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Shore Leave

Chapter Text

Lance's head appeared in the doorway, "hey Pidge- Hunk around?"

Pidge's big brown eyes blinked at him for a moment, almost visibly switching gears from whatever coding crisis that was so interesting to the real world. One thin finger pushed the large round glasses back into place. "Umm... gone to grab something for us to eat. He'll be back in a few- you can wait in here. I need to give this code a chance to compile anyway. Going OLD SCHOOL with this one."

"What are you working on, anyway?" Lance asked, dropping onto the bed bonelessly.

"A favor for Keith, actually. Basically, data nodes for the Blades to use to compartmentalize information. I am building the software out of archaic earth coding language. The idea is that they'll be so low tech that they'll be dismissed by the Galra as unimportant and obsolete. It's kind of fun."

"Riiiiight... fun," Lance echoed dryly. "We seriously need to get you out more if THIS has become your idea of fun."

Pidge scowled, "just because I'm not driven by my hormones like SOME people doesn't mean I don't know how to have fun."

"Oh no- I get that," he held his hands up in mock surrender, Pidge was the smallest of them, but the young Paladin was still not someone to mess with. Lance knew from experience just how effectively that brilliance translated to prank-design when Pidge put a mind to it. "I just think we are all going a bit stir crazy, that's all. I wish we could, like, have a real night out- a few drinks, maybe some dancing, or pool- hell, I would even be willing to play DARTS."

"Darts?" Hunk echoed. He was carrying a tray that was loaded down with assorted dishes filled with his latest experiments in alien cuisine. "You want to play darts? We can, you know- I made a board and everything. Told Allura it was good for perfecting hand-eye coordination and a vital part of training. She gave me an old store room to set it up in."

Lance sighed, "out of all that I said, the thing you focus on is the darts?! You're killing me here guys! We used to have FUN. Real fun. Remember fun? The kind where no one was trying to kill us?"

"I remember," Hunk gushed. "I remember the time we made homebrew in the Garrison dorms and had that office chair derby with the fifth floor cadets!"

"I wasn't there for that," Pidge pointed out mildly.

"Oh man! That was a BLAST!" Lance chimed in, "that was the night I hooked up with... oh... oh.. what's her name? The one with the red hair and freckles. Uh, uh, um... Lois? No. Linda? No. LORI! That was her name! Lori Samser-mo-si-sian? I am so bad with names. The engineering major."

Pidge blinked, "do you mean LaurELL Sands?"

Lance clapped his hands together triumphantly, "Yes! That's her! Laurell Sands!"

"You hooked up with Laurell Sands?" Pidge asked skeptically.

"Yes," he answered with a nod, accepting the mug of steaming... something Hunk handed him. His eyebrows waggled, "yes, I did."

Pidge turned to Hunk, "he hooked up with Laurell Sands? You witnessed this?"

Hunk stopped, "uhhhh... yeah... yeah I think I did."

"Define 'hooked up', Lance," Pidge pressed.

"What do you mean 'define hooked up'? Hooked up, hooked up. There was some chatting, some dancing, a little romancing... Whhhhy?"

"Nothing. Nothing... Just... I didn't think you'd be her type, that's all," Pidge answered a little too quickly.

Lance's eyes narrowed and he leaned in towards the Green Paladin suspiciously, "what's that supposed to mean?"

"It's just.. umm... she used to date Matt. Like, before the mission. So... I thought she was more into... um... bookish guys, I guess?"

"You mean smart. You are saying bookish, but you MEAN that she likes smart guys and you don't think I am smart. Right? I am SMART!" he argued.

"Of course you are smart," Hunk interjected, literally stepping between the two of them. "Pidge knows you are smart, Lance. Besides it was just a hook-up, from like AGES ago, not worth arguing about."

"Yeah," Pidge agreed, "it's just weird for me when I am reminded of what a small world the Galaxy Garrison could be. Man, I haven't thought about her in ages!"

"Fine," Lance grumbled, "not the point anyway. The POINT, my friends, is that we need a bit of good, old fashioned R&R- like like the old days."

"Yeah!" Hunk enthused, "like the old days!"

"I was never there for that stuff," Pidge pointed out softly.

"Beers!" Lance said loudly.

"Man, I miss beer," Hunk sighed.

"Music!" Lance demanded.

"Oh yeah. Earth music is so great," nodded Hunk sagely.

"Partying! With GIRLS!" the slender Cuban nearly yelled.

"Again, I have never done any of this stuff with you guys," Pidge said mildly.

"What? Oh. My. God! Pidge! You are right! I don't think I have ever seen you drunk!" His eyes narrowed again and he leaned in so close it made Pidge squawk and nearly fall over backwards, "have you ever even BEEN drunk?"

Pidge's cheeks colored with indignation, "I've been drunk!"

One of Lance's eyebrows ratcheted upwards, "I. Don't. Believe. You." He sprung upright, "ok! I have decided- we are finding booze. We are finding some way to play our music from home, LOUD. We are getting drunk together and letting loose. I don't care if it IS just us. We are having a party. A real party."

"Shiro won't like that," Hunk said reasonably.

"Well, then," countered Lance, "we are just going to have to make sure Shiro doesn't find out. C'mon, bud. We made homebrew and staged furniture Olympics in the dorms back at the Garrison Grounds without getting busted. There were WAY more people who could have busted us back then! We can DO this!"

"So... Your plan is... a SECRET party?" Pidge queried, "with alcohol and music and just the three of us?"

"Yes!" Lance crowed.

"Sad." Pidge answered, "that is SAD, Lance. That's not a party. That's... nothing. There isn't even a word for that."

"You, my friends," Hunk turned on Pidge, "have no vision! We are still adding new people to the coalition. We might not be doing the 'Voltron Show' anymore... but we still need to make appearances every now and then. So, next time we are on planet, for a showcase of Voltron's abilities..."

"The razzle dazzle!" Lance chimed in, flashing a smile and finger guns.

