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it's okay if you can't find the words (let me take your coat and this weight off of your shoulders)

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They make many stops on their way to Earth. The travel is long and boring and Keith imagines it’s been a month since losing the Castle of Lions. Currently, they’re stationed on a planet Krolia recommended, one with purple skies and many moons. It is so unlike Earth that not a single thought of comparing the two crosses his mind. Keith’s forgotten the name of it already, but it is beautiful.

Keith sits on a cliff’s edge. The planet’s sunset fell long ago, but its moons light the valley below him with a dreamy glow. Though dark, he can see a vast river winding its way through a thick forest, where various animal calls refuse a silent night. Keith finds he doesn’t mind the company, his own cosmic wolf, Blue, likely nipping at the heels of a certain Blue paladin.

Said paladin was attending the planet’s meet and greet. Keith had left him and the others to deal with the politics of being hosted, and Krolia had joined them, given her knowledge of the people. Keith, however, unaccustomed to the politics after his time in the Marmora, didn’t.
And, he hates to admit, he ran away before the team had the chance to ask him to join. Keith had been too afraid that they would’ve left him behind without a second thought, so he left them first.

Hadn’t this always been his way, he wonders, before squashing the thought with a shake of his head. An animal’s trill rings through the air from below the cliff and Keith clears his head from the thoughts.

No. It had been his way, for a while. At the Garrison, after Shiro. But then they’d formed Voltron and he was thrown into a sort of family. And when he’d been thrown into leadership as the Black Paladin . . . Keith hadn’t been alone. Lance—strong and steady Lance— had always been there as his right-hand man.
Keith sighs, kicking his feet out where they hang over the edge. His thoughts always find their way back to Lance. Guilt has made an uncomfortable mess of his stomach. He replays the memory of seeing Lance again after two years and lets his head fall with the weight of regret. He’d been rude, so sure they had no time to waste knowing Lotor was worse than they feared. But that was no excuse, Keith knows now.
All the progress they’d made during Keith’s time as the Black Paladin, destroyed with a single blow. Lance was quiet now, avoidant. He didn’t even bicker with Keith when the former paladin had the chance to tease him.

Only people who didn’t care didn’t fight.

A foster mother had said that to Keith once, during his ‘rebellious phase’. She’d insisted that Keith’s persistent disciplinary issues proved he cared a lot, despite his claims that he didn’t. Keith knew, even then, she was right.
Lance doesn’t care anymore, and the fact hurts Keith more than he’s expecting it to. It hurts him even more, knowing Keith has pushed him past some sort of breaking point. Keith caused this silent treatment. He’d fix it.

And as though the Universe has heard him and commands it be done, Keith realizes he is no longer alone on the cliff’s edge. The spot beside him empty one second, then taken the next. Blue appears in her sudden fashion, as only a teleporting wolf can, and Keith knows with dreadful certainty the Blue paladin isn’t far behind.

“What are you doing all the way up here?”

Keith ignores the uneasiness in his stomach and pets Blue as he watches Lance jog up the hill. At some point, he’d changed out of his armor and into a familiar t-shirt and jeans. His jacket is snug across his shoulders. Keith left his own armor in the Black Lion with his Marmora suit, too. He wears a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt, but his red jacket lays abandoned beside him. He’d realized too late that it was too small.

“I was enjoying the nice and quiet.” Keith replies, before remembering he’s supposed to fix his relationship with Lance, not make it worse.

But Lance laughs and it’s all right. It’s normal. Blue escapes Keith’s hand and bounds after the Blue paladin, circling Lance’s legs as he makes his way up to the edge. Lance doesn’t seem to mind, only outstretching a hand to pet the wolf’s head. “C’mon, Blue, a man’s gotta walk.”

Instead of giving him space, Blue licks at the outstretched fingers. Keith can’t hold back his laugh, and Blue only settles down once Lance does, resting in the sliver of space between the two boys.

Lance seems to be taking Keith’s comment seriously, because he says nothing as they sit in the dark. Keith interrupts the silence this time. “Are we allowed to stay?”

“Of course,” Lance says, looking over at him quizzically. “We’re Voltron.”

Keith doesn’t correct his use of ‘we’, but he wants to. Keith’s a Blade member now, not a paladin of Voltron. Not really. But Keith only nods, and silence stretches again.

