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look, my darling, the distance has vanished

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It turns out that even intergalactic battles don’t excuse you from a skincare regimen.

“How long do you have to wear that?” Keith mumbles around the spare toothbrush Lance had found for him.

“Two more minutes,” Lance says.

Keith glances at him from the bathroom. Lance is sprawled on the bed, clad in blue pajamas and robe and sporting a green face mask. His legs dangle off the bed; one of his cat slippers is hanging off his foot, and the other has already given up and fallen to the floor. He looks careless and carefree, like this is the follow up to a day of hanging out with friends instead of the follow up to a life-or-death battle.

It’s odd after so much chaos, and incongruous with the focused sharpshooter that Lance is during fights, but Keith likes it. He likes the tiny bubble of peace and normality that exists in this room, in this moment.

He finishes brushing his teeth, washes his face, leaves the bathroom, goes back inside the bathroom and washes his face again (because that was barely even a splash, Keith, oh my god, I can’t believe I kissed you when you don’t even wash your face properly). As he goes back into the bedroom again Lance gets up, sticks his cat slippers back on, and goes into the bathroom to remove the face mask. Keith isn’t sure what to do in the interim, so he hovers awkwardly by the bed, hoping it won’t take Lance long to come back out.

A minute later he emerges. He does finger guns at Keith and winks.

“Well? Am I awash with a handsome, dewy glow?”

(he is handsome, the handsomest boy Keith has ever seen, and his skin is glowing, and Keith isn’t a hundred percent sure of what dewy means but he’s pretty sure that applies too)

But Keith likes messing with him just as much as he likes his handsome, glowing, dewy face, so he squints and says, “Uh. Maybe?”

Lance frowns, though it’s obviously fake. “Rude,” he says. He walks over to Keith, so close Keith can see each individual freckle scattered across Lance’s nose and cheeks. “I was going to kiss you, but I guess you’d rather not kiss someone who isn’t handsome.”

A part of Keith almost melts, but he manages to stand his ground.

“Suit yourself,” he says, shrugging. “You probably don’t want to kiss someone with such horrible face washing habits.”

Lance screws up his face in outrage. “How dare you use my tactics against me.”

Keith starts to respond, but Lance cups his face and kisses him, and his retort is lost in a soft oh. His hands come up to the base of Lance’s neck, his fingers tangling in the hair curling along it—

“Ow!”

They break apart.

“That kinda pulled,” Lance says with a grimace.

Keith slides his hands down to Lance’s shoulders, abashed. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, I was just startled.” Lance runs his hand through his hair. “I haven’t worn it this long in ages. I should probably cut it soon.”

“Don’t,” Keith says, before he can think about it.

Lance blinks at him.

“I mean.” Keith blushes. “I like it like this. It’s nice.”

Lance raises an eyebrow. To Keith’s delight he can see his ears growing red. “I don’t know if I should take hair advice from you, mullet.”

Keith scowls and shoves at his chest, though gently. Lance cackles.

“Maybe I will keep it like this,” he concedes, and then he walks over to the door and opens it and—

Keith’s stomach lurches.

“Where are you going?”

The words burst out of him, too loud and too blunt. Lance turns and blinks at him. Keith flushes.

“I mean—you can—go wherever—” Mortification creeps up his spine. “Sorry. I don’t know why I panicked.”

Lance smiles, reassuring but strangely sad. “It’s okay,” he says. “I was just gonna get some water. Do you want to come too?”

An irrational part of Keith wants to say yes, but he forces it down. “No, I’m good.”

“Cool. I’ll be back in a couple minutes, okay?”

“Okay,” Keith says, and as soon as the door shuts he immediately regrets it, because without Lance the room is quiet and empty and he is alone and for some reason it is unbearable and—

“Get a grip,” he mutters. “You were alone earlier and it was fine. This is fine.”

To give himself something to do he sits on the edge of the bed and pulls off his boots. He sets them beside the bedside table, takes off his jacket and hangs it up on the hook by the door, then goes back to sitting on the edge of the bed. After a few seconds he realizes his hands are clenched into fists.

“Calm down,” he tells himself sternly.

He unclenches his fists, but then his leg starts jiggling in place, and he has to bite back an audible groan because this is stupid, this is so stupid, he used to be alone all the time and it was fine, he can’t believe that kissing Lance a couple times has made him so fucking pathetic—

The door whooshes open. Keith jumps to his feet and despite his best efforts he can’t help the gigantic smile that spreads across his face when Lance comes back in.