"The razzle dazzle," Hunk corrected with a nod, " after the official stuff, we will find a bar, somewhere, and have some good, old fashioned SHORE LEAVE. Deal?"

"Yes! My MAN!" Lance leapt onto his friend, pounding his back, "you are a genius! Shore leave! THAT's what I am talking about!"

Pidge laughed, "right, fine. Shore leave it is. This could be interesting!"

Hunk chuckled, pulling Pidge into a group hug, "this is gonna be GREAT!"

Chapter Text

It took longer than they initially thought. Things had gotten CRAZY busy with the coalition and checking out the intel from their prisoner, Lotor. It seemed like they were always on the go, and the Castle of Lions was constantly bustling with visitors. Blades of Marmora, resistance cells, refugees, occasionally even familiar faces like Matt, or Nyma and Rolo were arriving and departing nearly daily. But eventually, the stars aligned and they found themselves on a planet with a free night, and no pressing demands for their time. Coran had given them a few suggestions for places they could go to find some local flavor and a few spots they should avoid. So, of COURSE, Lance's plan involved ending up smack dab in the middle of the 'should probably avoid' by the end of the night. He was so excited that he couldn't stay still, changing his outfit three times and practicing all his best lines to the mirror. Finally, there was a knock at his door, and he opened it to reveal Hunk and Pidge, both in casual clothes. Hunk was grinning broadly, clearly as pumped for this night as he was. Pidge on the other hand looked... not so pumped.

"What's wrong?" he asked, getting worried that this was going to fall through.

"Nothing," Pidge answered too quickly, "it's just that, when I was heading to get Hunk, I bumped into Keith and..."

"You weren't planning on leaving without us, were you?" Shiro's voice carried surprisingly well down the hall.

"Shiro..." Pidge finished quietly.

Lance gaped at Pidge. So much for 'like old times'. Not that he DISLIKED the other Paladins... just... Shiro was... well he was like some kind of Space Dad... and Keith? Hell, he hadn't even known Keith was BACK right now! He honestly couldn't decide if partying with Keith would be AWESOME or terrifying. Keith wasn't the most social person... but he was kind of impulsive and a bit of a hothead- which could lead to trouble in both the good AND bad senses of the word. So, how was this going to work, exactly?

"Oh dear! Am I late?" Allura appeared behind Shiro and Keith as she rounded the corner. "I do hope you haven't been waiting on me."

"Of course not," Keith said, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"And the Princess?" Lance asked softly.

"That wasn't me," Pidge mouthed.

Nope. No way. He was NOT letting this little hiccup ruin his night. "Shore LEAVE!" he cheered, reminding himself of why he was so excited in the first place.

"Shore leave!" Hunk echoed holding up his hand to fist bump Pidge, who somehow knew that was exactly what Hunk was doing without even looking at him and bumping their knuckles together even though their attention was focused on the newcomers.

"We only just got here, ourselves," Pidge said cheerfully.

"This should be fun," Shiro said, "it's been too long since we've all let off some steam."

"I am most excited to see what this 'shore leave' is all about," Allura said, her smile lighting up her entire, beautiful face.

Lance fought the urge to sigh. So much for the vague hope of finding a hook-up while they were out on the town.

"Are we going?" Keith asked, making Lance jump.

"Lay off the stealthy ninja bit," Lance muttered, "we're on the same team- you don't need to sneak up on me."

"Ninja?" Keith asked, his voice wry.

"You know," Lance flapped his hand, "the whole 'move through the shadows without a sound' thing. Like a ninja."

"I was just walking, Lance," he grumbled.

"Okay, okay," Hunk said, positioning himself between the two guys like a literal buffer. "No fighting tonight. Tonight is alll about letting loose and having fun. Got it?"

"I didn't do anything," Keith protested.

"Got. It?" Hunk repeated, his face intensely serious.

"Got it. Jeez," Keith relented.

"Got it!" Lance chirped, giving his buddy a playful salute.

"Shore leave is an old Naval term from Earth," Shiro was explaining to Allura, already leading the group down the hall.

"Oh! Fascinating," Allura nodded, "was it traditionally some form of diplomacy?"

"Uhhh, no." Shiro flushed a little, "closer to stress relief."

"It could get pretty wild," Pidge supplied helpfully, "mostly sailors got drunk and went looking for sex."

"Is THAT what we are doing tonight? Procuring sex?" the Princess asked, clearly surprised. Lance nearly choked. Shiro looked like he had swallowed a red hot ember. Hunk turned beet red. Pidge went pale. Keith snorted. The hallway was utterly silent for the longest second Lance had ever experienced before everyone fell all over themselves to reassure the Altean that their outing was decidedly less... carnal in intent. The resulting discussion of 'human mating rituals' and an in depth exploration of the function and value of a good 'wing man' carried them nearly all the way to their destination.

Chapter Text

Lance grinned as he watched his friends and teammates giving each other a hard time and unwind. They had managed to find a bar that was safe enough to meet Shiro's standard, but also wild enough to actually have the potential for some real fun. The bar had a table game that was similar to what most of the Paladins knew as 'air hockey' although it took four players and there were three pucks to keep in play and it had a more complex scoring system. It was a ton of fun, though and the six of them kept trading off who was playing and who was cheering. Pidge had managed to convince the bartender to let them play their own music, and then with Hunk's help, somehow jury-rigged the sound system so it could interface with their earth-tech. So, currently, there was K-Pop blasting in an alien bar- not his first choice for a shore leave soundtrack, but they were taking turns and SOMEHOW K-Pop was what Shiro (of all people) listened to. He hadn't had enough alcohol for that to make sense... which reminded him. "Another round!" he called out to the bartender who made a gesture he was really hoping meant the same thing as a thumbs up.