It’s not uncomfortable, per se, but it is loaded, heavy with unspoken words. Keith doesn’t know if he’s imagining it, but he thinks Lance must feel it, too. Keith has so much to say. He expects Lance does, as well, still sitting here with Keith. Or maybe he is waiting.

Staring off into the valley, Keith says what he expects Lance is waiting for: “I’m sorry.”

Lance, hands running along Blue, freezes. “What?”

“I’m sorry.” Keith insists. He hates that Lance is so surprised that Keith can admit to being wrong. But, he knows, it makes sense. Keith has grown a lot in two years. Maybe before he wouldn’t have been able to say the words, but he can now. “I don’t know what came over me when I stepped off that ship. I don’t know why I spoke to you like that, it was rude.”

“Keith . . .” Lance starts. From his peripheral, Keith notices Lance has started to pet Blue again. He hopes that’s a good sign. “It’s okay.”

“No,” Keith shakes his head. “It’s not. Don’t think I haven’t noticed the way you’ve been quiet around me. You’re avoiding me, and I can only assume it’s because of how I treated you.”

Blue licks at Keith’s hand, where it lay in his lap. She nestles her head there as if she can tell he’s distressed. His heart swells with affection for her. Lance, though, draws his attention with a quiet exhale. He hasn’t offered an excuse, only silence and a bowed head. If it wasn’t for the moonlit sky, Keith might even dare say Lance is blushing, but it’s too dark to tell.

“It’s a long story, but I swear it’s not because of you.” Now Keith is positive Lance is blushing. The red has made it all the way up to his ears and stretches down to his neck, where Lance is busy rubbing his palm. “Okay, maybe part of it is because of you. But not in the way you think!”

Keith stares, irritation starting to build within his chest. Lance isn’t clearing anything up for him. Is it or is it not Keith’s fault? “Then what am I supposed to think, Lance?”

Lance throws his hands up in a defensive sort of way. “I’ve just been realizing some things, okay? I needed some time to think!”

“Well I imagine you’ve had a lot of time to think, considering you never talk to me.” And there Keith goes, anger lacing his words before he can stop it. His arms are crossed before he’s aware of them moving and his breath comes quick and heavy.

For a long time, anger was all Keith knew. He was angry at his mom, for leaving him. Angry at his Dad, but more so at the Universe, for taking him away from Keith, too. Angry at the foster system, at his foster parents, at Shiro. All of them, for trying so hard for someone who didn’t want to try at all.

And now, Keith doesn’t only know anger, but he’s angry. Angry at Lance, because Keith wants to try but Lance doesn’t. Angry at the Universe, for this sick sort of irony.

But Keith is also tired of this raging emotion, its bitter taste and tight hold. He unfolds his arms and loosens his posture. Sounding almost defeated, Keith says, “Sorry.”

He reaches for Blue, for her comforting touch, but she’s gone. She’s left the space between them and rests entirely in Lance’s lap. Keith doesn’t recall her ever moving. His fingers curl in on themselves and he looks away, up to the moon closest to them. Keith’s on his own. “I need you to explain this to me, Lance.”

Without missing a beat, Lance says, “I’m in love with Allura.”

Like he’s received a sock to the stomach, Keith’s lips release a breath. But before he’s even processed the words fully, Lance keeps talking. “I mean, I was. I think?” Keith risks a glance at him but Lance is staring down at Blue, palm still in her fur. The expression on his face is so intense, so unlike the carefree Lance he knows, that Keith doesn’t know what to make of it. “I told you, I’m trying to figure it out.”

Lance is—was?—in love with Allura. Keith should have seen this coming. He’d seen the stares, heard all the terrible pick-up lines. But he’d discounted it all as Lance being Lance, the boy flirts with everyone. Hell, sometimes he’d had moments wondering if Lance was flirting with him. But no, here Lance is, sitting beside Keith after not talking to him for weeks, admitting that he loves Allura.

Any words Keith might’ve had get stuck in his throat. He doesn’t—can’t— say anything at all.

“I thought I was in love with her, Keith, but. . .” Lance is still talking but Keith isn’t really listening. He’s fighting off a sudden sickness that’s overtaken his stomach. This isn’t at all what Keith was expecting, not at all how he’d thought this would go. He can’t focus on what the Blue paladin is saying, his own thoughts swimming. “I don’t think it was love, after all.”