(pathetic, so so so pathetic—)

“I’m back!” Lance says, holding up a cup of water. He sets it on the bedside table then smacks a kiss to Keith’s cheek. “Did you miss me?”

No, Keith should say, no, because I’m a totally normal person who definitely did not have a small breakdown while you were gone, but his cheek is buzzing a little from where Lance had kissed it and he feels weirdly warm and glowy inside, like there’s sunshine inside of him, sunshine that rests dormant unless Lance is with him.

So he says, “Yeah,” says it very quiet and very simple, and he feels the buzzing in his cheek change to burning as he blushes.

(—so fucking pathetic—)

Lance is beaming, beaming as bright as the sun that has taken up residence in Keith’s insides.

“I gotta ask Hunk and Pidge tomorrow if someone can explode from happiness,” he says, and Keith’s embarrassment fades as quickly as it came.

(—maybe not pathetic. maybe cheesy, corny, romantic—but not pathetic)

“I feel like I’m too happy to sleep,” Lance goes on, “but we really should at least lie down. But first,” he scrunches up his face a bit, “do you have to sleep in your day clothes? Wouldn’t you rather wear pajamas?”

Keith looks down at himself. “Uh.” His gaze shifts to Lance, who is soft and rumpled and comfy in his robe and pajamas and cat slippers. “I usually just take off the jacket and shoes.”

“I thought you slept in your jacket, too.”

“No,” says Keith, then at Lance’s skeptical eyebrow admits, “Sometimes.”

“Hmm.”

“I guess—” He swallows. He hates the thought of not being prepared to jump out of bed at a moment’s notice. “I guess I can—wear the red pajamas—or—”

Lance’s voice is gentle. “Hey.”

Keith snaps his mouth shut.

“It’s okay,” Lance says, and Keith gives him a grateful look. “I can put up with your smelly clothes for a few hours.”

“They aren’t smelly,” Keith protests. “I wash them.”

“When? Before we left earth?”

“Shut up,” Keith grumbles, and Lance laughs.

“Come on, let’s lie down,” he says.

He hangs up the robe over Keith’s jacket on the hook, puts the cat slippers beside Keith’s boots, and Keith’s heart constricts. He had expected this to feel stiff, awkward, unnatural, but it just feels comfortingly domestic, like they’ve done this every night for years.

Lance glances at him before getting under the covers. “I think I know the answer, but do you prefer closer to the wall or to the door?”

“Door.”

“Cool.” Lance slides over to the wall and lies down. “Are you just gonna stand there?”

Now that Lance is in bed Keith feels a little ridiculous wearing all his clothes. But he doesn’t want to wear the pajamas either, it’s too vulnerable, so—

“Would it bother you if I slept in this,” he gestures to his t-shirt, “and boxers?”

Lance blinks, then smirks. “Wow, I can’t believe the best pilot of our generation is gonna take off his pants for me.”

Keith feels his face heat. “Shut up,” he says again, as Lance waggles his eyebrows. “It’s just easier. It’s more comfortable but I don’t have to worry about taking off the pajamas and putting my clothes back on if there’s an emergency.”

“Sure,” Lance says, then as Keith starts to remove his pants, “I bet you have alien printed boxers. Or maybe a whole set with different conspiracy theory figures on each one.”

Keith rolls his eyes.

“You’re not denying it,” Lance observes, grinning. He sits up, leans over, and pretends to leer at Keith’s red-boxer-clad legs. “Dark Keith show me the mothman printed underpants.”

“I don’t have mothman printed underpants,” Keith says. He leaves his pants crumpled by Lance’s cat slippers, turns off the lights, then sidles under the covers. He side-eyes Lance, then says reluctantly, “I do have alien ones, though.”

“Ha!”

“It’s only one pair!” Keith says indignantly, crossing his arms. Lance falls back onto the pillows, still cackling. “I got them three years ago!”

It takes a few seconds for Lance to stop laughing, but he pulls at Keith’s arms right away. “No,” he manages to say as his laughter fades, “don’t do that, don’t be mad.”

Keith uncrosses his arms. “I’m not mad.”

“I know, just—” Lance tugs at his arm. “Come here.”

Keith lies down on his side. Lance is on his side too. He folds his hands beneath his cheek and smiles at Keith, and for a second Keith can’t breathe, because he remembers the last time they lay like this, remembers how far away Lance had felt, remembers how badly he had wanted to reach out and touch him. He can barely believe that he is here now. Lance is right next to him. Keith can reach out and touch him whenever he wants.