Within a few moments, a little trapdoor in the table slid open and 6 identical drinks rose up on a platform. After a few minutes, empty glasses sort of just... dissipated, maybe? Or phased? Teleported? He had no idea. They were there, and then they weren't. Sometimes alien tech was so cool... Great! He was starting to think like Pidge. He picked up one of the drinks. It was odd to look at. He'd seen layered drinks and shots back on Earth and understood how they worked. It wasn't too complicated to figure out that with careful pouring, the thickest liquid would sink and the lightest would rest on top of it. This drink, though? It really messed with his head. It was called something Allura said translated to 'rainbow nebula'. Most of the drink looked like black tar, but swirling within it (even when no one was stirring it!) were streaks of red and blue, and little sparkles of light. It was really cool to look at. Flavor-wise, it reminded him of a less-sweet hurricane- fruity and potent. He sipped his drink and watched the game, chuckling when Allura scored big and excitedly pounced on Hunk, her white hair glowing in the blueish light of the bar as the yellow Paladin caught her and spun her around as if she weighed nothing.

"You're staring at her again."

He startled, damn Keith was QUI-ET when he moved now, he hadn't even noticed when he'd joined him in the booth.

"See? Ninja. Nin-Ja," he snarked, trying to catch his breath. "I am watching the game. Not staring."

"If you say so," the other guy said neutrally, taking a drink for himself.

"I do say so," Lance said, slurping his drink through his straw.

"Not trying to start a fight," Keith sighed, sounding exhausted. "Just figured you might not want HER to notice that you were staring."

"She can't notice something that isn't happening," he pointed out. "Hey- did YOU know Shiro likes K-pop?"

Keith nodded, "he says he likes how energetic and happy it is- reminds him that there is more to life than work."

"Oh," he chewed on that thought for a minute, "yeah... I guess that makes sense."

"Not me," Keith continued, "it's too... perky."

"Oh yeah, it is definitely perky," Lance laughed, "I am more of a rock and roll guy." The conversation fizzled out there, stretching into silence. Keith bent one leg to hook his heel of the edge of the booth, unconsciously mirroring Lance's own perch. They just... sat there. Not talking, not bouncing to the frenetically upbeat song, not really doing anything. It was oddly, comfortable. Before long Pidge wandered over and collected the remaining four drinks.

"Keith- your turn for music," eyes wide, Pidge leaned over the table, "PLEASE... I cannot handle more of this. Shiro keeps singing along and it is messing with my head."

"He's singing? THIS?" Lance laughed, "that is so surreal."

"Right?!"

"Yeah. He does that. Sing, I mean. Haven't heard it in ages though. Alright, alright. I'm on it," Keith relented, rising from his seat and heading to the bar as Pidge headed back to the game.

The K-Pop was replaced with angry sounding rock music that Lance had never heard before and a few moments later, Keith swapped places with Hunk, and Hunk headed over to join Lance at the table. "Having fun?"

"So much fun," Hunk said, dropping down into the chair opposite the booth. "This was a great idea."

"Who knows how to unwind and is unbelievably gorgeous?" Lance asked, his voice cocky and expression completely over-the-top, as he jerked his thumbs towards his chest, "this guy, that's who!"

Hunk cracked up. He could always count on Hunk to get his jokes. "More drinks?"

"Definitely," Lance nodded. "I like how you think my man!" He repeated his little routine with the barkeep and sure enough, within a couple of minutes, 6 more drinks rose up at the table. "Love this trick."

"The drink delivery system?" Hunk confirmed. "Right? It's so obvious, but so cool!"

"You drunk yet? Because I have had like 5 of these things and I got nuthin' unless you count my nose being itchy."

"My nose is itchy, too!" Hunk exclaimed.

"Time to step it up with the drinks." Lifting their glasses, they counted down from 3 and then each tossed back their drinks, slamming the empty glasses onto the table.

"Is that? Did you just? O. M. G. Drinking contest!" Pidge squealed. "We all HAFTA have a drinking contest!"

"Pidge, I'm not sure that's such a good..." Shiro protested weakly as the tiny Paladin started herding everyone back to the table.

"No, no. It will be awesome!," Pidge insisted, shoving the Princess into on free seat and Shiro into another before pushing Keith into the booth and sliding in beside him. "Ok- here are the rules. It's chairs verses booth. Lance- you are racing Allura. Keith- you face-off against Hunk. Shiro- I am racing you. We order a round, we each take a glass and at the same time we chug. The first one from each competing pair to slam their empty glass onto the table wins the point. The first one from each pair to call done and stop drinking forfeits 2 points. Winning team gets... umm... winning teams gets... a prize, we need a prize- like a trophy..."

"Pidge, I really don't think-" Shiro tried again.

"Ooh! I know!" Pidge hopped up, darted away, and returned triumphantly in a dizzyingly short time. "THIS!" The whole table shook from the force of the 'prize' being planted on it. It was an empty drink bottle with two necks that bore the logo of the bar they were in on its label.

"Garbage?" Allura asked, "we win garbage?"

"It's a symbol," Pidge countered. "Work with me here!"

"Oh I get it. Like a trophy," Hunk piped up.

"Yes! Yes, exactly- a trophy!" Pidge looked so proud, rejoining the 'booth team'.

"There's only 4 drinks here," Keith pointed out.

"2 more rounds, plus 2 drinks," Lance called out.

"Everyone understand the rules?" asked Pidge, earning 5 dry looks.

"Drink fast," Allura said, "simple enough."

The drinks appeared and everyone took one, setting it in front of themselves.

Chapter Text

"3"

"2"

"1"

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

"Allura, Keith, and Shiro one point each," Lance said, sliding the empties onto the little tray and fresh drinks to the group.

5 rounds later, it was down to, of all people, Lance and Allura.

"Youshouldshtopnow," the Princess slurred, pointing her finger at Lance, her voice regal. Well, regal-ish- her words were sliding together and she wove precariously in her seat. "Alteansareverrrrrrrrygoodatholdingtheirdrink!" She nodded sharply, making her hair bounce.

"Pssssh, I fine," Lance countered, shaking his head with enough force to tip him into Keith before he righted himself. "Not even feeling nuthin. You can't beat ME! Imma sharpshooter!"