And as if he’s breaching the surface after drowning, Keith is out of his head again and he can breathe. He sputters out a “What?”, the words sounding utterly wrecked. Keith is shocked at the amount of emotion he manages to put into the word.

Lance stares at him like he’s crazy. Keith thinks maybe he is.

“Are you okay?”

Keith swallows, pulling himself together. What was that? It was overwhelming. Keith had felt like he was drowning. Working on trying to steady his breath, Keith musters up, “I’m fine.”

Lance seems unconvinced, but he nods. They’re both silent again. Keith’s breathing slows but his stomach is still uncomfortably clenched. Lance, for his part, seems unbothered by it all. Keith doesn’t know how much more of this conversation he can take. Lance loves Allura; Lance doesn’t. Keith doesn’t understand, feeling unfairly whiplashed. He also doesn’t understand another thing.

“What does this have to do with me? With ignoring me?”

“You made me realize I didn’t love her.” Lance, calm and cool as always, says this without so much a flutter of his eyelashes. Not that Keith is staring at them. Again, Keith finds the ground falling out from beneath him but Lance remains coolly unaffected.

Keith scrambles for words, anything. “How—?”

“I missed you a lot, you know,” Lance says instead of answering. The words are far softer than they have any right to be. Blue nestles her nose deeper into Lance’s stomach and Keith wonders if maybe she’s aware that Lance is upset, despite his not appearing visibly so. Keith hates that he can’t tell himself. “When you left . . . it was hard. Harder than I thought it’d be.”

Now, Keith can see it. The rigidness to broad shoulders, the tension lines around pulled eyebrows. Lance, he swears, is even shaking, and Keith is crumbling with him. He barely manages a weak, “I’m sorry, Lance.” Because what else is he to say? Keith is wholly unprepared for this.

He hadn’t thought his absence would bother anyone. . . a bitter part of him had even wondered whether he’d be missed, though he knew he would be. Although he’d kept himself at a distance, the paladins, including Allura and Coran, had become a family to him. They’d supported him through the loss of Shiro, had his back as their leader; all while he doubted his own capabilities. They’d held him up when he couldn’t do so himself.

Lance, especially. Supportive but firm, reassuring but unbiased. He made Keith own up to his mistakes, but made sure Keith didn’t think he was one.

How is he ever supposed to repay them? Him? Lance is sitting right beside him but all Keith has to offer is a weak apology.

It’s not enough, will never be enough, but he says, “I thought it was for the best.”

“The best for who?” Lance snaps, and Keith almost flinches into himself.

Keith is afraid of the honesty in his voice when he answers, “For you.” And when Lance’s slack face causes him to panic, he adds, “For the team, for everyone.” But while it’s true he had considered them all, the deciding factor had been the look on Lance’s face when he’d confided to Keith about six paladins and five lions.

The sick feeling is back, and Keith buries his face between his knees as he draws his legs closer to his chest. He can’t bare to look Lance in the eyes. It’d been one of the hardest things for Keith, too, but it had made sense. Lance’s math was correct, but Lance was not the expendable one.

“God, Keith . . .” Lance says, all trace of anger gone. “You didn’t have to do that for m—us. We would have figured it out.”

Keith shakes his head without looking up, shoulders hiked up to his ears. He can’t remember the last time he felt so small. “I don’t regret it, no matter how hard it was.” He sighs. “I helped the resistance, learned about who I am.” Still, armor or not, Keith’s blade rests at his hip. “I met my Mom. Blue.”
He manages a laugh when, finally chancing a look to his left, he sees Blue’s perked ears. He stretches out his fingers to scratch behind them, but then his laughter dies out as he admits, “But I missed you a lot, too. All of you.”

A weak chuckle escapes Lance and Keith lets himself look at him. Keith forgets it hasn’t been two years for the other paladins. Lance looks much the same as he did before Keith left, only. . . harder, maybe. More guarded. “We’re a mess, Mullet.”

Keith never thought he’d be so happy hearing that stupid nickname. After weeks of nothing, it almost sounds fond. “Yeah, we are.”

“I hadn’t realized. . . before, how much time we really spent together. Whether bickering, talking, or training.”

