t think about how you fucked up with me, alright? This is your chance to fix it. Tell them everything they need to know that I should have known from the start and go from there.” Lance brings himself away from Keith and settles down until they’re face-level. With entire sincerity, he lifts his hand up to him. “Pinky promise me.”

 

A smile blossoms across Keith’s face and, with one hand, wipes his eyes. The other interlocks pinkies with Lance, sealing the deal with a firm shake. “Thank you, Lance.”

 

“No problem.” I love you , he almost says, more than anyone I’ve ever loved.

 

No pasa nada.

 

The pain stops abruptly, Lance gasping out as the pressure lifts from his chest and a ghost of Keith drifts away from his thoughts, ears still ringing. Hot tears cascade down his face, unknown until his sense of clarity was returned to him. The woman regards him once, with disinterest, before turning around on her heels and striding out of the room. Numbly, he pulls himself back to the wall.

 

“Allura?”

 

Beat.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can you tell me a story?”

 

There’s a deep sigh from the other cell, one of pure exhaustion, rather than frustration with Lance. At least he hopes so. He’s never been excellent with reading people by vocalizations. “Did I ever tell you the whole story as to how I broke up with Lotor?”

 

A distant memory pops up in Lance’s mind. “No, not really. Keith told me something about a pocket dimension, but that’s not really explaining it in detail.”

She sighs. “That’ll do. Being with Lotor was… draining, to say the least. He’s exhausting to be around, always caring more about his reputation and has a whole ‘the ends justify the means’ sort of mentality. So when Acxa comes up to me out of the blue and tells me that he’s been insulting my father and, more importantly, Coran behind my back, I was, in better words, absolutely pissed.” Another cell opens down the hall. Allura continues with more exhaustion in her voice after the woman initiates a quiet conversation. “So I approached him and confronted him about it, and he had the gall to tell me that he was just speaking the truth! I don’t know what overcame me next, but before I knew it I had formed a pocket dimension in the quad and was unleashing any and all circles of hell upon him. In a magical sense, of course, I’ve yet to find the afterlife. Although there’s a rumor going around that Narti has-- after that time she nearly died when she got run over by Nadia and James-- that I’m fascinated by. Anyway, long story short, Lotor can now pop his eyes out of their sockets with minor difficulty, and with another’s help, he can literally contort himself to go suck his own dick. It’s poetic, really.”

 

Lance laughs, a brief and breathless sort of sound that leaves as quickly as it arrived. He listens, quiet as a mouse until he hears the cell door open again and heavy footsteps fall. A door at the end of a far-away hallway opens and closes with half the harshness as the other doors. Then, when he’s sure that no one can hear, he says, “We need a plan.”

 

“I’ve been formulating one this whole time. The next time she enters my cell, I’ll attack her. I have a much higher chance of surviving an attack than you.” Allura speaks with acid in her voice, though not directed towards Lance. “Your job is to hold out as long as you can. If I cannot contact anyone through this curse, then you have a higher chance of drawing the others to our location.”

 

He doesn’t inquire on the technicalities of this-- she’s certain that if all else fails, he is the key to escape. And she’s never been wrong before, excluding that one time she tried to sing along to a song she only knew the chorus of. Instead, he stands and travels to the door. Faint, faint footsteps tell him that Allura does the same, although he doesn’t know to which direction. “So,” he says to nothing and no one in particular, “How’s it going this fine… Saturday?”

 

“Could be better,” Says someone from another cell, “The two of you ruined a perfectly good day for me since apparently, I have ‘intel’ or whatever the fuck that means. I didn’t even know magic existed before I got here!”

 

“That’s rough, buddy.”

 

“Don’t you quote fucking Avatar on me, I might not be able to punch normal people but from the sound of your voice alone I can and will snap your kneecaps like crab legs.”

 

Another door opens. The person in the other cell sighs, defeated. “Here’s for take two, kids. Good luck.”

 

Lance listens with a sharp ear as the cell somewhere across from him opens up. “You too.”

 

 

________________

 

 

Lance is standing on the sands of Varadero beach, head cast to a setting sun. The colors in the sky are unlike anything else he’s seen before-- They always were, when he went back to Cuba with his family during summer vacations. But the more he looks at the vibrant purples and oranges, the more unbelievable they become. Like when you stare at a page of a book for too long and the words no longer form a string of sense. Just words on a page.

 

The tide rushes over his feet. He cannot taste the salt in the air, but he knows it’s there. Just beyond him, beneath the waves. A breeze brushes against his face, shifting hair from a throbbing cheek, bruise a blossoming flower on the soft skin.

 

“There’s so much left for me to do,” He says, to the perfect clouds and the immaculately calm waves. “But so little time.”

 

He doesn’t say much else-- the waves carry his words for him. He asks the voice of the sea if he’ll die not knowing all there is to know about what he is and what he can do. He lets his sorrows turn into sea foam, carrying every little wish he had yet to fulfill. It’s silly, he knows, but it always reassures him, in times like this, to accept death before it comes knocking.

 

Because when you accept death and leave everything behind, what more do you have to lose?

 

“Don’t lose hope so quickly, my boy,” says a voice Lance barely recognizes from a ways behind him. Like he’s from some far-away memory. “You’ll only be able to make it out as you came in if you keep onto the hope that you will.”

 

“I always return to as I was,” Lance says in return, turning his head just a fraction. He can smell driftwood burning. “Because I always tell myself to.”

 

The man has dark skin and white hair. His blue eyes are wise, showing years of experience and sorrow that Lance has yet to face even a fraction of. Yet they still hold a warm fire in them, keeping the hearth of a wildfire behind him alive. He smiles fondly at Lance, then gestures to the ocean, still calm. There’s someone standing just outside of view, hidden by a veil of human comprehension. The water has begun to freeze over. “You can soothe a sea storm with your words and calm a blizzard with a breath, but you can’t speak away a wildfire, my boy. All you can do is let it rage, or put it out at the source.”

 

Lance turns back to the freezing sea, and steps into the water. His lips feel numb when he talks, and his hands shake. “I can meet the blaze in the middle, and create equinox again.”

 

Then the dream is taken from his hands, the strange wise man calling out to him as if to warn him, hand outstretched to catch him as he falls. But Lance slips through his hand as if neither had mass on the plane they met.

 

“Good, good,” says a voice as Lance stands, suspended in a void of endless stars, “Now show me this wildfire of yours.” The scene begins to clear, to the familiar sight of Lance’s kitchen, a figure perched in one of the stools. Before this figure can have a form, Lance reaches out to it, presses his hand against their chest. Then he plunges his hand to darkness, feeling and grasping until he grabs something solid, forcing it into the space Keith would be. He sees a man with drained features, looking tired and generally surprised to be forced into the body of Lance’s dream-realm boyfriend.

 

“No one told you to sit in on my dreams,” he says, hand still gripped tightly around the man’s shirt. “What use are they to your people?”

 

Then the man gives no answer. No dramatic and long-winded monologues that Lance is more than accustomed with from his performances. Just cold eyes and cold fingers and a cold mind that pry into his. He won’t get the answers he seeks, Lance knows. It was still a better shot than anything, he reckons and releases the man’s shirt. Without a second glance back at him to see if he retreats back to safety to allow Keith to take the form or if he sits there, dumbfounded, Lance turns to the doorway and closes his eyes.

 

And opens them again to see purple lights staring down at him. His throbbing cheek is numb against the cold wall, and he regards the metal tray of slop at the door with only minor interest. His appetite had left him long ago.

 

“Allura,” he whispers, hoping to not wake her up. She taps the wall twice in response. “Someone is using mental manipulation to sit in on my dreams.” Already, the memories of his dream are fading. The man’s familiar voice and face had begun to fade, along with all of the wisdom he’d tried to give Lance.

 

“Then don’t sleep,” She says, voice rough and barely above a whisper. “I won’t if you don’t.”

 

Lance shifts against the wall, bracing his aching ribs with a hand and a wince. “You’ve got yourself a deal, princess.”

 

 

________________

 

 

I’ve been trying to reach you since you were young, still awestruck by the sea and drawn into its waves. But you weren’t ready to listen then, so I waited and kept watch over Alfor’s daughter. Before my eyes you grew, turning from a lanky child into a man that took the world as a stage, and saw everyone as a friend, just as she grew, from a stubborn child to a woman with too much weight upon her shoulders. Two sides of the same coin, connected at the seams. I believe, if things had gone differently, the two of you may have fallen in love. But fate wills the two of you for different paths, both set to the same end.

 

I saw it from the start. I held out for your sake. But the more you struggled, the more my heart ached and strained to help you, to tell you everything that you would be able to do if you just put your mind into it. Eventually, it became too much-- you couldn’t keep going on like this, not knowing anything and still knowing more than you’d ever known. I reached out to you, tugged at your mind to focus on me and everything that I’d come to know in my many years of living. And you embraced me with open arms, not knowing who I was or what I could do.

 

Keith put a fire in you that I couldn’t put out. Soon enough Alfor was with me, unable to approach my waves. We would talk about how proud we were of our Paladins-- our apprentices. We would talk about how much we missed our lovers, either stuck on a different plane of existence or still alive on Earth, stuck with all of our lifely burdens. I confided in him that I could never reach you in the way he could his own apprentice, always unable to pass a thin veil. He told me that you would seek me out if he needed me.

 

Even now, so far apart, I try to believe that he speaks the truth. I cannot see you, trapped beneath the dark water at the bottom of the Ocean. Nor can I feel your warm waves enveloping me, or see Alfor’s wildfire at the shore.

 

All I can keep doing is keep trying to reach you.

 

But the distance is too far.

 

And you’ve got so much left to learn.

 

 

________________



 

“I don’t know everything , you know,” Allura says, voice croaking and rough from a lack of water and… other things that the two of them now avoid talking about. “Coran might keep up the illusion, but I only check the cards once a week. Or before important holidays, events, the sorts.”

 

Lance straightens, hand brushing against a cold floor turned warm from his body heat. “Shit, really? So that one time--”

 

“Entirely a guessing game. I had no idea that Pidge was going to fall off of a roof, just that something bad was going to happen and seeing her up there helped me put two and two together.”

 

Sounds about right, but Lance wasn’t really there that day, too focused on an upcoming test. So maybe if this had occurred on a different day, he’d been more observant, and able to predict the future with Allura’s accuracy. “Your turn,” she says. He can hear her shift, and envisions her leaning her head back on the wall, hands hugging her knees to her chest. “Tell me a secret.”

 

He ponders for a moment, cupping his chin with a hand. “Oh! I’ve got one. I took ballet lessons for a couple years back so I could get more roles in productions. It’s not really a secret since there’s probably a photo floating around on Abella’s Instagram of me in a tutu, but for some reason, not many people know? I don’t think Caldwell even knows, and I’ve mentioned it on several occasions during auditions.”

 

Allura scoffs. “That’s absurd. Anyone with a build like you is obviously suited for ballet.”

 

“I know, right? And what about you, oh mysterious stranger across the hall? Got any dirt on yourself?”

 

The person groans. “Well, for starters, I have a name . Second, I once called the fire department on my boyfriend because I thought he had set the kitchen on fire. Turns out, he was trying to make a grilled cheese.”

 

“Impressive,” Says Lance, “Also that totally defeats the purpose of the mysterious stranger persona I’ve already given you from the moment you started talking.”

 

“Oh. Lovely. I’ve always wanted to be a mysterious stranger.”

 

“Hey, don’t be sarcastic, not many people can say that.”

 

“Sure. Now I’m going to sleep if you don’t mind.”

 

“...Anyway,” Allura says, “We should try your plan.”

 

Lance hesitates. “Which one?”

 

“The one where we both kick the doors really hard and hope they fall.”

 

“Oh, sweet. Alright, on the count of three…”

 

 

________________

 

 

 

Lance is laying in the center of his cell, squinting at the purple lights above him, when Allura speaks again. “I’ve always envied you,” She says, not elaborating at first. But when Lance says nothing, she continues, “You’ve lived the life I could never dare to dream of. You grew up with both of your parents and siblings to support you and managed to stay away from magic until you were mature enough to use it carefully. You’re even more kind than I and a far better shot.”