"What does sharpshooting have to do with drinking?" Shiro asked Hunk a little too loudly.

"Nothing," Keith answered.

"No. NO. It makes sense," Hunk insisted.

"Shhh! I wanna see who winzzz!" protested Pidge, "pay attenshun!"

"SO?" demanded Allura, "imma Prinshees... a prunesplish... a prammsim.. a royalty!"

"PRUNESPLISH!?" cackled Pidge, "oh that is sooooo sticking!"

"You're going DOWN, Prunesplish," Lance insisted, his face a mask of determination. He was NOT losing a drinking contest to her!

"Told'ya. Prunesplish forever!"

"Am not!" Allura countered indignantly. Keith laughed, a deep, genuine belly laugh that had Shiro grinning at him while Hunk gaped in feigned shock.

"Count it down, Pidge," growled Lance, too caught up in the competition to even notice anything else.

"3"

"2"

"1"

Clunk.

Two dark faces twisted toward Pidge in unison. "Well?" they asked in one voice, "who won?"

"Ummm, actually... I think it was a tie," Pidge replied.

"A tie?!" they both screeched.

"I gotta say," offered Shiro, "I think Pidge is right. Looked like a tie, to me, too. Mayybe it is a sign that we should call the whole thing a draw?"

"No!" yelped Allura.

"Not happening!" Lance cried dramatically.

"Tie breaker?" suggested Hunk.

"Yes! A tie breaker," exclaimed Pidge, adjusting her glasses and scrubbing at her nose. "Man, my nose is itchy. Three shots, in a line. First one to finsh all three wins."

"Finsh?" Keith echoed.

"You know what I meant!"

"For Altea!" Allura cried suddenly.

"What?!" the team yelped in unison. The entire table turned to look at the Princess taken aback by her uncharacteristically intense response.

"Never mind- tie breaker time! FOCUS PEOPLE!" Pidge nearly screamed.

"Jeez! And people say I'm the competitive one!"

"Yup- Pidge is cut off," Hunk said with a nod, "no more drinks for Pidge."

"Yeah, she gets... intense when she's drinking," Shiro agreed leaning back in his seat.

"She's not the only one," Keith added, jerking a thumb in the direction of the Altean Princess.

The new drinks had arrived and Lance and Allura had each lined theirs up, glaring at each other over the little rows of glasses. Slowly, Lance lifted one hand, pointing two fingers at his own eyes, then twisting his hand to point at Allura's. She made a face that almost begged to be accompanied by an actual growl.

"Dear god," Shiro muttered to Keith, "look at the two of them. I hope there is a clear cut winner. I really don't want to have to bust up a fistfight."

"Hey! For once, I am not the one about to get into a dust-up!" Keith chirped, grinning at the older guy.

"How novel," Shiro chuckled, grinning back and reaching across the table to rustle Keith's hair in easy affection.

Lance turned to defend himself- like he would EVER get into a physical fight with Allura, just in time to see Keith LEAN IN to the hair muss. It was so... unlike Keith that it threw him for a loop.

"GO!" yelled Pidge. Lance startled, his attention veering back to where it SHOULD have been in the first place. Frantically, he snatched up a glass, throwing back the drink, but even before his first drink hit the table, he knew he was a goner. Allura was grabbing her third before he even got the second to his lips. By the time his glass hit the table, the Princess was already surging to her feet.

"Ha! I did it!" she crowed triumphantly, rocking back on her feet and punching the air. "I WIN! You can smurkletopquinzin-ooooh." Her hand fluttered to her face, pushing her hair back and she trailed off, closing her eyes.

"Woah! You okay Allura?" Hunk asked, concern obvious in his voice as he reached out as if to catch her.

"Mmmhmmm," she nodded, a tiny, eloquent movement, and held up a finger as if to pause them. "One tick." Slowly, carefully she sank back into her seat.

"Stood up too fast?" Lance asked knowingly, "rookie mistake. You'll be ok."

"Pidge?" Allura's voice was odd. Slow. Deliberate. "Will you... escort... me... to the... umm..." She blinked. Twice. Three times. "The... florpbell?"

"Florpbell?" Keith echoed.

"Yeah, I don't know that one," Shiro added with a shrug.

"Do you mean... the bathroom?" Pidge asked, skeptical.

Allura's expression brightened, her smile a little wobbly. "Yes. Precisely. The bathroom."

"Uh yeah... sure. Of course." Pidge slid out of the booth and took a second to gain her balance. "Girls and bathrooms..." she hissed under her breath to Shiro as she wove past his seat, "did NOT miss this whole 'we pee in pack formation' thing!"

Everyone watched quietly as Pidge ever-so-carefully stepped around the table and offered her hand to Allura, who grasped it like a life line. It took a couple of attempts to get them both on their feet at the same time, and then they teetered off in the direction of the bathrooms- more or less, with Allura leaning heavily on Pidge.

Chapter Text

"Wow- just how drunk is Pidge?" Keith asked.

"Pretty drunk, I'd say," Shiro laughed, "she drank more than YOU did. I called done mostly because I didn't want her to put herself in a coma from sheer stubborness."

"Hey- that reminds me," Lance said, twisting in his seat to face Shiro, trying his best not to slur his words, "how come you are so cool about us all gettin'drunk? I mean... you're the only one who's legal age... well, and Allura, I guess."

Shiro laughed, "do YOU know what the legal drinking age is on this planet? Because I don't. I don't even know if this is actually ALCOHOL we are drinking. Besides- I figure, if you are all grown-up enough and responsible enough to be Paladins of Voltron and risk your lives, then you are probably grown-up enough and responsible enough to have a few drinks."

"Oh. Okay," Lance said, not sure how else to respond to that.

"That.. kinda makes a lot of sense," Hunk said, "thanks."

"I don't know why they all think you are such a stick in the mud," Keith laughed.

Lance and Hunk gaped at Keith. "Did Keith just LAUGH?" Hunk stage whispered to Lance. "Man, I really like Galra Keith."