Keith nods. He knows exactly what he means. The Blade of Marmora base was unnervingly quiet, always. Rooms were soundproof to keep need-to-know missions under wraps. There was no idle chit chat in a lounge room, whereas Lance, Hunk, and Pidge could be heard throughout the entire Castleship. No overhearing future mission planning, as he had with Shiro, Allura, and Coran. There were never many members on board at all. Even Keith didn’t stick around long, taking mission after mission. But in between them. . . it was nothing but emptiness and silence.

When it wasn’t, like when he was being informed of a new mission by Kolivan, Keith always found himself waiting. Waiting for Lance’s quick wit, or Hunk and Pidge’s sudden genius. He’d turn to his right, expecting to see Lance, but he was never there. He wasn’t there to hear Keith’s sharp remarks, which he used to laugh at—not that Keith ever made them to make Lance laugh. Kolivan just stared at him, unamused.

Eventually, Keith remembered to keep his lips shut.

Lance clears his throat and Keith finds himself back at the cliff’s edge. He’s not at the Marmora base, he’d only gotten lost in his thoughts. Keith shoots a look at Lance to see if he’s noticed and meets blue, curious eyes. Cheeks warm, Keith mumbles a sorry.

“It’s okay.”

The night falls quiet again, Keith unwilling to break it. Even the animals seem to have fallen asleep.

“Anyway. . .” Lance says after a while, his hand resting back at the base of his neck. “Like I was saying earlier, losing you was hard.”

Keith looks over at the him and finds Lance’s facial expressions pulling in all sorts of directions. He was clearly struggling with some internal battle. Blue, who Keith can’t believe he’d forgotten about, whines suddenly, stretching up to lick Lance’s chin in what Keith imagines is meant to be reassuring. The Blue paladin doesn’t seem to mind, only resting a calming hand on the wolf’s head. It manages to pull a small smile from him, at least.

Lance looks over at him, only to find Keith already watching. Then his blue eyes dart away. “Allura was comforting.”

Keith sits up at that. They’re back on the Lance loves Allura subject. His throat is dry—how long have they been out here?—but he prompts a cautious, “Oh?”

He receives a nod in answer. “Comforting in a way that meant normal. Distracting.”

Keith doesn’t understand, but Lance continues. “I didn’t know how to cope with—everything. You left. Shiro. . . the clone,” he corrects belatedly, “dealt some hard blows to a certain confident man’s self-esteem. Suddenly Lotor was a beloved ally.
"Everything was changing so fast, I couldn’t keep up. Even Hunk and Pidge had become Team Punk.”

A frown pulls at Keith’s lips. He had realized the two paladins seemed closer than before but he hadn’t taken much more notice of it. Lance was. . . feeling left out?

“I think I clung to Allura for some sense of normalcy.”

If it wasn’t for Blue sitting on his lap, Keith thinks Lance would be crawling in on himself. The shame is so visible on the boy that Keith is tempted to reach out and console him.

“But the harder I clung onto her,” Lance continues, wrapping his knees into his chest, Blue having disappeared within a blink of an eye, “the further she seemed to get. Her and Lotor, they were a thing, a romantic thing. And it hurt.”

Keith doesn’t know what to say, and he must look as lost as he feels because Lance looks over at him and sighs.

“Sorry, this isn’t making any sense. It’s too much.”

“It’s a lot,” Keith agrees, fingers grasping at the grass-like plants beneath his fingers. It’s grounding. “But I’m listening, I understand—I think.”

The look Lance shoots him is so desperate that Keith feels the breath within him escape. He lets go of the grass. Keith tries to put the situation into his own words. “Everything and everyone was changing, so you held onto the one thing you felt hadn’t: Allura.”

He receives a nod when he checks to see if he’s right.

“You loved her,” Keith swallows. “But then Lotor came into the picture, and she changed, so you didn’t?”

Lance sighs and flails backwards onto his back. “No.” He waves his hand around, struggling to find words. “Ugh.”

“Explain.”

“I never loved her. It’s complicated. I admire Allura, a lot. And I did like her, in the beginning. She’s brave, smart, and makes me want to be a better person. . .”

Keith’s face burns at the words, wants to find a hole and bury himself in it. Why was he having this conversation with Lance?