 

“I couldn’t stay away from magic, though--”

 

“--I envy your love,” Allura says, cutting off Lance. There’s a shift in the cell over. “Not once in my life have I seen Keith as happy as he is with you, and that’s saying something. He’s always needed someone to confide with that isn’t his brother, you know. The two of you make each other better people. Every time I try to find love, I end up with people like Lotor. And that’s no way to love to any extent.”

 

“Then keep trying.” Lance sighs deeply, bringing one of his arms from under his head to scratch at his eye. “Keep trying to love and live, and you’ll make it out happy in the end. You’re a good person, Allura. You’ll get your dues eventually.”

 

She mumbles something to herself. “I suppose. If we make it out of here.”

 

“Hey, don’t say it like that. Here, let me make you a deal,” He says, turning his head to her wall, “When we get out, I’ll get together with Pidge and we’ll play matchmaker for you.”

 

She says nothing.

 

Still, Lance keeps his hope.

 

It seems to be the only thing that keeps him alive at this point.

Chapter Text

“Allura!” Shiro’s voice is distant from the inside of Allura’s office, already looking through her closet like it would help in any sort of way. Coran, meanwhile, closes and opens the door, alternating between five different scenes, only two of which being familiar-- the back room at Juniberry Books, and her office for both Altea Inc. and the Coalition. One of the rooms-- presumably her bedroom, is the only one that he enters.

 

Keith turns away from Allura’s door to Lance’s, shaking hand hovering over the doorknob. He breathes in, holds his breath, and releases it with a painfully slow movement. Then he throws the door open, mouth falling with the familiar name on his lips, only to see Pidge, sorting through papers on Lance’s desk. His mound of blankets has been tossed haphazardly off of his bed, and the blinds are closed. She regards him with only a glance, before pushing her glasses back up her nose. “Nothing,” she says, “And Lance’s family is starting to see through our cover-up. Especially Abella.”

 

“Just give us enough time to figure out their location,” Keith says, “Then we’ll figure out how to clean this mess up with Lance present.”

 

Pidge nods. “Oh, good, that’s good,” Shiro says, peering over Keith’s shoulder and regarding Pidge with a tired nod, “His door is still working. They’re still alive.”

 

“Thanks, Shiro, that’s exactly what you need to tell Lance’s boyfriend right about now,” Drawls Pidge as the door falls shut. Shiro vanishes with a scoff.

 

The door opens again, only for Keith to be greeted with the familiar sight of the men’s dressing room. Thankfully, it’s empty, and Keith is able to change the room without being caught. With bated breath, he opens it again. And sees the hallway as if he were standing inside the room, though he himself isn’t in the doorway. “Hey, uh… Coran? I think Lance’s door is broken.”

 

“Have you tried turning it on and off again?” Suggests Pidge from her own door as she stalks through Allura’s new scene. She meets his glare with a weak grin.

 

Coran’s head appears in the doorway over Keith’s shoulder. He hums, before vanishing out of sight again. “No, it’s just following your location,” He says, “He must’ve been thinking about you when Allura assigned them.”

 

It’s a warming thought, all things considered. It even gives him the idea to check his own room, though it still only gives way to reveal his mother-- the actual room behind the door with no enchantments. How blissful would he be, he thinks sourly as he closes the door, to one day be able to open that door and enter the same room as Lance. To one day see this room empty.

 

“How’s it going on Hunk and Matt’s ends?” Keith calls out, ignoring Coran’s flinch when Shiro materializes beside him.

 

“Hunk and Romelle were having… difficulties navigating through San Rosa, but neither of them has caught a trace, so they’re going to ask Shay and her family if they might have an idea and head back to the meetup point. Matt’s already got Nyma and Rolo searching for anything they can,” Shiro says, leaning against the wall and very obviously trying to hide his shaking hands.

 

They’ll stop shaking when Allura and Lance are safe again. Keith knows just as well as anyone-- his own hands are never still, always scratching at his arm or tapping impatiently against his thighs. “I need to get out of here,” He says before the onset of smoke starts to crawl out of his lungs and into his throat, choking his words. Shiro regards him tiredly with a nod and gestures to his own door.

 

Keith rushes through it without hesitation, not stopping until he passes through the front doors of the Black Lion and up the stairs, slamming the door to the second floor shut behind him. Another door closes downstairs, silent and gentle. Not that he hears it, over the pounding of his own heart. Sitting in one of the chairs still out of place from Romelle’s visit, he tilts his head back and breathes out deeply. Then he closes his eyes, and lets wildfire consume him.

 

Alfor doesn’t speak to him directly-- he never does, save for his dreams. But his fire washes over him with a suffocating hope, and a gut emotion that can be put into words, but has no name.

 

He is safe. You have time. Find them. Keep them safe for me.

 

When Keith opens his eyes, blinking blearily at the ceiling, he finds Pidge inches from his face. “There’s someone in the back room,” She says, leaning back into her own seat and returning to whatever she’d previously been doing on her laptop. “Hunk says that Romelle recognizes him, so it’s probably urgent.”

 

“And you didn’t wake me up why ?” Keith snaps, already rushing to the door, not pausing to hear her response. Pidge’s presence returns at his side, her computer tucked safely against her chest. She deadpans him as if he were absolutely stupid.

 

“I did. You mumbled something about Lance with a dopey grin on your face and then set your own hand on fire. Know anything about that?”

 

He coughs into his hand, brushing ashes off of the back of his palm. “Uh…” He says because they still haven’t gone over the subject of… well, who this ‘Trigel’ really is.

 

Pidge shakes her head with a small sigh, decidedly tucking her expensive computer under the cash register as they pass it. “You know what? I don’t think I want to know.”

 

You do, he almost says, it might give you an idea that brings us closer to them. But he says nothing, his body always the traitor to his common sense, and carefully opens the door to the back room. Hunk outwardly sags with relief upon seeing him enter, and Romelle stops in the middle of some wild re-telling of her journey in San Rosa, complete with Coran-esque hand gestures. And finally, the stranger, sitting in the chair opposite of her, regards Keith cooly. He’s familiar, says part of his subconscious while his body immediately returns the gesture, foreign footsteps bringing him to a seat on the other side of the table. “Ah. I was wondering when they’d stop stalling for you,” Says the stranger, extending his hand across the table, a gesture Keith pointedly ignores. He places his hand on the table instead, palm facing up. “My name is Thace. I believe I have information that might prove… useful to you.”

 

Shiro and Coran appear in the doorway over Keith’s shoulder, and someone shushes Matt before he can loudly announce his return. Leaning forward, Keith places his hand palm down on the table. “Cut the shit,” He says, “I don’t have the time for messages sent in tongues. What do you know, and how can I know you won’t turn on me.”

 

Thace huffs, lips twitching in the corners. He meets Shiro’s gaze briefly, before returning it wholly to Keith. Slowly, he puts his wand on the table. “I have the location of your friends, Lance and Allura.” Thace watches as Pidge pulls out her phone, and nods an affirmative to both him and Keith. “5647 Rue Drive, cells ninety-nine and one hundred. But let me ask you,” no longer is he looking at Keith, now tilting his head up to Shiro, “how far are you willing to go?”

 

“As far as it takes,” Shiro replies, jaw clenched. His face is unreadable, clouded by past mistakes. Glancing down to Keith, “We can trust him.”

 

Coran guffaws, shaking his head slowly. “I swear, kids these days trust anyone--”

 

“--He knows Krolia.” A sudden stillness settles over the room, nearly broken by the fridge that phases in and out of reality nearby by Pidge. Even Romelle stops fidgeting, brows furrowed at the sound of her name like it’s one she should know. “If she trusts him, so will I. Say what you will, but I remember her having never trusted lightly.”

 

He’s right. And of course, he would know best of all-- he’s spent more of his life around her than Keith has. “Alright. And if this does end up a trick--”

 

“--You’ll come for me, I know.” Thace rises from his seat, gives one last blank smile, and says, “If you ever need more information, come to Marmite Brewery on Galangal and ask for Kolivan. We’ll tell you everything you want to know.”

 

And then he’s gone, and everyone is left in stunned silence. With a decided huff, Keith stands up and fishes the keys to Red from his jacket pocket. “Well?” He asks, gesturing to everyone gathered and then to the back door, “Are you coming or not?”

 

“I’ll stay here, actually!” Romelle says cheerfully, ruining the solemn mood of the room, “I can set up a little medical ward in case they might need somewhere to rest!”

 

Matt sighs, slumping against the counter beyond the door. “Guess I’ll stay with her to keep her from touching things she shouldn’t touch.” Shiro visibly sags in relief, before he’s tensing up again with the realization that maybe Matt isn’t the best person to leave alone with an amnesiac.

 

Eyes turn to Coran, the only person who hasn’t moved an inch since Thace left. Even Pidge seems itching to leave, more than the very obviously nervous Hunk. Then, with a deliberate slowness, Coran pulls a wand out of his pocket, one that Keith has only seen once in his life. According to Shiro, it was once Alfor’s. No one really knows the story of how it ended up in his hands-- just that he hadn’t called dibs at his funeral. “What?” He says, blinking at Shiro’s shock, “Did you expect me to let you bunch save my goddaughter while I sit it out? Absolutely not. Now get a move on, paladins!”

 

Pidge, Hunk, and Coran pile themselves into a car with nervous chatter between the three, while Shiro lingers by Red, watching with some sort of envious gaze as Keith adjusts his helmet. He waits until she’s all revved up and ready to go to speak, and, even then, he almost misses the words through the padding in the helmet. “Stay alive,” Is all he says, eyes tired and glazed over. The telltale that he’s somewhere else-- lingering on some distant memory. Then he’s gone in a purple flash.

 

“You too,” He says to the empty space, hoping it follows him. They can stay alive, that much has been proven time and time again. But neither of them can stay safe, no matter how hard they try.

 

So Keith gives in to the wildfire burning through his skin and lets the adrenaline take him speeding through San Rosa, with the only thought in his mind being the image of a sea so vast it can stop his fire from engulfing the world.

 

But there is no sea to stop him. Only fields upon fields of dry grass, just waiting for a flame.

 

 

 

________________

 

 

Keith tilts his head to the setting sun, lashes covering most of his view. He takes a deep breath, counting his heart as it beats against his ribcage. Pidge is still explaining how to get to their cells to Coran, their conversation background noise in his ear. Someone calls his name. “Keith,” the voice repeats, a little louder, “are you in position?”

 

“Never left,” He says, voice coming out more like a wheeze than anything. Now that he’s here, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. The original plan was ‘get in, get Lance and Allura, and get the hell out’. But if he knows himself as well as he knows the team’s track records with plans, then nothing is set in stone. “Can we just get this over with?”

 

“Uh… Yeah, actually,” Pidge says, and he hears metal creak. “Hunk, count to three and them blow this shit like a popsicle stand.”

 

Hunk makes a groaning noise but mumbles an affirmative a short second later. Keith can hear him counting under his breath until they’re at one. Then the air goes deathly still, any rustling of leaves immediately halting. A distant birdsong is cut short, ending the brief period of calm before everything Keith held under tight wraps for the past day comes back to the surface with a vengeance.

 

The rattling of the explosion shakes his nerves to life. They litter the building in front of them in even bursts, going off in a similar pattern to man-made explosives. Keith, however, knows that every last one of them is deliberate, placed by a deep focus few can muster in stressful times such as now. Three to the westward entrance, one to the east, one on the roof, and two on the north and south. Lance and Allura are closest to the east entrance, two floors below ground level. “Go,” Says Shiro in his ear, “everyone split up.”

 

From there everything becomes spots of memories. One second Keith is charging into the dust with silence, the next he’s surrounded by flames that cascade up his arms and whip through his hair. His thoughts are empty other than the repeating cacophony of Lance . He doesn’t care about who he burns along the way, just that he gets to him. Find Lance. Keep him safe. Kill if you must, but you can’t fail. Not now. Not when he’s so close.

 

“I’ve gotten into their systems,” Says Pidge, her voice so so distant and not at all Keith’s focus. He couldn’t give a damn about their systems, he’d find a way to get to Lance, industrial cell doors or not. “And it looks like-- Oh, shit, they’re all digital locks. Dumbasses. Anyway, I’ll unlock their cells in a hot second” She stops to chuckle to herself. “Get it, Keith? Because you’re on fire? Oh don’t look at me like that, of course, I can see you. What kind of tech genius would I be if I couldn’t?”