So he does. He scoots closer to Lance and puts his arm around his waist. Both boys stare at each other for a moment.

“So,” Lance says finally, “is there a reason you’ve advanced upon me?”

Keith’s eyes widen and his stomach drops and and shit shit shit he shouldn’t have done that Lance doesn’t want—

He snatches his arm back as if it’s been burned but Lance catches his wrist.

“Hey,” he says. He brings Keith’s hand to his lips and kisses it through the gap in the glove. A little pinprick of warmth shoots through Keith at the gesture. “I was just kidding. You don’t have to leave.”

“Oh.”

Keith wants to put his arm around Lance again, but Lance is still holding his hand. They lie there in contented silence for another minute or so. Lance twines his fingers with Keith’s and rests their hands on the space between their heads.

“I,” Keith begins, then pauses to suppress his sudden flare of embarrassment. He forces past it and says, “I’ve thought about this a lot.”

“About what?”

“This. Lying here. With you.”

Lance’s eyes glitter in the dark. “Really?”

“Yeah. Do you remember when I called you in the middle of the night?”

“The sleepover call.”

“Yeah,” Keith says again. “I wanted to do this then. That call—” Keith breaks off, struggling. He wants to tell Lance how much that call had meant to him, how much he’d liked that they had stayed on even after falling asleep, how much he’d thought about it afterward, how he had felt so close and so far to Lance at the same time, how he would have traded everything he had to be able to lie next to Lance for real instead of looking at a screen, how he can’t believe that he gets to be here now and be near Lance whenever he wants.

But he can’t say all of that out loud, can’t say any of that out loud, so he just says lamely, “I liked that call.”

Lance smiles again, the warm crinkly smile that makes Keith feel like Lance can see right into his head and his heart and know what he means.

“Me too” is all he says, and he kisses Keith’s hand a second time. He turns it over, moves to pull off the glove.

Keith tenses. Lance freezes.

“No?” he asks.

“It’s not you,” Keith says after a second, trying to relax. His shoulders feel tight. “I was just—surprised. I’m just not used to being this close to anyone.”

“Physically or emotionally?”

“Both.”

Lance puts their hands back between them on the pillow. Keith watches the movement with a guilty tug in his gut.

“Sorry,” he mutters.

“Don’t apologize,” Lance says firmly. “It’s my fault for not asking first. I want you to be comfortable and you should tell me if you don’t like or don’t want something. Boundaries are important. Okay?”

“Okay.” Keith looks at their hands and a settled feeling replaces the guilty one. “Thanks.”

“Speaking of which,” Lance continues, propping himself up on his elbow and looking down at Keith, “what are we?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are we friends with bed-sharing benefits? Are we just a coupla dudes doin’ dude things like making out and holding hands? Are we boyfriends?” It’s hard to tell in the dark but Keith thinks that Lance might be blushing. He wishes he could see it properly. “Cause I want to be your boyfriend but I get it if that’s too much or if it’s too soon—”

“I want that too,” Keith interrupts, before he can lose his nerve. “To be—boyfriends.”

Lance beams and kisses Keith’s hand for the third time.

“I also want you to kiss my mouth and not my hand,” Keith says next, trying to ignore the sudden heat flooding his face.

Lance’s beam melts into another smirk, and the sight of it here, in the dark, in bed, when they are so close and their hands are twined together, is enough to make Keith’s stomach twist. “You could kiss me too, you know, if you’re so impati—mmf!”

Several minutes pass before either of them talk again.

“Are we gonna tell everyone else,” Lance asks, one hand running idly through Keith’s hair, “or are we gonna let them figure it out on their own? Cause if we’re going with the first option I’m definitely gonna run into breakfast tomorrow and yell at everyone that you’re my boyfriend. And then hold your hand through the meal.”

It takes Keith a moment to respond. His face is in Lance’s neck and Lance’s arms are wrapped around him and their legs are twined together and this feels thrillingly new and like something they’ve done for years at the same time. “How will you eat?” he asks at length, his voice muffled a little by Lance’s neck.

“I’ll hold your hand with my left one,” Lance explains, “and eat with my right. Benefits of dating a boy with a different dominant hand. We can eat and be disgustingly romantic at the same time.”

“Pidge is gonna hate us,” Keith says mildly.

“Good,” Lance declares. “If we’re strategic about grossing her out she might leave her food behind and we’ll get to eat it instead. It’ll give us extra strength when we team up on punching Lotor during negotiations.”