"Oh, not this again. Shut up, you've heard me laugh before," he grumbled, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, "and Shiro's not that much older than us."

"What did the Blades of Marmora DO to you?" Lance asked grasping Keith's face with both hands, lurching it back and forth roughly.

"What? Nothing. Stop it."

Still chuckling at their antics, Shiro reached across the table and bogarted Lance's last drink.

"Heyyyyy!" Lance protested forgetting all about Keith's face.

"You've had enough," Shiro answered good naturedly. "But if you realllly want," he held up his right hand and waggled the fingers, "I'll arm-wrestle you for it."

"Yeah, that's so not worth it," the younger Paladin answered, slumping back against the booth and stretching his arms along the upper edge of the cushions, "you just enjoy the drink."

"I will, thanks," Shiro chirped, rubbing at his face with his free hand, "my nose itches."

"Right? Mine's been itching for ages. What do you think," Hunk pondered, "something in the air?"

"Really?" asked Keith, "my nose is fine, but my ears feel... kind of odd."

"Maybe it is something in the drinks?" Lance lifted an empty glass, peering into it as if it held answers.

"Guys," Pidge was suddenly standing at the table, struggling under the weight of Allura, who seemed to be singing to herself. "We might have a biiiiit of a problem with Prunesplish here."

Lance hooked his foot around the leg of Allura's vacated chair and yanked it away from the table. "Quiznak! Sit her down," he yelped, rising to help steady the chair. Which was... not such a great idea. The drink went straight to his head, making his vision swim and a giggle bubble up out of nowhere. "Whoops! Up too fast," he tittered, grabbing the chair back on the side opposite Pidge, "but, I got you. One steady chair. Plop her in."

With a heave, Pidge managed to sort of twist-spin Allura into the seat, which seemed to jostle the Princess out of her fuzzy state. "Oh, hallo!," she chirped sweetly, "you are all back! Lovely!"

"Ummmm, we didn't go anywhere," pointed out Hunk, automatically catching Pidge as she started to topple and righting her with one beefy arm, "you did."

Pidge accidentally hip checked Shiro's chair on her way around the table, overcompensated, spun on her heel and fell into the booth in a move that was shockingly graceful for a trip and fall. "Shove over," she grumbled at Keith, scooting so far into the booth that he was nearly flattened against Lance.

"I can only go so far, Pidge," Keith sniped, but once she stopped moving, he seemed surprisingly ok with being squashed between his fellow Paladins.

Allura flapped one hand at the yellow Paladin and made a noise somewhere between a sigh and a hiss. "Pssshf. I am always where ever I go," she explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Lance cracked up, gesturing broadly at her, "right?! Like, where ever I go- there I am!"

Her pretty blue eyes sparkled and she propped one elbow on the table. "Oh Lance," she sighed, reaching out to pet- like, literally PET his face, "you are so wise, at times."

His cheeks colored, and he leaned closer, "I love how you say my name like LAHNCE. No one else does that. It's better. I like it better. You guys should all call me that! LAHnce!"

"Well.. this just got weird," Hunk declared.

"Yeaaaaaaah, that's not gonna happen," Shiro agreed.

"Someone should record this," Keith muttered.

"Oooh! Good idea!" Pidge fumbled in her pockets for her phone, and clumsily aimed the orange rectangle at Allura and Lance- who were currently grinning at each other like idiots.

"But your name IS Lance," Allura replied, her brow furrowing, still petting his face.

"Yeah," he agreed dreamily, "it is."

Keith made a gagging noise that earned him a kick under the table from Shiro.

"He shouldn't take this personally," Pidge offered, "she was like this with me, too. Kept trying to braid my hair and talking about how 'garkungl' my brains were. It was weird. I am trying to forget it. Oh! And then she stopped THREE TIMES to say something gushy to strangers on the way back to the table."

"Gushy?" Shiro echoed.

"Can YOU think of a better way to describe... whatever that is?" Pidge waved her phone at the Princess, having apparently forgotten that she was trying to film the 'gushiness'.

"Maybe we should... I dunno... distract them? Another game of space air hockey?" Hunk sounded concerned. It was no secret that Lance harbored a pretty massive crush on the Princess. Her current mood could end up backfiring in a way that might really hurt his friend. "Hey- hey Allura? Want to play a game?"

"A game?" she latched onto that idea, dropping her hand from Lance's cheek so fast that he nearly face-planted into the table.

Keith lurched forward, grabbing Lance by the shoulders and holding him steady until he got his bearings. "You good?"

"I am great," Lance sighed, slumping back against the seat and pinning one of Keith's arms behind him.

"Great," Keith muttered, tugging futilely. The booth was just too tightly packed to fully free himself, but he managed to shift enough that he wasn't in any danger of his arm going to sleep, so he settled for that.

"Yeah, the game we were playing earlier," Hunk offered.

"But that's alllllll the way over there," Allura sprawled bonelessly in her chair and lifted one arm in the general direction of the game, which sat roughly 10 feet from their table.

Chapter Text

"Keith!" Lance said suddenly, "is this STILL your music? I haven't recognized a SINGLE SONG so far- and man, I listen to a LOT of music. Like, allllll the music. Where are you finding this music?!"

Keith chuckled, "all the music? You listen to ALL the music? You didn't recognize any of Shiro's music, either."

"Shiro listens to K-Pop!"

"Not JUST K-Pop," Shiro countered.

"So, K-Pop isn't music, then?" Keith teased, "why doncha tell Shiro that?"

"What?! No. That's not what I said! K-Pop is music... I mean obvs... but.. wait... what's happening?" Lance's eyes narrowed and he swerved in close to Keith, studying his face with the single minded focus that drunks could occasionally achieve, "are you... busting my balls?"

Keith made a face, "ugh- great image there, 'Sharpshooter'..."

"Lance deflated a little, "man, I am so confused."

"Oh! Hey! I know!" Hunk practically bounced in his seat, he was so excited. "We should teach Allura some earth dances! I can put on MY music. I have tons of stuff that is great for dancing."