 

He doesn’t say anything. He can’t even hear her anymore. All he focuses in on is the anger inside of him that pushes him towards the guard holding a gun to his head, striding without fear of death.

 

You can’t lose anyone else, Keith, says his subconscious.

 

Find Lance.

 

Keith’s hands tremble.

 

You can lose anyone else and manage.

 

Just not Lance.

 

 

________________

 

 

Lance can swear he feels the building shake. He can’t bring himself to sit up, body aching if he so much as twitches his eyebrow. There’s a nasty bruise forming across the side of his face, he acknowledges with bitterness. The boots by his head shift at his imaginary earthquake, and his eyes shift up to see the guard turn their head wildly, pressing a hand to their ear and furrowing their brows. With one last glance to Lance, they storm out of the room, hissing into a communication device about how the ‘wards work perfectly fine’.

 

“Took them long enough,” Allura mumbles from the cell over. He doesn’t hear her shift, no doubt in a similar position as him. “Lance, sign in.”

 

He lets out a long, drawn-out groan in response. She seems to take that as enough, and sighs. Another boom shudders the building. No amount of adrenaline surges through him, even as he hears rapid footsteps all around him. There’s a loud yell that Lance is almost certainly sounds like Coran. The next rattling of the building leaves Lance’s head throbbing, his body swaying with a faraway current. Another yell sounds from the end of the hall, all too familiar. Someone screams. “Keith!” Shouts Pidge, her voice hiking an octave or two, “Calm down for like, two seconds, will you?”

 

“Not likely!” Shouts someone else in response-- Hunk? “Lance, Allura? Are you in here?”

 

“Yes!” Shouts Allura as Lance’s head whips up, form painstakingly hauling itself to a sitting form. “But there’s a curse on the cells, I don’t think you’ll be able to get in through the outside!”

 

“Good thing we’ve gotten into their secruity system-- Keith, God dammit! Lance, stay against the wall!” Pidge cries out, desperate. Despite her warning, Lance instead uses the wall to pull himself to his feet, eyes locked on the door. A bright light seeps through the seams of the air-tight door. Then it’s launching into Lance’s cell, slamming against the opposite wall with a resounding clang. Fire pours in, illuminating the room in a brilliant orange. The source of the flame enters the cell with hurried steps, a guttural yell leaving him as a hand forms from the flame, gripped tightly around the neck of a guard. Another guard goes flying in the hall, Coran chasing after them with a scream.

 

“Keith,” Lance manages to say, leaning his head already gleaming with sweat on the still cold wall. The fire doesn’t stop, only continues to rage as fists dig into flesh-padded chests. The fire burns in Lance’s lungs, unceasing and angry . The sea inside him cries out in pain, caught aback by the onslaught before it. Coughing as smoke pours through Lance’s nostrils, he weakly calls out again, “Keith, stop .”

 

The flames falter, just for a second. He can see the face that turns to him, wild and full of rage. Ashes are smeared across his skin, remnants of clothes left unenchanted against his magic. There’s a fury in his eyes, wild and feral, that turns to something sorrowful. “I can’t,” He says, voice cracking in time with his blaze, “you need to get out. Now.”

 

A calm washes over Lance. It’s not his own, he knows from how it sits uncomfortably over him, just barely managing to keep his instinct to help extinguish the wildfire before him. This is Hunk’s, only for the reason that his anxiety continues racing on, panic seizing him as the caster in question pulls him by the arm through the door to meet Allura and Coran, the former leaning heavily on the latter. “We need to leave,” says Shiro, looking around wildly. “I don’t know how long Keith’s got, and I don’t particularly want to be here when he runs out of time. I’d do something stupid.”

 

“Unlock the cell doors.” Allura’s voice is quiet, eyes unblinking as they meet Lance’s. Her expression is unreadable, and she reaches up to wipe the blood from her lip as she glances to Pidge, already returning to some bizarre tablet, typing frantically. Then she looks over her shoulder, and shouts, “Make a run for it, everyone! They can’t catch all of us!”

 

Then the floodgates are open, doors sliding open with resounding thuds. People limp out, frantically look left and right and take off to the nearest exit. Someone bumps into Hunk’s shoulder, nearly sending Lance from his grasp. Looking away from Allura, he turns his gaze to the cell across from her’s. When he looks back to her, worry for their mysterious new friend has overcome her visage. Just when Lance opens his mouth to call out to them, the door falls off of the locking mechanism, and tan hands rip it from the wall, throwing it into the hall with a loud grunt. “I fucking hated that door,” says their friend, emerging in the doorway as he dusts off his hands. Shiro immediately freezes, dropping the other half of Lance he was supporting and stepping forward in one swift motion, blocking the path of the stranger until he nearly bumps into him. “Oh, shit, sorry--” He cuts himself off as his eyes travel upwards. He seems confused, brows knitted together and searching for clarity that only arrives when Shiro speaks.

 

“...Adam?” Shiro asks, voice wavering. His name comes out slow as if it pains him to even mutter it. Lance knows that name, reminds the part of his brain still functioning normally, but he'd been told that Adam was dead. Right?

 

Adam brings his grimy hands to his face, covering his trembling lips. “Takashi.” he breathes as if it was the first breath of air he’d taken after years without oxygen. “I thought you were--”

 

They’re both laughing now, at the sheer irony of it all and just out of shock, nearly running into each other. Adam initiates a kiss, hands on either side of Shiro’s face, holding onto his cheeks for dear life. Lance’s friend, stunned, can only say, “--But you--”

 

Keith lets out a pained scream from inside Lance’s cell. It cuts Shiro and Adam’s reunion short, the two looking from each other to the cell with equally worried expressions. “He’ll be fine,” Lance wheezes, wrapping his other arm around Hunk, “we’re stressing him out.”

 

Shiro nods solemnly, wordlessly lifting Adam into the air and over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He mumbles something about him ‘never being in shape’ and of muscle cramps. “If we get separated, you know where we need to meet up,” He says, already bounding down the hall, Pidge hot on his heels. Coran releases Allura on her own insistence, and the two take off in another direction. Hunk mumbles an apology as he bundles Lance into his arms bridal style, casting one pained expression to his cell.

 

“Stay safe, hot stuff,” whispers Lance as he presses his face into Hunk’s shirt.

 

And then they’re gone, racing through the halls with as much speed as Hunk can muster while managing to not drop his best friend.

 

Neither of them look back to see the damage Keith causes in their wake until they’re nearing the car, Coran, and Shiro in the process of securing their proper rescuees into their seats. “Wait, dude,” Lance says, hand still held to his chest, where a fire begins to die out. “Put me down.”

 

His feet touch the ground, shoes having been long forgotten in a corner of his cell and now, undoubtedly, burnt to a crisp. His toes touch grass still wet from rain the night before, an entirely welcome sensation compared to the cold, rough floor of the cell. Turning his body away from Hunk and his friends waiting by the car, he faces the wildfire consuming the building whole. He breathes in deep the smoke of Keith’s flame. The fire in his chest settles now, allows his sea to come rushing back in. In the center of the blaze, at one of the entrances, stumbles a form that rattles with hacking coughs.

 

Lance’s feet carry him as far as he needs to go. Until he’s pulling charcoal-covered limbs from the fire, arms wrapping tightly around him the moment he releases them. A pale face buries itself into his shoulder, dampening his jacket with tears. Ashes fall from black hair when Lance tries to pat it comfortingly. “I was so scared,” Whispers Keith, voice wavering, “I thought I’d-- I thought you--”

 

He shushes him quietly, burying his own face into Keith’s bare shoulder. Someone tore his shirt in a scuffle. He doesn’t say anything, only stands there with wobbling legs and uncharacteristically unmoving hands. “Come on,” He says when he sees Shiro begin to make his way over to the two, “We’ve got to go home now.”

 

Keith sniffles, and brings Lance’s arm around his neck. There’s soot covering half of his face still, he notes as the two stumble back to the car, neither strong enough to take the lead but both of them stubborn enough to try. Eventually, Shiro makes it over to them and only sighs, bringing both of their arms around his shoulders and supporting them the rest of the way. “You’re going to have to share a seat,” he warns in a low voice as Hunk opens one of the doors, prying Lance away from both Shiro and Keith, “I’ll take Pidge back on Red.”

 

Immediately, Lance’s boyfriend scrunches up his face. “I’m fine enough to drive,” he says, like the liar he is. Shiro only looks at him, brows raised incredulously, while his brother glares back in turn. “Fine,” He relents after a moment, allowing Lance to haphazardly pull him into his lap, “I’ll be checking for scratches, though.”

 

Adam turns his head in his seat, knocking long brown hair into his eyes. Despite this, Lance can see the look of disappointment, paired with tired resignation. “God, you really are his brother,” he mumbles, mostly to himself. Then he’s turning his head back to the window he’d rolled down sometime in between him being shoved into a stranger’s car and Lance leaving to retrieve Keith. He breathes slowly like he’s taking in whatever fresh air isn’t tainted by smoke.

 

“Half-brother,” is all Keith manages to say before he promptly passes out, much to Pidge’s dismay.

 

Allura makes eye contact with Lance as Hunk pulls the car from dirt roads to paved roads. They don’t say anything and turn away from each other as quickly as they’d made contact. But neither of them fall asleep.

 

None of them can.

 

_____

 

Much to Romelle’s disbelief, the ‘medical clinic’ at the Black Lion is extremely short-lived. Keith wakes up leaning against Lance on a table that, if memory serves correctly, didn’t belong to either him nor Shiro. Allura and Adam are both standing, the latter currently subjected to a barrage of questions by Matt and Shiro, serving as a tag-team.

 

Lance only gives one glance and a tiny, tiny smile to Keith before he returns to scrolling through pages and pages of missed text messages and calls. “Shiro says that I can stay over at your guy’s apartment tonight. So I can think. Junk like that,” He says in a hushed voice. As if to explain his reasoning for staying over as if Keith hadn’t already given himself an ulcer thinking about it, he plainly lifts his phone.

 

They leave ten minutes after Keith wakes up. In those ten minutes, Allura decides that Romelle will now until she can recall any home she might have had, be staying with her and Coran. She shares a look with Lance after the decision is announced, one that he returns with a simple nod. His grip on Keith’s hand tightens, just a fraction. It’s a silent understanding between the two-- or three, he still hasn’t heard from Lance about the whole Adam situation. An understanding of what, Keith doesn’t know.

 

“We’re not taking your goddamn Prius,” is the first thing Keith says when Shiro corrals everyone out of the shop after he’d casually mentioned that Red was ‘somewhere safe’. He’d then immediately proceeded to nearly fall over from a sudden weakness in his knees, with Lance serving as the only thing keeping him upright. He’d stopped arguing after that, regarding his brother with a bitter discontent.

 

Matt doesn’t come with the bandwagon on it’s way to Shiro and Keith’s apartment, mumbling some excuse about having a project to do and booking it with Pidge. It was smart, Keith decided, as he watched Shiro and Adam walk into the apartment with an uncomfortable silence hanging in the air. No one in their right mind would actively want to be around them right now. Not even Adam himself, who immediately asks about a shower and escapes to the bathroom. “Pizza for dinner,” suggests Keith lazily, already leading Lance to his room, half-way through the process of removing and discarding his torn and dirty shirt. “Considering everything else is closed.”

 

Shiro shrugs, digging his phone out from the dish by the door. He decides it’s a good idea as any, pretending that they hadn’t ordered pizza any less than two days ago, and props himself against the wall beside the bathroom as the door shuts behind Keith.

