“Love, like everything else in life, should be a discovery, an adventure, and like most adventures, you don’t know you’re having one until you’re right in the middle of it."
In space, you never really know what to expect.
Blasting through enemy ships, wormholes spinning you to unknown places, giant robotic sentient lions- all of these things Keith never thought he could get used to until he did. One day you go to sleep wondering if any of it is real and the next? The next you wake up knowing it is, understanding that this is your life now and there's no going back.
Even after Lotor had been trapped within the Quintessence field, Keith thought that nothing would surprise him again. He'd seen it all, hadn't he?
After they decided to take off for Earth, it became alarmingly apparent that getting there would take time. And though each paladin loves spending time with their lions, housing several other people proved to be rather difficult. They became cranky, searching for room and privacy and finding none. So, the paladin's had been sent by Allura to search for any large hunk of junk capable of housing not only them, but all five lions. It took weeks but eventually, finally, they did it. It was infinitely better than the cramped spaces of their piloting cabins and Keith, while knowing not to get too attached to any kind of ship now, welcomed his new bed with open arms.
But waking to it is a totally different story. Where once his walls glowed a dim blue, sterility following his footsteps, this ship is the epitome of thrown together. Gargantuan, sure. But where the Castle Ship had walls of sterling and white, this is simply mucky metal. Silver but darker, looking worn and unsure.
Keith sighs and runs a hand down his face, feeling ages older and all the more exhausted. He winces at the groan of the ship when he splashes some stale water on his face, pushing his hair back with a sharp tug. It's longer now and he thinks that maybe, eventually, he should probably get it cut.
He brushes his teeth and goes about his normal routine, always one to finish long before the others.
When he steps into the hallway, he's immediately met with the pulsing glow of a ruddy orange. Bulbs hang in strange patterns but he's long since given up trying to figure them out; all he cares about is that they continue to shine.
With a yawn, he shuffles his way into the main cabin and makes a beeline for the kitchen, already smelling one of Hunk's delicious creations. It's heavy but sweet, like apples or something citric.
It makes his stomach rumble.
"Yo." Pidge says the moment Keith walks in, her head bowed over a clunky piece of tech.
Keith grunts and looks for the source of the smell, wanting nothing more than to eat and get to work. While this ship has no training deck, it at least has a room filled with gear that they picked up from multiple space malls. Something resembling a punching bag is his favorite and he flexes his fingers, already feeling the tension falling away with each hit.
"Hungry?" Hunk asks and turns around with a tray in his hands, the food sending wafts of heaven to Keith's nose.
"Always." Keith sits and reaches for one of the strange buns, uncaring of the heat that finds his fingers.
He shoves it in his mouth and chews fast, eyes finally growing used to the slightly brighter lights in the kitchen. It's dated but works just as good if all of the cooking has anything to say about it.
"New recipe." Hunk takes another tray from behind him and slides it on the counter, watching as Pidge tries to find one without looking away from her tech, "Basically threw in some of the weird fruit we found at the space mall a few days ago and Coran showed me the alien equivalent of bread and bam. Sweet fruity alien buns."
"Delicious, Hunk." And Keith means it.
Hunk lets out a rumbling laugh and urges Keith to take another, which he happily does.
And it's just when he's shoved the entire thing into his mouth, making both of his cheeks puff out, that he hears the voices coming from the main cabin.
He hears Allura, elegant and light; Coran following soon after. He's barks a laugh and Shiro's soft voice follows, the sound making Keith's chest tighten. Now that Shiro is back, Keith takes in the timbre of his words and holds it close.
"...so I said, why the hell not?!" Lance practically shouts, voice drifting closer and closer, until Keith is turning to take him in.
He'd been gone for several days but Keith was clueless as to where he went and the unknowing refused to sit peacefully within him. He needs to know, desperately, that all of his friends are never too far from him. That he could always be there if they needed help.