“But I realized someone else made me feel that way, too.” Lance coughs. Keith looks over his shoulder and finds Lance staring straight up at the sky, his fingers clutching at his chest. “I realized I was projecting my feelings.”

A sense of understanding starts creeping up on Keith but he’s afraid to acknowledge it.

“I felt all those things for Allura, but it was all platonic,” he says. “The romantic feelings that I ha—d,” Lance coughs, “were for someone else, but I’d projected them onto Allura. Because she was there, and similar, and—comfortable.” Lance’s eyes close, face pinched.

Keith runs his eyes over Lance, hears what he’s not saying, and knows for a fact that he understands now. It doesn’t make it any less painful, but he manages a weak smile. “Who’s the lucky guy?”

Lance squawks and props himself onto his elbows. “What?”

“That’s what you’re getting at, right?” Keith says, cheeks burning. “Are you bisexual?”

The Blue paladin’s mouth opens and shuts multiple times, before he manages a tiny “yes”.

Keith nods. “If you’re worried that I’m going to treat you differently or something, I won’t.” He shrugs, playing for nonchalance. “I’m gay.”

“You—you’re. . .” Keith nods again. “Oh. Shiro didn’t mention that.”

Keith blinks. “Shiro?”

Lance stammers unintelligibly, falling back onto the ground with an arm thrown over his eyes. He groans loudly. “He told me about Adam and helped me figure out I’m bisexual.”

“Oh,” Keith says. “Wow, he never talks about Adam, Lance.” Keith meets Lance’s eyes and finds the boy watching him intently. “It didn’t end well when Shiro decided to go to Kerberos. Adam was devastated.”

Keith realizes belatedly that he hasn’t thought about Adam at all. Hasn’t thought about the fact that Adam must still think Shiro is dead. The man had looked after Keith before he’d finally ran off, too, insistent that he’d find Shiro alive. Adam hadn’t had it in him to give himself hope, and now he must think Keith was dead, too.

Damn, he cringes. He hopes Adam is okay.

“I know,” Lance says. “He mentioned it was hard to talk about, but he did, anyway. To help me.” Finally, the boy pulls himself back up from the ground and sits crisscross beside Keith again, his knee close enough to brush Keith’s thigh. “I really missed him, too.”

Keith swallows down the feeling rising in his throat and nods. “So. . . Shiro, huh?” Admittedly, he’d placed his bets on Hunk. The two always seemed inseparable, and Lance is the touchiest with him out of all of them. Hunk is a great guy—Keith understands why Lance likes him.

“What about Shiro?” Lance sounds so genuine, so confused, that Keith doesn’t know what to say. Lance was going to make him say it? Keith gives him a strained look but Lance only seems to flounder more. “What?”

“Your crush? On Shiro. I’m assuming you told him after he helped you figure it out?” Considering the situation, Keith can feel the second-hand embarrassment hit him like a smack to the face. Lance coming to turn with his feelings in front of the very person he had feelings for? The thought makes Keith queasy. If he’d realized in front of Lance. . .

Keith clutches at his stomach, driving a fist into it like it’ll make the feelings settle down. It doesn’t.

“Keith,” Lance wheezes, smacking Keith in the shoulder as his arms go flailing again. “I don’t have a crush on Shiro! Are you crazy? He is so out of my league!”

Stunned, Keith stares at Lance. He’d been so sure, but. . . Lance is right. Shiro is out of his league, and the thought makes Keith snicker. And then he’s laughing even harder and he can’t stop, leaning over himself as the laughter bubbles out of him. “You’re—right. You,” Keith sucks in a breath, “are so out of his league.”

“Hey!”

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Keith says, wiping at his eyes. Maybe he’s exaggerating this whole thing, but it feels good to laugh, to tease Lance. Hell, Lance is a good-looking guy. He could probably pick-up anyone he wanted to if he tried.

Lance is pouting, lips thin and nose high. His arms are crossed, too, face away from Keith.

Keith is still smirking when he bumps his elbow against Lance’s, and he can hear the amusement in his voice when he says, “Hey, it’s okay. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” Then, considering where they’re sitting and how often Lance flirts, adds, “And plenty of aliens in space.”

“I’m only interested in one alien, thank you very much.” Lance huffs, then goes rigid all over. “Uh—I mean.”