 

Lance had already turned on the light to his room, seated with one leg crossed over his thigh and the other falling over the edge, and expression dazed as he blinks slowly at Keith. “Come here,” he says, voice barely above a whisper. He complies, abandoning keeping space between them and approaching Lance from the front. He watches in silence as cold hands turn his own over, two fingers skimming over the freezing expanse of black skin. His hand trails up the expanse of his left arm, blue eyes darkening the further he goes-- past his shoulder, up to the back of his neck, and finally, finally , his fingers stop just below his right eye. Then Lance’s warm face rests against his bare chest, a shuddering sigh leaving him. “You can’t hide it under gloves anymore.” His breath is warm against his skin. Keith feels no fire underneath his own skin but finds it hidden in a bubble at the bottom of a sun-kissed sea. A sea that moves back in the bed, and pulls Keith down below its waves for a salty kiss.

 

Keith lets out a long, breathless exhale when Lance’s lips leave his, even if for just a second. “I don’t care,” He says, hands holding onto Lance’s waist as if he’d simply vanish if Keith let go of him. He meets Lance’s blue eyes, the spark that so often brightened his day still gone, replaced by a solemn darkness that shrouds his entire being, and hopes that the passion in his own gaze can stoke that spark back to a flame. “And I’d do it again if I had to.”

 

Dull eyes flicker down to ashen arms and back again before Keith can ask what’s bothering him. Lance gives him a weak smile-- one that doesn’t quite make it to his eyes. It’s unlike him to never mean a smile. And as lips rough from days without water press against his with the hungered urge to distract the owner, Keith finds himself troubled, plagued by the image of that split-second before all he could see was red. Lance had looked so beaten and tired, and yet he looked into the vertex of an uncontrollable flame without fear. He was almost willing to walk into the heat himself, Keith knew fully well.

 

Distantly, he hears the water pipes groan as Adam cuts off the water to the shower. A few minutes later, the door opens and closes. Shiro says something quietly, and another door opens. Lance sighs against Keith, resting his chin on the shoulder that retains even an ounce of warmth. “Want to use up the rest of the hot water?” He asks, brushing his lips against brown hair. His head lifts briefly, the only affirmative he receives. Laughing, Keith hauls Lance back to his feet.

 

Neither of the two spends even a minute away from each other. Lance washes away all of the charcoal and ash covering Keith’s skin with a scrunched up face, mumbling about how he wished he could see the other guys. When Keith tenses at that, face becoming unreadable, apologies tumble out before Lance can seemingly stop them. But Keith continues to stare at the shower wall, lip pulled into a thin line. Finally, when the apologies stop, he whispers, “I killed them, didn’t I?”

 

Hands slick from the water overhead pull Keith’s face up to meet Lance’s, the spark back in his eyes, if only briefly. “Hey,” He says, in the most terrifyingly soothing voice, “don’t think like that. If we made it out, so could they.” There’s no telltale sign of him lying, only a stone solid face determined on making Keith think logically. The only problem with that, Keith realizes with no joy, is that he is thinking logically. Only other fire elementals could have made it out of that alive. And, as far as he knows, there weren’t any he encountered.

 

But Lance seems to believe with a stubborn passion that not a single drop of blood is on Keith’s hands.

 

So Keith continues to let him believe that much if nothing else. Besides, he reasons, watching as his boyfriend complains about the acne he finds on his forehead, at least Lance is… more or less himself now.

 

Shiro forces Lance and Keith into their pseudo-dining-room before they could sneak back into Keith’s room, insisting that ‘pizza is nothing less than a bonding experience’. It’s Shiro’s excuse for making them all sit together and a way of telling Keith to talk to Adam.

 

“Oh thank god you cut your hair,” is, however, probably the exact opposite of what Shiro wanted him to say. Adam points a finger gun at him, mouth stuffed with an entire pizza rolled up into a burrito like the desperately hungry idiot he is.

 

“I also shaved,” He says when the pizza burrito breaks in half and falls back onto his plate, immediately running a hand up and down his face, sighing wistfully. “How I’ve missed not having an itchy face.”

 

“Really? That’s all you missed?” Adam’s lips twitch at the corners as Shiro shouts from the kitchen.

 

“Oh, don’t be so offended! You’re right underneath alcohol!” He crows, expression turning smug when Shiro comes rushing out of the kitchen with a ladle. He doesn’t even look afraid in the slightest, only leaning forward on the table against a hand. “I’ve accepted death more times than I can count and you expect me to still have fear instilled by kitchen utensils?”

 

Lance snorts violently next to Keith, still hyperfocused on his three slices of pepperoni pizza. “Ladies, you’re both pretty,” drawls Keith, monotone,  “no need to fight over it.” This forces a surprised, barking laugh from Lance, who looks startled with himself the moment the sound escapes his lips. Shiro sighs with resignation, slamming the ladle down on the table and scooping up his own food. Adam only blinks at him.

 

“So, uh…” He says, looking between the two, before honing in on Lance. “Your standards are low.”

 

He only lifts his shoulders slowly, tilting his head to the side. “My standards got you out of that cell.” Keith finds himself smiling smugly at Adam, something that’s small and weak but there nonetheless.

 

Adam only blinks, before he’s smiling in return. “Can your standards also explain to my parents where I’ve been for the past three years?”

 

“The fuck I will,” Keith says indignantly,  “That’s all Shiro’s mess to clean up.”

 

Shiro doesn’t look up from his pizza. “You got an opportunity to study abroad and forgot your phone at the airport. They both know you couldn’t afford to get another one anyway.”

 

“Shiro how long have you been waiting to fucking use that--”

 

“--You always have to be prepared.”

 

Lance turns to Keith, and mouths something about the Garrison chat. He gestures to his phone, retrieved by Pidge alongside the rest of his dueling equipment.

 

With a sigh, Keith pulls his own phone out of his pocket.

 

________________

 

Garrison Chat (Coalition only)

 

Allura (9:21 PM): This is a high-alert warning to all spellcasters affiliated with the Coalition in San Rosa, effective immediately.

 

Allura (9:22 PM): Zarkon is still at large. All members of team Voltron are likely targets, so I advise that you make a point to ensure they are never alone.

 

Solar Plaxus (9:22 PM): Understood. I heard the news from Luxia a few hours ago-- are you all OK?

 

Lancito (9:23 PM): I mean we’re not dead so

 

Hunkules (9:23 PM): Shay isn’t on right now but I’ll pass the news along to her family

 

Pidge (9:24 PM): I’ll shoot a message to everyone else that isn’t on too

 

Red (9:24 PM): Don’t let any other spellcasters know something is off. We need to be careful until Zarkon gets what’s coming to him.

 

Flower Power (9:25 PM): Shit we’re talking about Zarkon here?? I thought he fled the country or something

 

Allura (9:25 PM): So did I.

 

Garrison Chat (all)

 

Adina (9:26 PM): What the fuck?? Lance just came back online

[Deleted]

 

Cold Well (Professor Caldwell) (9:27 PM): I see it too. Is that a glitch? Emeline, are you on?

[Deleted]


Lancito (9:27 PM): I wouldn’t be on if she was lmao

[Deleted]

 

Lancito (9:27 PM): I’ll explain everything on Monday. Got it? Got it

[Deleted]

 

Lancito (9:27 PM): I’m going to delete all of my messages now, do the same with yours and pretend I was never here.

[Deleted]

 

Notification redacted by Admin

Chapter Text

Breathe in.


You’re okay .


The hand that trembles against a porcelain sink tells her of such, as she stares at herself in the mirror, lips trembling. A hand that doesn’t feel like her own reaches up and grabs a fistful of her hair. There’s a memory fresh as an open wound that rises of an unfamiliar spellcaster with so much hate in them pulling her by the hair to look at her in the eye, while all she feels is useless. No sea to comfort her, no doubt trying to reach the one man who needs him the most, in the cell next to her. No ghosts or cards to give her a grounding on the future. Just purple lights and pain, pain, pain.


You’ll be fine , says the other girl at the tub, hugging herself. She’s radiant-- a light in the dark. A Demiurge like herself, one who feels just as lost as she. I know you , she had said when she’d seated herself on a makeshift table. Her voice was quiet and hesitant as trembling hands hover over a bruise.  I know you, despite knowing nothing else .


Bring the scissors to your hair, cut away any memory of the soldier working for the men who killed your father.


Breathe out.


You’re a new slate.


________________



Adam sleeps that night. Shiro knows because he watches him, sprawled across a bed like a starfish. He’s wearing that oversized shirt Keith once bought Shiro for Christmas because ‘you’re getting fat’. The ridiculous saying across the shirt is entirely unfitting to the man currently wearing it, especially paired with the Cookie Monster pajama pants that he’d pulled from Shiro’s dresser like some buried treasure. He breathes evenly and drools out of the corner of his mouth. He’d been ecstatic about sleeping, saying something about how much he missed beds and fell asleep faster than Shiro could tell him that they were going to go meet up with Allura the following afternoon.


But Shiro doesn’t sleep. No, instead he sits on the couch, staring blankly at the TV. However much time passes he doesn’t keep track, stuck in a distant, distant memory of an argument that never saw a resolution. Adam hadn’t brought it up, too focused on Shiro’s lack of an arm. He’d told him that it didn’t matter in the slightest in comparison to what he must have gone through, stuck in that place for so long.


“It doesn’t matter what happened to me,” He’d said, eyes glazed over, “just that it’s over now.”


It was just barely enough for him to drop the subject.


Bare feet cause one of the floorboards in the hallway to creak. He expects Keith to continue on into the bathroom, considering he often wakes up at random points in the night to use the bathroom. Instead, they continue, and Lance pokes him in the shoulder. He doesn’t say anything at first, just blinks at him with dull eyes. Then, “Keith might need to go to that spellcaster hospital. He’s too cold.”


Shiro blinks, recalling another distant memory of a hospital trip, Krolia arguing with a nurse. Her words never reached him, but the poison was able to be heard from miles away. It was late, and Keith couldn’t feel his arms, hands shaking as he apologized over and over again for ruining their sleep schedules. “Is he awake?” He barely comprehends the words as they leave his lips. Lance shakes his head. “Bring him out here.”


Soon enough Keith comes stumbling out of his room, leaning heavily on Lance and mumbling complaints. He gives a look to Shiro as if to say ‘what now’ and stares in confusion as Shiro puts Keith’s hand out, palm up. He can feel the cold radiating from the center of his palm before his hand even makes contact, the obscurity of black skin ravenously urging for any and all magic in the vicinity. “’m fine,” He mumbles, scratching at the new taint against his skin, curving around the back of his neck and up his face.


“No, you’re not,” Shiro and Lance say in unison, both with varying levels of irritation. The former turns to the latter. Lance forms a ball of water in his hand, watching as it unfurls into a ribbon that snakes across his arm and traces around the lines of his bare chest, forming a unique pattern as it seeps into his skin. Coran had mentioned earlier that he had a sneaking suspicion that the prison was rigged to use the prisoners’ mana as a circuit, conducting it to the guards. He wasn't sure if their mana was immediately returned, or if they'd be drained. Lance must have been paying attention during that, then, Shiro figures. Silently, he takes one of Keith’s hand, and a blue glows in the space between their palms. Keith leans towards Lance at the sensation, humming lowly and burying his face into his shoulder. He doesn’t react in the slightest when Shiro opens the floodgates of his own magic, too used to it by now. Either that or his magic feels the same as the taint. He never did know, just that his magic always felt like it was on the brink of swallowing him whole.


Lance murmurs something in Keith’s ear. It’s too quiet for Shiro to hear, but it has Keith’s blissful face scrunching up briefly. “Nah,” he says, “I would have woken up anyway.”


When color returns to Keith’s cheeks, Shiro removes his hand from above his and sits back down on the couch. Lance doesn’t remove his hand, but the blue glow fades a bit. “He’ll be fine for the rest of tonight,” he says, turning his head just a fraction to see Keith still blinking sleep from his eyes and Lance looking away from him with a tiny little light in his eyes that wasn’t there before. “We’ll have Romelle fix the rest of the damage. Good practice for her.”


Keith mumbles about not being damaged as Lance herds him back into his room, mouthing a thank you over his shoulder.


Shiro turns his head from the closing door to the TV, still droning on. With a decided sigh, he turns it off and heads back into his room. He might as well try to sleep, he decides.


And the next morning, Adam is still there when he wakes up. He’s staring out the window to the rising sun with a glazed expression that’s near identical to Lance’s. He’s somewhere else, as he watches a sight that had been taken from him for years. The light in his eyes returns when he hears Shiro shift, a small smile appearing at his lips. It reaches his eyes. “Hey,” He says, casual in a way that he’d missed in the years Adam had been gone.