Keith thinks he’s ridiculous, and a ridiculous Lance is a Lance worth kissing, so he tilts his head up and does just that.

“Keith,” Lance says a minute later, still so close their noses are brushing and Keith has to work to concentrate on what Lance is saying, “your knees are really bony.”

Keith doesn’t know whether to be amused or offended, so he just says “what” very flatly.

“Your knees,” Lance repeats, very seriously, “are really bony.”

Keith can’t tell if this is a genuine complaint or not. “Am I supposed to do something about it?”

“I’m regretting letting you remove your pants,” Lance clarifies. “I should have known better.” His expression is somber, but Keith can see the sparkle of humor in his eyes. “I can’t believe you took off your pants for me on our very first night together.”

To Keith’s chagrin he can feel himself blushing once more. He pulls away from Lance, though he doesn’t let go of him. “Stop saying it like that.”

Keith.” Lance gasps dramatically, fighting the grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. “You cad. You shameless scoundrel. Stripping in front of a gentleman and forcing him to put up with your knobbly knees!”

Keith suppresses a laugh. “How do they even bother you that much?” he asks. “Don’t you have padding? You have your pajama pants on.”

“Yes, and they are going to stay on,” Lance says sternly, “because unlike some people, I am a good decent upstanding young man with impeccable morals.” He starts to say something else, but yawns instead. He blinks sheepishly. “I’m also a good decent upstanding young man who recognizes that even though he wants to keep kissing you he also needs his sleep before facing a slimy purple alien prince, so…shall we snooze?”

Sleep is tugging at Keith’s eyes, so he agrees, albeit reluctantly. He scoots closer to Lance, moves to tuck his head in Lance’s neck again.

“Wait.”

Keith stops and looks up. Lance has a dumb dopey grin on his face.

“Before we go to sleep,” he says, “I have to tell you: I love you.”

Keith flushes. It’s still strange to hear Lance say it, especially when he’s so close. “You already said that,” he reminds him, mostly to distract from how pink his face is.

“That was an hour ago,” Lance says. “I have to say it every hour so you don’t forget.”

“I’m not gonna forget.” Truly he thinks he couldn’t forget even if he tried; he could live for a thousand more years and still remember Lance saying it. “But, um.” His face grows hotter. “You can keep saying it anyway.”

Lance’s eyes are bright. “Good, cause I gotta make up for the next six vargas when I’ll be asleep and can’t say it.” He kisses him on the mouth—“I love you”—the corners of his mouth—“I love you, I love you”—the tip of his nose—“I love you”—his cheeks—“I love you, I love you.” The kisses are soft and swift, peppered along Keith’s skin like confetti; he blinks at the contact, giddy warm contentment blooming in his chest and tiny thrills curling in his stomach, and his mouth can’t help but curve into a dumb dopey grin of its own.

“There,” Lance says finally. “Six times. One for every hour. Now we can go to sleep.”

Keith hides his face against Lance’s shoulder.

“You’re really fucking corny,” he mumbles, then, slowly, quietly, “but I like it.”

Lance laughs. Keith feels it more than hears it, feels the vibration in Lance’s chest, and he thinks his heart might burst.

“I’m glad,” he says fondly. “Good night, babe.”

“Good night,” Keith replies.

A minute or so passes. Keith doesn’t shut his eyes; he hears Lance’s breathing even out and deepen, feels the rise and fall of his chest grow more rhythmic. He waits, listens, feels, and he is overwhelmed by how incredible it is that he is here right now, how incredible it is that he is happy. He is happy that he is happy, happy that he can be happy even after the life he has had, happy that even after everything he can still feel like this, light and bright and effervescent.

This feeling, this happiness, is bigger than himself. It’s so big it feels like it fills up the room and the castle ship and the whole universe. For a moment he wonders how the source of something so all-encompassing can be something as ordinary as the boy next to him, but then he remembers Lance being there for him whenever he needs him, remembers hey man and I got you, buddy and I like you and I love you too, and suddenly it makes sense. Of course Lance would be the center of such an extraordinary feeling; how could he not be, when he is so extraordinary himself?

Keith wants to wake him up, wants to tell him all of this and watch his face light up. But Lance looks so peaceful, and Keith isn’t sure he can actually say any of that out loud, not yet, so he tucks it away in his heart to tell him another time.

Instead he tips his head up, presses a kiss to Lance’s jaw.

“I love you,” he whispers.

Lance mumbles something in his sleep and tightens his hold on him. Keith smiles, tucks his face back against Lance’s shoulder, then closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.