Now Keith is really confused. Lance is crushing on an alien? Who could he possibly have had enough contact wi—realization dawns on Keith. Horrified, Keith exclaims, “Lotor?”

Lance stares at him, then groans, hands flying up to his face. “You’re hopeless, Mullet.”

“I don’t understand.” He really doesn’t. Although, he admits the idea of Lance crushing on Lotor is insane.

Lance just shakes his head and lays back down against the ground, all while keeping his hands resting against his face. Keith notices the furious red sweeping across his cheeks and nose and only feels slightly bad for making this so hard for Lance. It’s his fault for being so vague and making them play some sort of guessing game!

He wonders if he should return the favor, but the idea makes him nauseous again. He doesn’t think he could get away with it as smoothly as Lance.

Hey, Lance. You know, I have a crush, too. His name starts with ‘L’ and ends with ‘ance’. Too bad you’ll never guess who that is.

God, that’d be humiliating.

“What are you thinking about over there, Mullet?”

And God, help Keith, he panics and can’t think of a lie. He’s staring up at the moons, thankful for the glow they cast while still shadowing them in the night, when he admits, “You.”

Softer than velvet, Lance says, “Oh?”

Keith peeks over his shoulder and finds Lance’s gaze. He nods, unable to find words. His thoughts are swirling with ideas, terrifying ones. Impulsive ones. Lance has been so honest with him tonight. Maybe he hasn’t been completely outright with Keith about who he’s crushing on, but he told Keith nonetheless. He confided in him about Allura. Lance even told Keith about his sexuality, which Keith knows isn’t an easy thing to put out into the universe. He takes a deep breath.

“Lance,” Keith starts, “I have to tell you something.”

Maybe Lance can tell he’s serious by something in his voice because he sits up. It only makes what Keith has to say more nerve-wracking, those blue eyes sharp and attentive on him. Lance doesn’t say anything though, simply listening.

“The fact you were ignoring me hurt, more so than had anyone else ignored me.” A truth, though not what he means to say. He wants to be blunt, to just throw it out there and get it over with.

But no. He needs to handle this with care, as Lance had earlier. “It. . .” Keith struggles to find the words, head falling, “felt like nothing had changed.”

This, he only realizes to be true after he says it. It frustrates him, causes his next words to be laced with irritation and helplessness. “It was like we’d never gotten over our so-called rivalry. As if you’d never been my right-hand man, the one person I trusted more than anyone else on the team.”

Lance sucks in a breath beside him but Keith can’t stop now. His voice is raspy and hollow as he admits, “It sucked.”

“Keith. . .”

Keith shakes his head. He’s not finished. “I don’t ever want us to be like that again. I like us.”

It’s a scary thing to admit out loud after all this time, after all the pretending and fighting. His shoulders hike up to his ears as he pushes himself forward. “I like how we bicker, and I like how we’re always on the same wavelength. It wasn’t always like that, at first, and it was so frustrating—but it’s different now. Or it was, before I left. We used to be so in sync during battle, I felt. . . It felt like we were unstoppable.”

A hand breaks him out of his monologue. Lance is beside him, eyes shining in the moonlight and his hand is resting on Keith’s shoulder. Keith sucks in shaky breath. “I missed that.” His shoulders fall. “I missed you.”

Then Keith is rocketing backward, hands flying out, but they can’t stop his fall. Lance barrels into him, arms tightening themselves around Keith’s neck, pulling him into a hug. It takes Keith a minute to process their new position, his hands awkwardly hovering in the air, but then he’s wrapping his own arms around Lance’s middle, squeezing lightly. He can’t believe he’s hugging Lance.

“Who knew you had such a large vocabulary, Mullet,” Lance sniffs beside his ear, but Keith is too annoyed to be disgusted.

With one arm keeping its hold around his waist, he swings around another and punches Lance in the arm. “Shut up.”

Lance laughs. “Why, because we’re having a bonding moment?”

Keith groans, letting go of the boy entirely. When Lance whines, Keith pushes him away farther. “Aw, Keith, don’t be like that, buddy!”

“Go away.”

“Keith!”

“Lance.”

Lance quiets considerably and repeats his name, hands reaching out to grab his shoulders. “Keith.”