“Hey,” he echoes. Mindlessly he strolls over to his dresser, pulling an ornate box out. He finds the rune Allura had given to him as a gift so long ago at the bottom, still attached to a fabric band on either side. He holds it out to Adam without a second thought, not a single ounce of regret inside of him as he squints at it while putting it on. She’d said it would come in handy. “It’ll help put your mind at ease. I uh… I have a lot of them. But that one's a bit more--”


“--powerful,” Adam says breathlessly, a thumb brushing over the stone. “I know.” How; he doesn’t explain. But there’s understanding in a deep, underlying sort of way that immediately gives way to that muddled look of curiosity that Shiro came to associate with self-doubt. “I know we didn’t really… talk about it, but we’re good, right?”


You haven’t moved on? Seems to be the direct translation of his words. “Yeah,” Shiro says. “Think of it like we get to know each other all over again. Except you’ll actually know the truth instead of my terrible excuses.”


He snorts, fixing his glasses. They didn’t fit his prescription, considering they were stolen from Matt’s collection of miscellaneous glasses, but it was enough to let him see further than four feet in front of him. “That you’re a terrible liar about something I couldn’t see?” Immediately Shiro tenses, but his shoulders relax when Adam smiles warmly to him. There’s reassurance in his face. “I’d like that. Especially now that I… can see.” He waves vaguely and decides that he no longer wants to watch the sunset, turning from the window. He calls out into the hallway that Keith ‘better still be alive’ or he’d ‘have Lance’s head on a platter by lunch’.


“Oh, fuck off! I didn’t tell Keith to go ham!” Cries Lance, seemingly too comfortable with having a yelling match with Adam. Was that how they communicated in their cells? It seems like it-- they’re too comfortable insulting each other. Keith groans, long and loud.


“I’m going to go ham again if you keep yelling in my fucking ear,” He says, loud enough for Shiro to hear it, but quiet enough for Adam to be blissfully unaware. He can hear Lance mutter an apology, the words unintelligible but his tone perfectly clear. Then, just as loud as his boyfriend, “why the fuck are we awake so early?”


“I want to go and find Iverson and ask him about that position at the Garrison, assuming it’s still there,” Adam only says, “and if I remember properly, Lance has to get back to his actual home .”


A loud thud. “Fuck! I forgot about that! Keith, Keith get up I can’t remember what I was going to tell everyone!”


“Magic is real, suck my dick, uhh…” Keith trails off. Shiro snorts, emerging from his room and meeting the equally amused expression of Adam, who mouths something about there being no food. “Something something Allura and me.”


Lance gasps, and there's a loud thud. “Right! Shiro, I’m using your brother as a scapegoat if you don’t mind!” He cries, halfway through pulling on a pair of Keith’s pants and nearly tripping over the door frame of Keith’s room. He sounds intent on doing it regardless of how Shiro responds.


“If your parents make you break up with him don’t blame me,” he instead decides on saying. Lance only scoffs.


“They’ll yell at me, but they love Keith more than I do. We’re good. I’m more worried about my mami seeing through me than anything if I’m going to be honest. She’d make me quit dueling if she found out.”


Adam hums then look at Lance earnestly. “You should tell her what actually happened. She’d find and kill Zarkon with nothing but a sandal if she’s as terrifying as my mom is.”


Lance seems to consider it, if only for a second. Then he’s frowning, shaking his head. “No, no. Zarkon deserves a fair fight.” Adam chortles, a genuine and light-hearted sound that rings like a bell in Shiro’s ears. Then he’s stealing Shiro’s keys and telling him that he’ll be back if he doesn’t somehow crash. Lance’s face scrunches up, but he says nothing. No complaints.


No one knows the outcome of Lance’s conversation with his parents until four hours later, when he shows up to Allura’s apartment, Emeline practically glued to his heels. Her arms are folded across her chest, expression especially sour in comparison to how… glum Lance looks. He waves weakly to the gathered group waiting impatiently at the door and then presents her with a small dismissive gesture. “Adam, Emeline. Emeline, friends. See? No danger.”


Emeline says nothing. She only looks at Adam, glaring daggers into him, while Lance strides next to Keith and the two delve into a quiet conversation entirely of whispers. Shiro can’t hear a lick of it but can see his brother nod seriously, understanding dawning across his face. When Lance’s sister seems satisfied, her shoulders drop, and she deadpans Adam. “You still owe me twenty bucks and that one novelty souvenir, dude.” And then she promptly leaves, telling Lance she’ll be in the car. Adam explains nothing, only scoffs and mutters to himself bitterly. Shiro is confused, in better words. As far as he knows, Adam and Emeline were never necessarily… friends. Maybe they were since he’d once grown close to Veronica.


Shiro needs a drink.


“Okay, can someone open this door?” Pidge complains next to Hunk, banging at the door insistently. A faint ‘one second’ sounds from the inside, then the clunk of several locks turning.


Allura opens the door with no flourish, giving a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Iteems to be commonplace with her and Lance, it seems. She opens her mouth to say something but is promptly cut off by Lance, who surges forward and fluffs the bottom of her bob, cut just below her jaw. “You cut your hair?” He asks, more in awe than shock. She nods weakly, stepping back and pulling him with her to give room for the others to enter.


“Yes. I… It was something I had to do.” Adam is the only person who nods in any sort of understanding, still practically glued to Shiro’s side as the two of them wander through the door. Pidge, Hunk, and Lance regard the vast apartment with awe, Keith watching on with bemusement as the three huddles, forming some devious plan to steal the apartment from the owner.  “I hope you like pumpkin bread, because Romelle showed an interest in baking, and Coran was still a tad stressed.” He can smell the familiar scent of Coran’s pumpkin bread, the only thing he’s ever managed to create that was actually edible. He silently hopes that Romelle, despite having no memory, can make something that was better than decent.


“A tad?” Keith asks, raising a brow suspiciously. “He almost dug a ditch in the dining room with his pacing when he was with us.”


Allura sighs like it’s a minor inconvenience. “Yes, he has a tendency to do that. Romelle,” Allura calls, and the Demiurge appears in the doorway, her hair now tied up into two pigtails, cascading down her back. “We’re going to start. You can join us if you’d like.” She smiles warmly, something just for her newfound friend, as most of the warmth vanishes when she turns away.


Romelle blinks, still piecing together her words, before she’s smiling, too. “I’d like that. Coran, we’ve got six more minutes on the bread. Don’t forget.”


Coran distantly begins to chant ‘six minutes’ as Romelle leaves her post, untying an apron and leaving it over a chair. Meanwhile, Lance leans away from Keith, seated on the floor between his legs, to whisper into Pidge’s ear. She brightens, a plan forming in her mind. Her face scrunches up like her brother’s when the gears in her head turn. “I’m sorry about the last minute timing,” she says, seating herself in one of the many armchairs, folding her hands in her lap. “I’m sure many of you were anxious to return to normalcy for the day following this. And to recover.” She gestures plainly to Keith.


“Oh, yeah, dude, are you feeling alright?” Pidge asks, tapping her cheek. Keith’s face scrunches up.


“Jury’s still out,” he decides on saying. The neutral answer, rather than whatever the truth may be. Shiro looks between Lance and Allura, who in turn glance to him. When Lance nods, they all break eye contact. It could wait.


Allura smiles amiably at the gathered group, one that falters before she begins to speak again. “I got lonely,” she blurts, a hush falling over the room. She’s in the middle of laying out her cards on the coffee table she pulled in front of her. She smiles at Romelle, a true and genuine smile. “Last night, I mean. I… didn’t want to be alone, even though I knew I had two people just a room over. And I wasn’t alone, for a while. But I felt alone.”


Adam, surprisingly, is the first person to break the silence after she finishes speaking. They’d established an air of brutal honesty, in the texts that nearly begged them to come over when they were free. “I felt that way, too. I thought I’d lost everything, when I first woke up in that cell, y’know? The guards didn’t exactly help , either. Gave me a severed arm for some company and telling me that they’d ‘find a use for me’.” He pauses, giving Shiro a weak, reassuring smile that tells him that he’s fine now. Shiro knows best of all that ‘now’ doesn’t mean that he’ll be fine in a few minutes. But he’s too busy reeling, caught on the terrible, terrifying fact that instead of clearing the air or letting an innocent bystander go, they’d left what Adam must have thought the only piece of Shiro was with him. “Talking to new people helped me deal with that. Granted, most of my neighbors didn’t want to converse with me and the guards were general dicks, but I kept my wits about me.”


The Demiurge nods, slowly. “That’s my thinking. I felt better after spending some time with Romelle, sharing our own tales. Or whatever stories she can recall from her new existence. When my father died, I’d done the same by talking to Keith while Shiro-- you don’t mind if I mention them, right?” She turns to Shiro briefly, tilting her head to the side. When he gives her the go-ahead, she continues. “While Shiro was training with his previous team. He was hurting, as well, though it’s his own choice whether he wants to share the extent of why. But I believe that we sort of… helped each other, in a sense.”


Leaning against Lance, Keith’s face scrunches up. No, he says. He’d like to keep that a secret, if only for a little while. There’s only so much he can handle in one day. And everyone understands, they do. Even Pidge, who could see horrors beyond her imagination and walk out fine, nods slowly. But after a while of no one saying anything, Keith does speak. But it’s not what anyone expects. “I killed someone.” His hands are shaking, gloves long abandoned because he sees no point in it. Shiro hadn’t batted an eye at the blights covering his arm-- he’d known they were there. But they were worse than the last time he’d seen them in their entirety. Lance opens his mouth to speak, but Keith continues on, glaring pointedly at him. “I killed this guard on my way down to the basement level. Held his neck right between my hands and I--I--I don’t know what I did, whether or not I used magic, but he was crying and begging me to stop but I just-- I just couldn’t . I don’t think I wanted to because these were the people who took part of the only constant things in my life away from me, and I was terrified and angered by the thought that they were hurt and I just--”  He cuts himself off, breathing unevenly. Lance doesn’t speak to reassure him, only holds his hand a little tighter, wipes the back of his hand underneath Keith’s eyes. A wave of calm washes over Shiro, but it doesn’t take away the stabbing pain in his heart. When the numbness kicks in, he’s more than welcome for Allura’s ability to cancel out what Hunk can’t quell. “--I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be crying.”


Shiro expects Lance to say something, express any of his woes. Just to take the spotlight off of Keith. Instead, he continues to stare blankly at the floor, and no one calls him out for it. Coran appears from the kitchen, pumpkin bread in hand and wisdom just as close. “There’s no wound that time cannot heal, Keith. I once killed a man myself, back in my day. I found it helpful to focus on more… recreational hobbies to busy my mind.”


Allura scoffs, amusement dancing in her expression. “You mean to refer to my father as a ‘recreational hobby’?” Pidge then proceeds to immediately choke on her apple juice. Hunk pats her back sympathetically, though he seems to have choked on his own saliva. Coran immediately reddens, reassuring her that no, that wasn’t what he meant. No one seems to quite believe him, though. Even Adam snorts beside Shiro, and whispers in his ear about how he always knew Alfor had a side hoe.


“Hey Coran guess what Adam just called you--”


“--Takashi I’m going to beat the shit out of you--” Adam reaches over to Shiro as if he’s going to actually hit him, instead of slamming his palm over his mouth, leaning dramatically across space in between them. With his words silenced by a sweaty hand, he has no choice but to look the owner in the eye. Immediately his eyes are widening, though his hand doesn’t budge. “Don’t do it.”


Adam groans, pulling his spit-covered hand away from Shiro immediately, wiping his hand against his shirt without a moment’s hesitation. Then he’s laughing, dry hand pulling Shiro down for a kiss, smiling even when their lips press together like the last piece to a long forgotten puzzle. It was the first time they’ve kissed since they’d seen each other in that prison, Shiro dully recognizes. And he would have stayed there, peppering his boyfriend with kisses, if Lance and Pidge didn’t start gagging, complaining to Keith and Hunk respectively at varying degrees of volume. “Oh, let them have this,” says Allura, leaning across the couch to slap the two of them on their arms. “I finished our reading, by the by. It’s… It’s better than last time.”