"I do adore dancing," Allura mused.

Pidge perked up, "yeah! Burn through some of the buzz! Good thinking, Hunk!"

"I don't dance," Keith muttered, "but you guys have fun."

"Yes! Dancing!" Lance reached across the table to clasp Hunk's hand in some kind of complicated hand shake that ended with a mimed explosion from Hunk and Lance's 'classic' finger guns. "My MAN! Hook us up with something we can dance to!"

Beaming because his suggestion was so well received, Hunk headed over to the tangle of wires that had been interfacing with their tech and swapped Keith's phone out for his own. Within a few seconds the speakers started pounding out the heavy bass and strong beat of a pop song that had been EVERYWHERE back when Keith had still been at the Galaxy Garrison. Lance sprung to his feet, wobbled a little and then recovered, grabbing Allura's hand with a flourish. Hunk sort of bounced his way across the floor, handing Keith his phone as he passed. Even Shiro seemed to be caught up in the sudden energy shift, hopping to his feet and pulling a laughing Pidge out onto the floor.

With the booth to himself, no longer wedged between Pidge and Lance, Keith stretched out a bit. The five of them were laughing and jostling each other as the human Paladins tried to figure out which 'earth dance' to teach the Altean first. They seemed to settle on a shuffle/head bob combo to start. Pidge and Hunk settled in front of the other three, facing them with Allura situated between the other two Paladins. Shiro was counting off the beats for Allura, who seemed to be picking up the pattern pretty quickly. Every few beats, Lance would reach out to casually adjust the Princess's posture or alignment. Before long, all five of them were starting to add their own flourishes, ranging from simple to complex. Pidge and Hunk began tossing their shoulders forward and back until it almost looked like they were doing some kind of boxing drill. It was a little chaotic and unpolished, but the sheer FUN they were having shone through easily and it was plain to see that this was a tight and long standing friendship.

Keith had long known that Shiro could dance, and he was accustomed to teaching and leading, so it didn't surprise Keith at all to see that Shiro had caught Allura's hands in his own, helping her keep her rhythm and balance while adding sightly more complicated choreography to the basic shuffle-bop. Her white hair swung to and fro and her face alternated between bursts of laughter and periods of concentration as the steps got more complex. Lance was almost completely obscured from Keith's view by the four other Paladins, only glimpses of the top of his head or an extended limb peeking around the others. It didn't really matter, though, because Keith found that he actually really enjoyed just watching them all let loose. It reminded him of just how YOUNG they all were- even Shiro and Allura. It's not like he was TRYING to watch Lance, specifically. That thought jarred him a little and he caught the bartender's attention and signaled for a couple of drinks. He'd found that the effects of intoxicants seemed to fade faster for him than for the others- he suspected it was from his Galra blood, but it could just as easily be because he was more inclined to FIGHT the chemical nudge to relax and let his guard down. That said, there was nothing wrong with a nice little buzz to take the edge off of his tendency to overthink social interactions.

Every so often, Shiro caught his eye and gave him a subtle head nod of invitation- trying to get Keith to join them in their dancing. Each time, Keith, answered with a tiny shake of his head. He was a LOT more comfortable with the five of them than with almost anyone else in the world- but he knew he'd always struggled with social... stuff. Dancing? In a crowd of unvetted strangers with no solid recon for the location? No way he'd be able to relax enough to avoid spoiling their fun. His drinks appeared and the next time Shiro shot him a look, he lifted one in silent toast and let the older guy see his genuine smile. He truly was having a good time, it just didn't look quite like everyone else's good time.

Chapter Text

It was especially good to see Shiro enjoying himself so much. It had been a LONG time since Keith had seen the older Palladin's face so relaxed, his smile so big, and... open. He suspected that Shiro might have needed this outing the most of all of them. Time with FRIENDS, not subordinates he felt responsible for. No worries beyond when the next drink was arriving, what the next song was going to be, who had the highest score on a silly bar game that held NO stakes whatsoever. That was a rare thing in war.

The song switched over to the opening strains of another blaring pop anthem he remembered from his school days and his friends regrouped. Pidge and Lance were literally just jumping in place to the beat while the four of them debated on dance steps. Their happy energy, paired with the intense expressions on Shiro and Hunk's faces? It was actually downright adorable. This time they seemed to settle on a fairly complicated pattern of hand and arm movements and a sort of strut forward and back. The song was ramping up, but so far the beat was pretty slow. Pidge was slowly going through the hand patterns with Allura, positioned to the Princess's left. Hunk was on her right and focused entirely on the foot placements. Which put Shiro and Lance directly in front of the other three as if they were leading a class. They hadn't really started dancing yet, just tapping out the beat for Allura. Lance said something he couldn't hear that made Shiro toss his head back in a laugh and then hip check him playfully. There was a sudden burst of percussion and the song shifted tempo dramatically.

He sipped his drink to hide his chuckle as Pidge, Hunk and Allura all fumbled with the moves and frantically scrabbled to fall back into step with Shiro and Lance. Shaking his head in affection for the whole lot of them, Keith's eyes slid forward. Unsurprisingly, Shiro was nailing the choreography- moving with the same precision that he did when sparring. Lance, though. Lance was a SHOCK. Keith nearly choked on his drink. He'd seen a lot of alien races that were more flexible, graceful, and able to move more fluidly than humans since leaving earth, but he was hard pressed to think of a single one that would have outshone Lance at this moment.

The Red Lion was known for agility and speed, and if there had EVER been a doubt that Lance was the right fit as its Paladin, seeing him on the dance floor would have put that to rest. He made the choreography that the others were struggling with seem effortless, plus he somehow managed to make it look like it was completely spontaneous. His eyes were closed and his whole body flowed through the steps. Lance was usually upbeat and playful- often crossing into goofy territory- but this was different. There was a joy that shone through him that Keith had never seen. It was riveting. He found he could barely tear his eyes away from his slender, silly teammate.