At the sight of Lance, unscathed and smiling, Keith's shoulders relax. He takes to chewing again and doesn't even care that he'll be mocked within minutes of Lance spotting his puffed cheeks. But, surprisingly, the blue paladin simply looks at him and raises a lone sharp brow.
And then he looks away.
Keith glances at Pidge but she shrugs, just as clueless.
It's only when Lance steps to the side that Keith can't help but choke. Just a bit, from a piece of bun stuck on the roof of his mouth, before turning to Hunk for something to drink. He grasps the juice and chugs, urging himself to breathe.
For him to not cough his lungs out.
"So, yeah. Thanks for letting me pick him up, Allura." Lance finishes up, "This is Thraine, our newest guest."
"A...guest." Shiro questions, cautious but still rather curious.
Keith turns to take the Galran in, eyeing him from top to bottom. He's tall, which is definitely not surprising. And Keith doesn't really care to study the long tail trailing behind him, nor the sharp plains of his face.
What has caught his attention is the suit.
A Blade member.
Standing, Keith expects the visitor is here for him. Allura hasn't mentioned anyone from the alliance needing audience with her nor has Kolivan contacted them with news of battle. Why else would the guy be here?
"Yup." Lance grins and places his hands on his hips, nodding at Shiro with enthusiasm, "He's a friend."
"Wait." Keith finally speaks up and clears his throat, "Friend?"
"Uh, yeah." Lance speaks as if Keith were hard of hearing, "Friend. You know, someone you talk to and hang out with-"
"But he's a Blade." Keith furrows his brow, "How do you even know each other?"
"If I may." The Blade finally speaks up, his voice surprisingly soft compared to the sharp claws on his fingers, "We met during my drills with the team, during planet-fall many quintents ago. The red lion had released my squad into the air."
"And we got to talking," Lance looks strangely proud, "and next thing you know, we're keeping up with each other via space phone."
He holds up the rectangular device that Allura had given each of them after they'd first arrived at the Castle of Lions. Thinking back now, however, Keith isn't very sure where his even is. Keith glowers, thoughts starting to run several miles a minute.
Allura claps her hands and smiles, trying to diffuse the situation before it can blow up to be something more. She no doubt sees the look in Keith's eye, the distrust and confusion. Which, almost always, leads to miscommunication and confrontation.
"We are pleased to have you aboard." She looks to the rest of the team, "Thraine will be journeying with us to lay the first Marmoran base on Earth. Exciting, yes?"
For a long while, there is silence. Lance looks at them and as the silence grows, his eager introductions fall flat.
"Cool." Hunk eyes his best friend and picks up a tray, finally coming to the rescue, "I bet you're hungry, huh? I finished these several ticks ago!"
Thraine bows his head and finally pushes his hood away from his face, revealing rather tall ears. They flick back and he takes a bun, large eyes growing bright at the taste.
Hunk beams and Lance leads Thraine to the counter, pulling a seat for him as if he were some delegate from an important planet. Keith bawks, eyebrows raised to his hairline, mouth agape.
And as Lance pushes the tray closer to them both, Keith can only think one thing.
What the fuck?
During his training and missions with the Blade, Keith learned that they are allowed to care but never to risk failure. You leave your friends, you leave those who mean the most to you and you finish what you start.
He'd been around countless members and saw them come and go with the sway of death, faces an ever changing array. Furred and scaled, smooth as satin and hard as rock. But Thraine is contradicting all that Keith knew of Marmoran life.
Where his tail is close to reptilian, his hair and ears are like that of Keith's own mother, almost catlike. And though he holds his body in trained solidarity, his face is full of emotion.
It confuses Keith. Makes him stare and study, eyes taking in the interactions with nothing short of suspicion. He's immediately brought back to Lotor's face, full of smiles and promises- all a lie.
"Scowl any harder and your face will get stuck." Pidge snickers, chewing on some weird paste she snatched from the last stop at a space mall.
"Whatever." Keith sighs and tears his eyes away from Thraine, instead choosing to focus on the others.