“'Last time'?” Echoes Lance. Everyone straightens, leaning towards the cards, peering and prying for some form of understanding to her cryptic words. They knew about their original readings-- done years ago for Shiro and Keith's cases, But her words imply something recent.


“Every once in a while, I do a general reading for my friends. One card from your first individual reading typically stands out during these, like how the Lovers card was for Keith and Lance before they got together, but would be gone if I were to do individual readings now. As of now… well, it’s an overall positive.” She hands out the cards as she speaks, Lance’s the only one to be passed upside down. It’s like when the teacher hands you back a quiz you failed-- the way his face scrunches up mirrors the same confusion Shiro used to express in that very situation. Shiro’s card, however, has his shoulders sagging with relief and a sigh escaping past his lips. The world, upright. Fulfillment. Adam tilts his card to Shiro’s direction, quirking a brow high. Death stares back at him, skeletal visage hidden under a hood. The card is upright, an equally good sign. It’s an end to a cycle, one that’s obvious to anyone who’d gotten even the briefest glance to his life in that cell.


Adam smiles, small and sweet when he hears the meaning. Lance, however, stands up with a loud, “I’ll go get plates for the pumpkin bread,” and practically runs down the hall and into the kitchen. Any possible chatter immediately halts, an uncomfortable silence settling over the room. Hunk seems to be the first to react, making to stand up from his seat. Before he can, however, Keith sticks out a hand, his frantic expression just enough to startle him back into the couch. Then he ’s turning to Shiro, with wide eyes and a silent plea. He doesn’t know what to do. Judgment, upright, stares up at him from Keith’s loose hand.


“Allura,” Shiro says, turning slowly from his brother to the Demiurge, frozen in the middle of explaining Romelle’s card to her. She’s holding it up for anyone to see- the Fool, also upright. A new beginning, for a free spirit. He stands, abrupt. Adam nearly stands with him, before seeing the look in Shiro’s face. “You should teach Romelle how to share her mana. With Keith.”


Blue eyes blink once. Twice. Comprehension dawns across her, and then she’s shifting from her chair to the place where Lance once was, pulling Romelle with her by her wrist. Shiro doesn’t stay for the ensuing chaos, gaze leveled ahead of him until he’s turning into the kitchen, just in time to see Lance splashing water on his face, the escaping droplets returning to his skin like metal to a magnet. “Sorry,” he says, still not turning to face him. The faucet is turned off with a painful slowness, tan hands landing on either side of the sink. His own card is discarded against the wall opposite of him. Before Shiro can confirm his suspicion of the position of the card, Lance whispers, “I can’t figure out how to get out of this… whatever this is.”


Shiro doesn’t respond. Lance doesn’t expect him to. “It should be easy, right? Look everyone in the eye and tell them that my hands keep shaking every time someone opens a door and that I can’t breathe when it gets too quiet because the silence was the worst part of that fucking place, because silence meant that we were too hurt to speak, too weak to go on.” He laughs, a bitter sound, as he turns his head in the direction of the Hermit, still abandoned on the floor. “Even now I can’t look you in the face because I’m scared . I’m scared and I don’t know why Shiro.” Blue eyes are brimming with tears, shoulders rising and falling in a shaking rhythm.


“I don’t want to be alone for this. But it’s so hard when I have to keep lying to everyone.”


Shiro has to speak, now. He has to help Lance in any way he can-- give whatever advice he may have learned, despite how notorious he is for giving terrible advice. But that was always for the ‘being alright’ parts of life. He knew the opposite end just as well. “I know you probably want me to say something like Coran about how ‘time heals all’ but… That’s not how it works. Sometimes I wake up and I find myself gripping for an arm that isn’t there, or calling out for people that aren’t with us anymore. I never wake up happy, or in a particularly good mood, and sometimes I have to check in on Keith because I get this fear that he’s still crying for Krolia. It’s always like I’m back in front of Alfor’s doorstep all over again.” Lance is turning, now, hands leaving the counters to grip himself around the waist. Searching for a place to ground himself. “But it gets easier, eventually. You should know, though, that it will come back like clockwork. Being in Voltron was enough to set me back several paces, and this… this was enough to undo everything. It almost did.”


I wish it had. Adam shouldn’t be going through this alone.  Shiro stops, dropping an arm that subconsciously grips his prosthetic, expecting warmth. Expecting pain. But instead, he gets nothing but cold metal. “And no matter what, no matter how far back you get pushed, you keep bouncing back.” Lance’s hands shift to either side of his arms. “If you find yourself so low that you have to drop out of college like I did to just find your footing, then drop out. But come back when you feel like yourself again.”


“Why… Why did you drop out?”


It’s not what Shiro expects him to ask. It’s impulsive, Lance’s inner curiosity coming out to play. “I couldn’t focus or study through the phantom pain, my... magic thing was at its worst, and everything reminded me of Adam and how much I’d failed him. Working the Black Lion helped… distract me. Nothing else. The pain was still there, and Adam was still gone.”


Lance looks at the floor, downcast. He doesn’t ask any more questions. Doesn’t speak. And he remains frozen like that. So Shiro leaves the kitchen with the stack of plates, tells Keith that he’s done as much as he could. That if anyone could do better it’d be him or Hunk.


From the way Hunk looks to the floor, the baton was passed to Keith a long while ago.


So now they’re sitting with the pumpkin bread, no one particularly knowing what to say. Hunk compliments Coran on the bread. Coran thanks him. Pidge seems to be in the middle of a conversation with Allura almost entirely composed of vague gestures, both of their expressions scrunched up. Adam groans put his plate down and looks around the room. “Alright,” he says, “since we’re not going to be talking about Lance’s obvious issues, I might as well get this out there. I can see the strong memories associated with any object I touch. Any of you got an explanation for that that makes sense ?”


Shiro immediately tenses, gaze snapping from his slice of bread to the rune on Adam’s wrist. He hopes that emotions… didn’t transfer with memories. “It’s a magic associated with cognitive magics, called Eidetic memory,” he says, before Allura can give a long-winded, confusing answer, “spellcasters use it to solve crimes, in most cases. But you’re not--”


Adam breaks their unbroken eye contact, flighty eyes looking anywhere but at Shiro. “Yeah… about that…” He smiles weakly at the floor. “Remember what I said about them wanting to find a use for me?” He doesn’t elaborate, looking up from the floor to Allura, who look at him with furrowed brows. Then realization dawns across her face, hands leaving her lap to cover her mouth.


“That shouldn’t be possible,” she says, “if… if they wanted to make you into a spellcaster , they’d have to completely re-work your body and mind. That’s not… The moral implications are terrible, sure, but your body shouldn’t be able to handle that. A human body can’t…” She trails off, now rising from her seat and striding over to Adam in long strides. She sits beside him, tucking hair behind her pointed ear, hands now shaking.


She doesn’t speak. Only takes Adam’s hand in both of hers, turning the palm towards the ceiling. One hand remains, pressed against the center of his, while the other follows a trail up his arm, and over his heart. Her brows furrow and the clouds in her eyes turn stormy. “You don’t feel stable.” Is all she says, removing her hands from him without another word.


“No,” says Adam, “I don’t.”


What Adam doesn’t tell Allura, but tells Shiro when they’re alone, is that he felt everything, all at once. He could feel Keith’s fire, suffocating him with every shift of his emotions, Lance’s ocean sticking to the back of his throat, and the poison of Pidge’s forest, Hunk’s calm, and Allura and Coran’s… nothingness is the only solace. But, he’d said, nothing felt more natural than the way Shiro’s magic drew him in.


Shiro is the only person willing to take the plates back to the kitchen. Allura hadn’t touched hers and says that she’ll take it up later as she passes it to Romelle, who seems to be in the process of reverting the bread back into dough for curiosity's sake. “--You don’t know what you’re afraid of, so you don’t have to worry--” Shiro tastes saltwater in the back of his throat, feels it close his windpipes with a desperation.


“--I’m afraid of myself , Keith! Fuck all of those fucking guards and their stupid tasers, they could and probably will go to hell for all I care! I’m scared of someone hitting me where it hurts and me getting angry because I don’t know what I’d do ! If I told someone to kill themselves, would they do it? Would they? What if we got into an argument and I told you to forget me? What if every fucking friend I’ve made is built on a rocky foundation that I created myself? What happens if I wake up terrified and drown the first person I see? What if--”


A fire meets the salty water, intertwining in Shiro’s lungs. They level each other out until nothing remains. He can see Lance, hands trembling in Keith’s grip. His eyes are feral, wild and frantic and searching for any out. Keith whispers something to him, low and quiet. It’s enough for his expression to settle into something a bit more amiable, though the trembling only lessens by a fraction. Lance nods at whatever he said, turning his head to Shiro’s direction. “You can come in,” he says, voice shaking.


“I wasn’t listening,” Shiro says, too quick to be believable. He shuffles past the two just as fast, piling the dishes into the sink with an unceremonious crash.


“Sure you weren’t.” Keith’s eyes follow Shiro across the kitchen with a mirrored expression to Lance. They both look exhausted, plagued by an ailment that he’s only just now managing to get an understanding of. They follow him out of the kitchen, sticking close to his heels.  And instead of addressing the surprise and confusion across his friends faces, Keith instead says, “Do you still have Mario Kart, Allura?”


Allura straightens as her shoulders sag in obvious relief. “Yes, I do.”


“What’s Mario Kart?” Asks Romelle.


“Hell on Earth,” is deemed to be the most suitable response.


Everyone pretends that they didn’t hear Adam say that there’s a worse hell than Mario Kart.



________________



It’s cold on the rooftop. Frost bites through Shiro’s jacket and into the skin underneath, nips at the tip of his nose. His breath comes out in bursts of fog around him. Adam breathes in time with him in the spot next to him, his knee bumping against Shiro’s thigh. “I’ve got to go to the doctor’s again next week,” he says, trying not to meet his boyfriend’s gaze. Tries not to see how he leans a little closer at that, mouth pulled into a thin line.


“I thought you said that you were going for the last time a week after I…” He doesn’t elaborate, gesturing vaguely. He rephrases himself, “I thought you were getting better?”


Shiro coughs into his elbow. Like the weak man he is, he meets Adam’s gaze. “I didn’t want you to worry-- oh, don’t look at me like that, I’m trying to tell you why I lied to you. It's just... It's still hard to talk about it, you know?” 


A warm hand brushes against his. A reassurance.


Breathe in.


Steady your shaking hand against your prosthetic, don’t let it release the cold, cold metal of your arm.


Breathe out.


Tell the truth.


You don’t have to lie anymore.

Chapter Text

 

The sea is reassuring. It nudges Lance to the door, forces his hand to form a fist and tap against the grain of the door once. Twice.

 

You’re safe , says the sea, I will protect you .

 

The door creaks open, familiar and welcome. Blue eyes identical to his own blink at him once. A small, trembling hand desperately wipes at her dark circles, cheeks stained with long-dried tears. Lance forces a smile. “Abella,” he says, quiet. “Hey.”

 

Abella’s look of shock morphs into an array of emotions, before settling on some frustrated look, hands shoving against his chest with no real intention of moving him. Then he’s being pulled inside, into the tight embrace of his sister. Rough, wrinkled hands pry him from her, and he’s staring into blue eyes, like the ones before, aged with regret and wisdom. His father still looks tired. When was the last time he slept? When was the last time any of them slept? When was-- “Lance,” says his Papi, any malice in his expression entirely contradicted by how quiet he was. He seems to have more to say, but he instead continues to stare at his son, sorrow in those tired eyes of his.

 

Lance found out years later that his Papi wanted to be mad at him, but his eyes… he wasn’t the son he’d grown to know. He was different, but not in a good way. He had the same dullness in his eyes that he’d only come to recognize as his own after years in the force. After killing criminals had become muscle memory.

 

Looking from his Papi, Lance sees the rest of his family, standing and gathered in different doorways of the house. It had been a while since he’d seen them like that, all in one place, without it being under the pretense of a holiday. Some of them shout, asking where he was. His mother gives him an earful, a colorful Spanish vocabulary scalded into his brain. But not Veronica. Veronica only looks from him to their father, lips pulled into a thin line. When the storm settles, she asks, “what happened to you?”