After a surprisingly long stretch of music, he managed to pull his attention back to Allura to see how she was faring with the more complicated dance. She seemed to have the STEPS down, but her arms were giving her trouble. She kept missing a transition from a finger movement to a larger sweep of the arms, and whenever she did, she dissolved into giggles, doubling over for a second, or leaning on one or the other of her companions. While he watched, the three in the back decided to abandon all set dance steps and instead just bounced and wove to the beat, hanging off of each other.

He'd never seen Allura so... tactile... with the others. She had always seemed to be a bit like himself- not overly comfortable with a lot of physical contact, slower to relax enough to get 'touchy'. Hunk, Pidge and Lance always seemed to be crawling all over each other like puppies in their down time and at the moment, Allura seemed to be much the same way. She hopped on Hunk's back to hug him, then slid off to throw her arm over Pidge's shoulder as they hollered out the chorus together. After that, she spun away to weave between Shiro and Lance. Shiro caught her hands and swung them to and fro a few times before releasing one and letting her twirl away from him. She broke the hold of his hand only to catch Lance's. Lance settled his other hand at her hip and turned with her, waltz-like, seamlessly leading her back into that same foot pattern, only backwards this time. He flashed her one of his cheesy grins with the cocked eyebrow and she said something Keith couldn't make out before kissing his cheek and dancing away from him again. The five of them formed a loose circle, all of them doing their own thing, and joking around together. There was no mistaking the bond they had as a team. It was a drastic improvement from the way they'd been interacting when he'd started spending more and more time with the Blades of Marmora and he had no doubt that it carried over to the way they worked as Paladins, too.

Chapter Text

Another two or three bouncy songs followed. Gradually, other patrons of the club started to tentatively join the little cluster of dancers. Keith meandered over to the actual bar and ordered a few drinks he'd had with his Galra compatriots to celebrate successful missions and then headed back to the table, stealing Lance's spot on the booth and propping his booted feet up on Allura's abandoned chair. Even in the haze of the bar, he can catch lingering traces of Lance's shampoo and aftershave clinging to the upholstery and it makes him smile. Despite their often confrontational relationship- Lance was part of the team, and on some level Voltron meant home... which, in turn, meant that LANCE was home- just like all the other- so it was oddly comforting. Like, catching a whiff of Shiro's old laundry soap, or his father's cologne mixed with smoke and sweat. It had only been recently that he'd noticed that his sense of smell was more acute than humans, but significantly less so than a full-blooded Galra's and since then he had been trying to make a point of paying attention to what his nose was telling him.

Taking a swig of his new drink, he turned his attention back to the growing crowd. Shiro and Allura were dancing together. This time it was his mentor that fumbled and tripped over unfamiliar moves, making it clear that now it was an Altean dance that was being taught. Hunk, Pidge and Lance were moving through the crowd snapping pictures on their phones, dancing, and being the friendly, approachable trio they were known to be. It all seemed to come SO EASILY to all of them. Not for the first time, Keith wondered if there was something... off... inside him that made that kind of comfort with others so difficult. But, tonight was not the night for deep thoughts. He gave his head a shake and shed his jacket, trying to chill out a bit. He polished off his first drink and reached for the next- determined to at least TRY to get onto the same page as his friends and teammates.

Before long, Shiro disentangled himself from the Princess and returned to the table, dropping down into the booth beside him rather than returning to the chair he'd been using before. "You alright?" he asked Keith, leaning close enough that he shifted Keith's weight.

Keith relaxed back into the familiar frame of the man beside him, already feeling some residual stress draining away. "Yeah," he answered, "yeah, I really am. Just..." He gestured vaguely, "not really my scene. But... it is what it is. I'm having a good time. Seeing everyone. It's good. I'm good."

"They miss you, you know," Shiro replied, giving him a bit of a nudge, "they don't know how to show you, really... but they do. We all do. You are missed, Keith."

His words bristled as much as they soothed. It was the same old battle he always felt- the need to belong, to be wanted, versus the fear of getting close enough to be hurt when that sense of place was lost, which often felt inevitable... ESPECIALLY since the source was Shiro. "I miss you guys, too," he said after a moment. "I just... I feel like I need to be doing this right now."

"I know what that is like," Shiro said softly, patting Keith's leg in reassurance before grabbing his drink and sampling it. "Damn," he choked, "that is STRONG!"

"It's a Galra drink... like... some kind of fortified wine or something," he explained, "I've had it before. I know my limits."

"Aww," Shiro cooed, pinching his cheek playfully, "look at you, being responsible. You're growing up kiddo. I see it."

Keith's cheeks flushed and he shifted uncomfortably, "you looked like you were having fun out there."

He leaned back to give Keith a bit more space, not wanting to overwhelm his friend, "I was. I honestly can't remember the last time I went out dancing."

"I'm not the only one that has to remember to unwind," Keith scolded, shooting him a look. "Looks like we ALL needed tonight."

Shiro nodded, "yeah- Lance is good like that. Hunk fusses and does most of the day to day caretaking. It is a big part of who he is. But, Lance- he's got a real knack for being able to spot the less obvious stuff we need." He rolled his eyes in exasperation, "if only he'd stop being such a wiseass."

"Yeah, I think that is pretty hard-wired, Shiro. I wouldn't hang on to much hope that THAT will change."

"I am not so sure," Shiro shifted, giving Keith's shoulder an affectionate squeeze, before rising to his feet, "I'll let you finish your drink. See if I can get the hang of that dance Allura was showing me."

Chapter Text

Lance was having a ball! He'd always loved a good party. Music, people, dancing... maybe a little flirting... maybe a little more. What wouldn't someone love about that? Things were especially fun after the whole Voltron Show razzle dazzle. They had FANS now! Maybe... His fuzzy brain caught a stray thought and his big grin turned impish... Maybe even GROUPIES!

"Hunk! Hunk!" he bopped his way over to his oldest friend. "Hey, Hunk! Thiz iz m'portant! D'yathinkthereareVoltronGROUPIES?" he half-shouted, all in a rush.