Keith looks at him this time, frowning. Lance is staring at him, his eyes still shining. “Thanks for telling me all of that.”

“No problem,” Keith says, wary. He still hasn’t said it. At this point, he doesn’t know if he can.

“I remember,” Lance says suddenly, letting his hands fall. He avoids Keith’s glance.

“What?”

Lance takes a deep breath, staring down into the ravine below them. “The bonding moment—I remember it. I just said I didn’t.”

Keith crosses his arms and petulantly answers, “I knew it.”

“Well, it was only fair!” Lance huffs, turning back on him. “You didn’t remember me!”

Now it’s Keith’s turn to come clean again, and he’s not happy about it. He runs his hands through his bangs, trying to distance himself from Lance’s angry reaction. “About that. . .”

Lance’s face pulls tighter together, if it’s possible. “Mullet, I swear.”

“It was an honest mistake!”

“Explain,” he says, using Keith’s words against him. It makes him roll his eyes.

Keith explains. “I recognized you, but when you introduced yourself. . . I didn’t know a Lance.”

Lance blinks. “What does that even mean?”

This is so embarrassing, Keith thinks to himself. “At the Garrison, I thought your name was Taylor.”

“What?”

“Everyone called you Taylor!” Keith says, hands gesturing. “I remember Hunk saying so, too!”

Lance is covering his mouth, eyes wide. He’s smiling, but clearly trying to hide the fact. “Oh, my God, Keith.” Now he’s snickering, eyes squinty and bright. Keith would be angry if it wasn’t so cute. “The tailor. T-a-i-l-o-r.” He makes air quotes with his fingers. “They call me the tailor because of how I thread the needle. I used to say that all the time and it caught on.”

Keith stares at him, arms crossed. “Unbelievable.”

Lance laughs. “What’s unbelievable is that you thought my name was Taylor.”

“Shut up!”

“No way, I’m never letting that go.”

Lance.”

Keith.”

Keith glares at him but Lance remains unaffected. The boy looks lighter than he has in days, eyes bright and posture loose. If Keith had to embarrass himself to help Lance look so at peace. . . well, he knows he’d do it all over again. Keith’s glare falls away completely until only a sheepish smile lingers. Even he could admit how ridiculous the situation is, and at least now Lance is staring at him, looking happier than Keith remembers ever seeing him, especially in the last month

Mostly, Keith is just happy the whole thing has finally been cleared up, and when Lance scoots over to sit thigh-to-thigh beside him, he doesn’t even consider complaining, teasing or not. Keith’s mind is running too fast to bother saying anything.

This time, they really do allow themselves to appreciate the cover of the night. No one is bothering them, expecting anything of them. Blue hasn’t reappeared. They sit together and say nothing at all, simply enjoying each other’s presence. Keith thinks, maybe, there’s nothing left to say.

Except, Keith still hasn’t said it.

Considering all that he’s admitted to tonight, though, maybe he doesn’t have to say it at all. He thinks, maybe, Lance already knows.

Closing his eyes, Keith’s only aware of his rapidly beating heart and the boy beside him. He imagines that Lance moves first, but Keith knows he moves, too. His hand inches blindly across his thigh until it bumps into another, one that curls around his without hesitation. Keith squeezes tighter, if only to convince himself that he’s really holding Lance’s hand.

“Thank God you caught on, Mullet.”

Keith opens his eyes. “Why are you like this?”

Lance grins. “Why do I ruin every bonding moment, you mean?” Then, ever so slowly, he lifts their linked hands to his mouth. Kisses Keith’s knuckles softly.

Keith sucks in a breath. “Why are you like this?” he hisses again, blushing furiously. He’s sure his heart is going to jump right out of his chest.

“You like me,” Lance sing-songs. He’s blushing too, Keith notices, but he’s utterly happy about it. Lance pulls their hands to his chest. “You like me.”

Keith swallows down the emotion in his throat, star-struck with the sight in front of him. He forces the words out of his throat. “I like you.”

Lance’s smile makes it worth it. “Good, I like you, too.”

The words bring a relieved, dopey smile to Keith’s lips, but they’re not as earth-shattering as he expects them to be. Keith sits underneath the many moons, Lance beside him, their hands still entwined, and he decides he hadn’t needed either of them to say it at all.