 

Lance’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes. That alone was fact enough to have his mami tear up, hands still shaking on either side of his face. “It’s… It’s a long story. None of you have work today, right?”

 

“Mijo, it’s Sunday,” says his mami, like that explains everything. In the style of Hunk’s weekly emotional meltdown, she’s already begun to weep like her son was a dead man walking.

 

Oh, thinks Lance, in the back of his head, that makes sense. The streets were kind of empty.

 

“Good. Good.” He leads his family back into the living room, forcing his mami to settle on the couch with him. Breathing deep, he looks away from her, and to his siblings. He brings his hands to rest on his knees, palms up. “So. You… You all remember how I used to tell you magic was real?”

 

Luis sighs, exasperated, and opens his mouth to speak. “No,” says Lance, narrowing his eyes at him with the hopes to pin him to the spot he’s standing in. One of his hands lift, and he gestures to his brother pointedly. With a heavy tongue encrusted with salt, “You’re all going to listen to me for once in my life. And I don’t-- I don’t want to make you, but you only seem to listen if I use soothsaying so I’ll only say this once. Shut up and let me explain.”

 

And they do. Veronica’s starting of a sentence dies off abruptly, and Emeline presses her lips together. All of their eyes dull, briefly, the telltale that they’re his to command. But he does nothing else, only focuses his attention to the sea that comforts him. He asks the sea if it brings a snowstorm with it. Yes , says the sea. A chill runs down his arms, stinging against his skin but entirely welcome. It sticks to his forearms like humidity, and doesn’t try and pull in more like Keith’s taint or blight or whatever it’s called.

 

His family looks from him to his hands, hidden underneath a transparent sword still forming at the hilt and tip, tendrils of magic solidifying before his eyes. Slowly, he looks up to his mami, leaning closer.

 

He finds tears rolling down her eyes. “Mijo,” is all she says, the dullness to her eyes gone in an instant. He didn't need to keep them silent forever. Just long enough to see the truth. She lapses back into silence when the sword reverts back into tendrils of magic, eye contact unbroken with her son.

 

“I’m dating Keith,” he blurts, “I mean, I’m assuming you all knew-- knew way before I did. We haven’t been subtle about it, either, and-- shit, I’m rambling, hang on--” Lance trails off into frantic mumbling, highlighting all of his future points on his hands. “Oh! Keith taught me how to do that. Taught me magic in general. I can… I can tell people what to do. Anyway, I help him with this… thing, it’s sort of like my performances except people can get hurt but not really? Don’t worry I don’t participate in them,” the lie feels heavy in his mouth, “And Keith got really, really hurt during one out of town, so Allura and I-- Allura can do magic, too, by the way. Did I forget to mention that? Forget it, not important. Allura and I had to drop everything to go help him.”

 

No one speaks. Most of them can’t find the words to do so. Emeline, however, sharp and cunning as she’s always been, says the first coherent thought that presents itself to her. “Who else in your life can do...whatever that is?”

 

Lance blinks at her exactly four times. “Shiro, Coran, Matt, Hunk, and Pidge.” He counts them off on his hands, sword melting and vanishing up his sleeves without a second thought. He barely notices it over the way his breathing starts to come out in tight breaths. “It’s most of the Garrison, really. Keith tells me there’s more, but they’re the only ones I’ve caught in public doing magic.”

 

“That’s a lot,” says Abella. “And you didn’t--”

 

“--I tried. God I tried, but I didn’t know how to make you listen because no amount of soothsaying could make any of you just sit down and give me time to find proof. But I found it.” Lance looks tired. His Papi shifts, clouded eyes still staring at the empty shell of his son. The voice of the sea joins his thoughts, proposing a single, harrowing question, settling like a question Lance would ask himself. You found it, it says. And at what cost?

 

Lance’s Papi is the last person to leave Lance, after hours upon hours of fretting over him. He rests his hand on Lance’s shoulder, calloused hand rubbing through the fabric of his shirt. His Papi’s never been a man with words, always short and brief when it matters. So when his muddied expression clears, serious face softening a fraction, and he inclines his head, Lance can only stare. It’s no pitied look, but one of solemn comradery. I’ve got you , he says in his lack of words.

 

And Lance cries, for the first time since he got out of that fucking cell. He cries, and holds his Papi tight, tethering himself to the world. He doesn’t know what’s right around now. But he knows his Papi understands.

 

For now, that’s enough to bring him back to reality. Away from a world where magic is real and solves all, and into a world where you can hurt and break without shattering.

 

________________

 

Shiro peers over Keith’s shoulder, his phone pressed up to his ear, kept in place by his shoulder. Even though he’s standing a foot away, Keith can still hear Adam and his mother arguing over something stupid. Probably cereal. Covering the speaker of his phone, “Keith, I don’t think Reddit is the most reliable source when it comes to Spellcasting--”

 

“--Oh, yeah? Then explain how I just found a namedrop of a member of the High Council.”

 

Shit . Alright, fine. Who is it?”

 

“Kolivan Zhang, owner of the Blades of Marmora and a direct descendant of the founder.”

 

Shiro raises his hands in defeat, sighing deeply. Keith shifts from where he’s sitting, laptop proudly displaying a thread by user ‘Sparksandshit420’, detailing information on the Blades of Marmora team and base. Apparently, they’ve got some underground society going on that only a select few can enter. “I don’t know why I even try anymore.”

 

Keith’s lips twitch at the corners, though he doesn’t turn to meet his brother, finding his time more useful spent responding to a text from Lance. He’d been complaining to him for hours now that Abella keeps insisting on trying to have him do the dishes for her with his magic. Apparently, she’d been doing stunts like this since he told his family about magic two days ago. “Neither do I. You should give up, dude. Go see the world instead of living in my shadow.”

 

“Oh fuck you. No, not you Adam-- I-- Yeah, sure. Put your mom on the phone.” Shiro wanders down the hall, flipping the bird over his shoulder without turning to make sure Keith could see it.

 

“You know I’m right!” He shouts over his shoulder. Cracking his neck, he continues his hunt. One high councilman down, only six more to go.

 

He could do this in one day no problem.

 

________________

 

It takes… some convincing for Lance to be allowed to leave the house on his own, the following Saturday. Even then, his mami makes him swear up and down to the heavens that he’ll text her every thirty minutes, and Abella agrees to meet him at Juniberry books in two hours. With an alarm set and one of Keith’s long-sleeved shirts on underneath his jacket, he finds himself wandering the streets of San Rosa.

 

To say that he’s without a care in the world is utterly incorrect. He constantly looks over his shoulder the entire time his feet touch concrete, and only finds solace in a crowded cafe he shoves his way into. He can’t focus on any sole conversation, but he orders a coffee timidly. Gives a weak smile to the barista that attempts to flirt with him. He’s too tired to tell her he’s taken.

 

His phone rings halfway through the trade-off of his latte, his free hand quickly passing over a tip before he’s digging into his pocket, and answering his phone without checking to see who it was. “Important question,” says Keith, not sounding entirely solemn. “ Theoretically , how long would it take someone who had no idea where their brother parked their motorcycle to book it across town before most businesses shut down.”

 

“Babe. Honey. Sweety. Theoretically, they’d make it before the shops opened the next day . Can’t this person just ask their brother to give them a lift?” The barista’s eyes widen with understanding, mumbling an apology and shuffling away behind the counter. Lance only continues on, grateful to at least have a familiar voice to ground him. Keith groans on the other end, a thud indicating he’d hit his head.

 

“I-- they did. But apparently their brother’s boyfriend took the fucking car, so until he finishes talking to his mom, no one’s going anywhere.”

 

Lance hums in thought. “So, hear me out, theoretically, shouldn’t this person instead go to their friend's house and borrow his car?”

 

No response. He allows himself a rare smile, picturing the blank look on Keith’s face as realization hits. “...Fuck,” he says, quietly. “Fuck, you’re absolutely right. Thank you. Oh, and Lance?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I-- never mind. I’ll tell you later. Have fun. At the Garrison. For whatever reason.” Heavy sarcasm does little to mask Keith's concern from him, but he doesn't seem to notice that himself. So, Lance does the part of pretending he didn't notice.

 

“Showbiz stops for no one, babe.”

 

“Suppose it doesn’t. Shiro, get your a--!” The call ends abruptly, thankfully not due to some earth-shattering emergency, but Keith simply not timing his break between pressing the call button and calling for his brother.

 

Lance’s Latte was cold by the time he brings it to his lips, seeking warmth in the winter cold. Only when he glances down does he see the ice beginning to form out of crevices in the paper, a low sigh escaping him. When had that happened? He knows it wasn’t when Keith called. No, it must’ve been before, when he’d made eye contact with someone familiar across the room--

 

Ezor had looked at him with unreadable eyes, staring holes into him with an eyebrow quirked. He’d regarded her tiredly with a nod, not quite comprehending that she was Ezor , one of the few people Allura had told him to avoid. He supposes that some part of him had caught up to him at that moment while the rest of him lagged, the feeling that settles in the pit of his stomach entirely unnerving.

 

The fire in his chest is just as soothing as the cold air on his tongue. He feels a warmth that isn’t his own pool in his palm, melting the ice. Steam rises from the cup a moment later, and he dares to take another sip.

 

Scalding hot.

 

He’d take a burnt tongue any day over cold, numbing caffeine.

 

Lance walks in silence, pulling an earbud from underneath his hoodie and shoving it unceremoniously into his ear. The music is low, the beat reverberating through his bones. But he doesn’t have a bounce to his step as he moves, attention caught on the way certain people stop and stare. No wonder in their eyes, just a familiarity. He recognizes most of them, classmates from the Garrison. Their brows always pinch together before they quickly look away, realizing that their attention hadn’t gone unnoticed. Whatever, he decides, let them stare. He could care less.

 

“--Lance,” cuts in a voice nearby, causing him to pull an earbud out. Estella is walking next to him, staring straight ahead. Not trying to draw attention to herself. “You alright?”

 

“Yeah,” he says, voice coming out too quiet to be an acceptable answer. “Why?”

 

Estella glances up at him, adjusts her glasses. “You walked past a car playing Pitbull and didn’t even stop to confirm that it was Pitbull,” she says simply. Lance finds himself shrugging.

 

“Wasn’t paying attention,” he lies.

 

Owlish eyes narrow incredulously. “You’ve behyper-focusinging on Lucy’s Brother’s backpack pins for the past two minutes.”

 

That’s Lucy’s brother? Lance blinks. Yup, they’ve got the same stupid birthmark on the back of their necks. But that’s odd, he thinks, returning his focus to the pins, namely the witchy-themed pride pin, he feels like a spellcaster. A strong one. Besides, he would have recognized his bag if he’d seen it. Right? “Oh,” he says, “guess I was. Sorry.”

 

“Don’t gotta apologize. I shouldn’t be prying.” She pauses, thoughtful. “Then again, I shouldn’t leave you all distracted, either. Something bothering you?”

 

Lance purses his lips. How to explain it to Estella? Would he give her a different response than what he was going to give Adina or Caldwell? With a huff, he decides that being indirect was best. Less questions if he sounded like he didn’t want to give answers. “Yeah. It’s nothing big, though. Just need to power through it.”

 

Estella, however, has never been one to take a hint easily. “Is it Keith? Oh my god, do I have to sucker punch your boyfriend? You guys are dating, right? Because it would be weird if you were making out in costume closets for fun. Unless you’re into that. I don’t really judge--”

 

“--It’s not Keith. Or Pidge, or Hunk, or anyone else. Just… school related, alright?”

 

She deems that a good enough answer, and splits down a separate street with a small wave. Lance returns his attention back to Lucy’s Brother’s pins. There’s a turtle on one of them. It’s cute. From the way he keeps glancing at a smartwatch secured on his wrist, he’s cutting close on time. But for now, he’s constant, walking in perfect strides down the sidewalk, with his numerous pins.

 

So Lance focuses on them for as long as he can, ignoring the burning sensation of eyes turning to him. He knows that they’re familiar. If he searches long enough he can find a friend to any extent. But if he finds them, then they’ll see right through his paper mache facade.