Shiro is reserved but finally out of his room, hair grown shaggy enough to hang well across his forehead. He smiles at something Allura says but doesn't add anything to the conversation.
"Did ya' know him?" Pidge nods toward Thraine, "You know. While you went all assassin rouge on us?"
Keith scoffs, "Nah."
"Wonder why Kolivan didn't just come himself." She leans back on the couch and stretches her arms, cracking her joints.
Shrugging, Keith looks back to Thraine, "Probably leading some missions toward Haggar. Holding them off until we can come back."
"Why?" Keith furrows his brows, "Somethin' feel off to you?"
"Not really." Pidge hums, "But Lance is being kinda weird."
Keith finally looks to the blue paladin, noticing the way his cheeks seem just a tad pinker than usual. His eyes are wide, taking in the story Thraine is spouting about some mission and the frozen planet he'd been stuck on. Lance nods his head and shifts closer, folded knees practically rubbing against the Marmoran's long thigh.
"He's always like that." Keith counters, "Probably two seconds away from flirting-"
Lance laughs but it isn't forced. It's not for show and Keith is shocked than he can tell, the small snort that follows ridiculous and dorky but fully him.
Keith wipes the small smile from his own face at the noise and looks back to Pidge, ignoring the way she studies him.
"Anyway," She sighs and chews some more, rolling her eyes behind the round glasses sitting on her nose, "I'm gonna go find Matt soon. Get him to help me connect the core system to the flux. Think your mom will be up to lifting me into the inner consoles?"
Keith shrugs again, pretending he understood even a word of what she said.
She stands and jumps over the back of the couch, giving a small salute to the others before leaving through the doorway behind them. Lance looks away from Thraine for a moment, face flushed, but doesn't call out a goodbye.
His eyes slide over Keith once but they soon land on Thraine again, enthralled.
It makes Keith tense, his scowl returning in record time. But he doesn't leave and he doesn't speak, instead intent on sinking into the couch and letting this conversation pass. The more he learns about the Marmoran, the better.
Beating a hard bag to a pulp is only partially what Keith intended to do. He wanted to clear his head, just as he does every morning, and he wanted to keep his muscles tough.
But his punches are a tad too hard and before he knows it, his knuckles have become bloodied. Letting out a pained hiss, he lowers his arms and watches as drops of blood drip to the floor, trying to slow his breathing in small increments. There's no real reason to his frustration. He was a Blade but now he's back, safe and welcomed by his family. Red had been all too happy to see him and though he enjoys co-piloting Black, he finds himself drawn to the red lion more often than not.
After he pushes the bag into the crevice in the wall, he runs the back of his hand across his sweaty forehead and knows that now is one of those times.
With hurried steps he makes his way to the Hangar and feels his tense shoulders settle when the doors slide open. It's dark inside but that's never a problem, the lions so huge he can easily tell them apart. He makes it halfway before he hears the voices, whispers traveling between the hunks of metal littering the floor.
Keith ducks and slides his back against Green, hoping the lion won't mind.
The whispers are rushed and sharp and Keith can't tell if someone is fighting or, more likely, sneaking. His mind immediately turns to infiltration, the Blade member seeming more and more like a hidden threat than a guest by the minute. Keith doesn't have his bayard nor his own knife but that won't stop him, not for a second.
He rounds Green's leg and clenches his fists, more than ready to put an end to whatever's happening before it can even begin.
What he doesn't expect is to see Lance.
And, furthermore, Thraine.
They're close and though Keith has never been one to enjoy close personal contact himself, even he can tell that their proximity is enough to hold a semblance of something more than simple acquaintances.
Friend. Lance's voice echoes and Keith suddenly feels foolish; utterly ridiculous.
Of all of them, of course Lance would make friends with the Marmoran.
Keith begins to turn away, cheeks heating with some form of embarrassment but Lance's soft laugh makes him glance back. And the hand on Lance's shoulder, clawed and large but ultimately gentle, leaves something twisting in his stomach.
With a huff, Keith goes retraces the way he came and doesn't bother turning back.