 

Breathe in.

 

Breathe out.

 

Make it to Hunk, and go from there.

 

The Garrison, as expected, is nearly deserted. There’s only a flicker of activity, mostly students living on-campus and professor Iverson surveying the campus with a hawk’s eye. He meets Lance’s eye briefly, as he passes by him en route to the dorms. Unbeknownst to Lance, Iverson whole-heartedly expects a usual jest at his eye, or a nice shin-kick to the ego. He’d been… insistent on the former, lately, giving away that he knows more than he lets on on more than one occasion. However, when Lance looks up at him with dark eyes that weren’t quite focused on him, but simply in his general direction, a terrible feeling settles in his gut. “Professor,” Lance says, his voice quiet. Too quiet. And he shoulders on by, hands tugging down the sleeves of a shirt just a bit too large for him.

 

Life continues on, though, and Iverson soon finds himself swept away by that Griffin kid, loudly arguing with Rizavi about the impossibility in putting a whole bag of warheads in your mouth. Meanwhile, Lance marches with entirely too confident strides, alone with his head bowed and frantic eyes wary of every person he passes. He’s too open. That’s what got him caught last time-- too much empty space. Not enough people. Not enough witnesses.

 

No, he corrects. He was a witness. A spare, meant to be tossed out the moment his use fell away.

 

His time long passed to be… removed from the equation.

 

With this realization close at his heels he picks up speed, wishes to disappear from sight altogether. His throat begins to close. His mouth is dry and encrusted with salt. He has to find Hunk.

 

Dully, he processes his hand rapping three times onto a door.

 

On the third, it swings open, and the weight from his shoulders immediately lifts. His cold hands find warmth, eyes seeking light in the warm brown gaze of a friend that blinks at him in shock, waiting for Lance to gather his words.

 

And Lance finds his voice, somewhere through the haze. “Do you still have a Netflix account?” He asks, still hugging himself tightly. “Heard they brought back that show we used to watch as kids.”

 

Lance will later be told that what he’s doing-- always fleeing every chance he can get when faced with a trigger-- is called a fight or flight reaction. That he tends to take flight more often than not.

 

But for now, he knows nothing, and flies far, far away, into the arms of the tether that keeps him from flying into the heat of the sun and melting away.

 

________________

 

“Okay, what doesn’t make sense to me about this is that Y'all motherfuckers told me that there wasn’t some secret organization that enforced laws and shit,” Matt says, typing furiously at a keyboard. Pidge is doing the same across from him, her face schooled into a similar look of frustration. “So, before anything else-- explain.”

 

“Emergency situation deal,” Keith says briefly, leaning back in his seat with his arms folded over his chest. “Top spellcasters get granted a special line of communication to maintain order. Prevent things like Zarkon when they came up. Voltron turned into exactly that, a bunch of spellcasters that wanted to go around and do the good no one qualified as being an ‘emergency’. No one enforces anything. Just people trying to make good with the talent they’ve got.”

 

“Can’t call the Paramedic when they’re down,” Pidge mumbles into her thumb. “I’ve located a team or three from Canada, South America, and Europe. Sending you their contact info.”

 

“Hey, Keith?”

 

Matt is still staring down at his computer with a look of perplexion and confusion, more than anything else. Slowly and gingerly, he turns his computer to face Keith. It’s a simple list,  some Coalition report to the ‘Order’. It notes Hira, the leader of some Voltron ripoff team in Boston, which doesn’t come as a shock. Neither does seeing Lotor in fifth. No, what startles Keith into a deathly stillness, is the woman in the team positioned in first. As if to confirm he isn’t seeing things, “The hell is your mom doing still on this list?”

 

His mind produces him no helpful information-- thoughts reeling and seeking out any instance where it could have been given away that she was apart of the strongest team of spellcasters in America, only to come up empty-handed. So he looks away from his mom’s name to eyes hidden behind glasses, and says, “I have no idea.”



Pidge gives him an incredulous look, one that sets off glaring warning signs in Keith’s already pounding skull. He waits for the other shoe to drop, having already mapped out every possible exit in the Holt household in the two seconds it takes for Pidge to get out with it. “She’s put down as AWOL in this,” she says, pointing out what Keith already knows. With the tell written on his face so stupidly obvious, “but you already knew that.”

 

“Yeah,” he says, voice coming out weak, inching slowly from his seat to the door,  “I did.”

 

But neither of the Holts blow up on Keith for keeping this from them. Nor do they command more from him. Instead, with a resigned sigh, Matt stands up from his seat. “Guess we’re all headed to Marmora HQ,” he instead says, brushing crumbs off of his pants. Keith doesn’t protest, having come to their house with the knowledge that somehow, some way, they’d want to worm into his little side quest. “Katie, tell mom that we’ll be back by dinner.”

 

Pidge scrunches up her nose. “Ma!” She cries down the hall, still firmly planted on the couch. Colleen shouts back in response, unintelligible to Keith. “We’re going out with Keith! Get those fuckin chicken bakes from Costco when you go and leave them in the microwave!”

 

“Language! We have guests!”

 

With a hearty laugh and a harsh slap on his sister’s shoulder, Matt only pauses briefly. He looks back at Keith, lips pressed into a thin line, and nods with understanding before his keys sail directly into his unsuspecting face. “Alright,” he says, head now facing forward. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”

Chapter Text

Y'all read the title and most of you are probably aware of how useless and gay I am by now but anyway let's not draw this out any more than we have to--

 

Swim season's started up again. This means my tennis elbow (which still hasn't healed yet) is immeasurably painful. Domino effect is; I need to let my arms heal in my free time as much as they can, this still isn't finished, rinse and repeat. 

 

When swim season ends I will continue this fic. For now? All you need to know is that I haven't abandoned this. I just can't do that to my readers again. However, I will not sacrifice my physical well-being to see this fic through, something that is an easy choice without me having readers that constantly bug me for updates (I Can And Will Die For Each And Every One Of You, Basically).

 

See you around the bend when I'm on the mend :)

Chapter Text

A brief update to let y'all know I'm going to be periodically posting my original works/drabbles onto a new work, titled "Can't Tell if This is a Dream"! It's mostly character studies and drabbles to get footholds on plots, but I'll occasionally post some school assignments that use my characters!

 

(Shoutout to MzMaau for telling me they'd read my original works because I'd probably still be considering it right now instead of posting it lol)

 

Link Here!

Chapter Text

Lance stifles a yawn against the back of his hand, grunting to the person next to him that kicks his shin. Kicking her back, he glares down at Adina over his hand. She only looks back at him with a quirked brow, expression schooled into cool indifference. 

 

    “Pay attention,” she says, quiet. “And stop being so quiet. It’s unsettling.”

 

    “ You’re unsettling,” he manages, stealing a glance to his notes. He’d stopped in the middle of a sentence, a headache already forming as he tried to recall what the professor said next. When nothing comes up, he prys Adina’s notes from her, mumbling some excuse about not listening.

 

    Which, he wasn’t, he hasn’t been for the past fifteen minutes, mind in the clouds. He recalls the trigger that sent him into that state, a simple musing of what Allura was up to, right about now. Last he’d checked, she was still working on getting Romelle granted the status of foreign exchange student. Naturally, that led to him thinking about Keith, scratching at his arms as he squints at the contents of a dusty book, mumbling to himself about how she has to remember more. Which led to Lance thinking of cold, dark cells, dimly entertaining the horrifying thought that once, she was in a room like that, in his position. 

 

    “Hey, Adina,” Lance hisses, still glaring at the presentation on the board, not a lick of it familiar any more. His friend huffs in acknowledgement, refusing to look up from her own notes, neat and perfect compared to his terrible scrawl. “I need your notes from last week.”

 

    Adina only scoffs, rolling her right shoulder back. “Freeloader.” Then, “I’ll email them after class.”

 

    “Have I ever told you I love you?”

 

    “Save it for your boyfriend.”

 

    “Asshole.”

 

    “Dick.”

 

    “McClain, Nguyen!” Snaps the professor, rubbing at his temples idly. “If you’re done talking instead of listening--”

 

    “--Bold assumption,” Adina mutters against her hand, still beautifully pulling off the twin look of shame Lance had schooled himself into. When the professor turns his back on them, the shame immediately drops into smug snickers shared between the two.

    After class, Lance catches up with Keith and Shiro-- the latter of which looks about five seconds away from a mental breakdown as he types away at his phone. Keith only rolls his eyes at his brother’s distress, dismissing it with the wave of a gloved hand. “Adam’s been getting blasts to the past because someone ,” he says, glaring at his brother, “didn’t tell him that touching everything he sees is a really bad idea.”

 

    Lance nods in understanding, adjusting his grip on Keith’s hand as the two of them observe Shiro’s fumbling, both with apathy. When his phone starts ringing and Shiro nearly launches it into the air, they say nothing but deadpan him when he looks up sheepishly. Holding the phone up to his ear, “Hey, Adam--”

 

    “--I’m going to go into fucking cardiac arrest if you don’t tell me what to do in the next--” Adam’s cut off abruptly from Shiro’s panicked fumble, his thumb shooting to the speaker button.

 

_____

 

….And that’s it. That’s all I have left written, without direction in any of my outlines, as vague as they are. I didn’t even write down how I wanted the fic to end. But, I can tell you what I did write down.

 

Krolia was supposed to wake up at the end of this chapter, with most of the focus being on Adam and what happened after he got captured. The next few chapters would be centered around her, and the information that she can give about Zarkon. The remainder of the fic is dedicated to bringing together all members of the coalition to bring justice.

 

In concerns with specific characters—

 

-Krolia (Primary Healing Secondary environmental manipulation) is in a perma-meditation state from the passing of Keith (& Shiro)’s father. She’ll wake up halfway through the fic, and is revealed when Keith trusts Lance enough to know the whole story (13?). This is most likely two chapters before Lance is captured. 

-Romelle comes in a chapter after he’s captured at Keith’s shop without knowing who she is or why she’s here, just that her instinct led her to the Black Lion. Maybe she shows up on the human side?? Idk (Note: Romelle is a Demiurge brought to life by Haggar, and soon grows her own sentience and a wish to be her own person, turning against her. This is unbeknownst to her, as she gains sentience far too quickly and Hagar herself reveals it to her.)

 

-Adam becomes a vital part of ToG, as he’s located across from Allura’s cell when her and Lance get captured by Haggar. When they break out, he recognizes Shiro, who he thought had died. Future me can deal with it and integrate him (I did do that!), but current set-in-stone backstory is that: Shiro used to do team duels with a bunch of his friends (One is Lucy’s older brother), and Adam would occasionally surprise him afterward and walk him home. One time, they were attacked after a particularly bad argument, and Shiro attempted to teleport them away to safe them. This led to the loss of his arm, and sent him to his intended destination-- Juniberry books. He comes to the belief that Adam died or was lost in the space-time continuum due to the effect paired with teleportation, and drops out of duelling.

- During Adam’s “integration back into society” (and into the magical society; he was used as an experiment to turn non-spellcasters into spellcasters), it’s revealed that Shiro, although still an upper-classmen, is way older than Lance originally thought. He tells them that he wasn’t able to pursue a degree due to helping Keith cope with Krolia’s situation, coupled with what he calls “a magic thing” when explaining it to the others. 

-The “magic thing” is a weakness in the biocomponents that differentiate spellcasters from humans. This is why you never see Shiro himself use aether magic-- if he did, it would eat him from the inside out with just the littlest bit of usage. 

-Adam’s magic is power absorption (he will frequently take Shiro’s aether) and Eidetic memory. He was only kept due to Haggar wanting to see if she could make him proficient in more magics.

 

I’m sorry I couldn’t deliver on my once promise. Swim season ended months ago, and my arms are still healing, but I wanted to at least give you something. I just don’t feel the same love for this show as I did a few years ago, and any spite has long since burned off. I’m starting a new fic— shorter, without large expectations— and this time there’s nothing that can ruin the joy it brings me, because the Adventure Zone handles LGBT  and POC characters with nothing but respect. If you enjoyed my writing, I have a collection of short snippets from worlds I’ve developed over the years, found here

 

It was an honor flying with you all.