"What?" Hunk asked, rubbing at his chin as he thought, "Yeah, probably. I mean... I guess. We are pretty famous and heroic and stuff."

"Coool!" he hugged Hunk tightly, "you're the best, man. Seriously!" Running his hand through his hair, he backed away from his teammate, flashing him a sleazy smile and a single finger gun, "Imma find me some groupies!"

Hunk shook his head, the 'here we go again' thought blatantly displayed on his face. "Lance! Be careful! Remember-"

"I remember! I remember!" He cut him off with a dismissive wave. His eyes scanned the small crowd. Ah-ha! There. Large, pretty eyes (he was such a sucker for pretty eyes), no nose (but in a cute way), willowy and graceful, a little taller than him, long sheets of dark, pearly hair, delicate arms and legs, cute little wing-like things tufting out from the shoulders, and a clearly welcoming smile. He wasn't sure what species the person that had caught his eyes was, but they were seriously adorable. His smile turned speculative and he changed trajectory, winking to let them know he'd noticed them, noticing him.

Suddenly, his arms were FULL of Altean. He stopped short, shifting his balance at the last second so that he and the Princess didn't topple over.

"Lance!" she cried happily, hugging him tight, "you caught me!"

"Ummm.." he responded, oh, so eloquently. His cheeks were BURNING. He had NOT been prepared for that and his poor drunken brain had screeched to a halt as soon as he registered who was in his arms. "Allura?" His voice cracked. SERIOUSLY!? That hadn't happened in years!

Shiro appeared beside them, "hey. Sorry. My bad. I tripped, bumped her, and she toppled." The original (at least within their current little team) and current Black Paladin extended a hand, Allura grasped it and within seconds she was standing on her own two feet again.

"I am so sorry, Lance," Allura cooed, "thank-you for saving me."

She hugged him again. This time his brain was working well enough for him to return the friendly (definitely, just friendly. Do NOT start reading into shit with Allura. Bad plan! Bad!) hug. His flirty charmer mask slipped into place, "I'll catch you any time you fall for me. Promise." he purred, with a waggle of his eyebrow.

She giggled, kissing his cheek and messing his hair like his sisters used to do. "Oh Lance... You... are my favvvvvvvvorite Paladin!"

"Princess," he countered, seamlessly twisting to dip her dramatically, "I am e'rybody's favorite Paladin."

Allura squawked at the sudden movement, one leg kicking up to help her balance as she grabbed at Lance's shirt. He laughed lightly and returned her to her feet. "What was that?!" she squeaked.

"A dip?" he answered, eyeing her, "it's a dance move. C'mere... follow my lead, I'll show up." Slipping his left hand into her right, he put her left hand on his shoulder and placed his right hand on her back. "Ok, my space. Your space. Keep your arms up, don't let them go slack. Pay attention to how I move THIS hand and respond. I'll set the pace and direction, you just have to trust me. Got it?"

"Got it," she nodded, "this is dancing?"

"Different than the other stuff, but yes. Still just dancing." He smiled, a sincere one this time, catching her gaze, "I'm starting forward, so you go backwards. Then we return to this spot. Then I go backward and you go forward and we return to this spot again. It's super easy. I'll count. We go on 8. Annnnnnd 5, 6, 7, 8." With that, he moved, steering her effortlessly into a basic mambo step. "1... and 2, and 1... and 2" he kept count with her, "exactly! Now we turn a little, same pattern... Good job!" He continued leading her, his face bright with confidence and happiness.

She laughed, glancing down at their feet, "you're good at this!"

"Thanks," he answered, "I love dancing."

"Psssssh- Lance- I meant teaching. Leading. Showing me what to do."

"Oh- that's nothing. You just need to trust me. Then it all falls into place. Okay, loosen up your hips a little. Sway with your steps. Same pattern, but relax into it. Mambo is alllllll about the hips."

She wasn't sure why she found that funny, but she laughed, following the gentle guidance of his hands, and shoulder as the song continued. "I really like this!" she blurted after several moments. "Are there more earth dances like this?"

"Oh yeah- tons. I can teach you some if you want... but they can get pretty complicated." The song was ending, "okay! Coming up to the dip. I am going to turn and bend. Just trust me. Don't tense up. I got you, Princess. Ready? 3... 2... and DIP!"

He swept her into a modest dip, it wasn't a good plan to try for a deep dip with a new partner, even when sober and he didn't want to spoil this. Not for anything. She laughed delightedly as he spun her up to standing. "Ta da," he said, his expression almost shy.

For about half a second, the whole entire universe fell away and it was just the two of them, then it was like a switch was flicked and there were hoots and hollers and they were being jostled by Pidge and Hunk.

"That was AWESOME!" Pidge crowed.

"Allura, you looked like you'd been doing that for years!" Hunk gushed.

Shiro smiled broadly at them, "Nice job!"

"Oh! That was most enjoyable... but I really did nothing! It was all Lance!"

Lance blushed again, "it's no biggie, but thanks."

"I recorded it!" Pidge announced. "Well... most of it. Once I figured out what you were doing, anyway. I'll send you both the file tomorrow."

"Oh Pidge!" Allura cooed, pivotting away from Lance and petting Pidge on the head like a puppy, "that is SO sweet! Youuuuuuuu are my favvvvvvvorite Paladin!"

Chapter Text

"Awww," pouted Lance, "a few minutes ago you said your favorite was ME!?"

Shiro chuckled, "she said the same thing to me right before I tripped. I think it might be a drunk thing."

"Gushy!" Pidge said, "Allura, thanks. You are very gushy when you've been drinking."

Shiro glanced over at the table... which was empty, as was the glasses for the drinks he'd had when Shiro had rejoined the dancers. No sign of Keith. When had that happened? His brow furrowed, and he scanned the crowd. Nope. The bar maybe? Nope.

"Gushy?" Allura echoed in confusion, "I am un-"

"Guys? Anyone seen Keith recently?" he asked, cutting off whatever Allura had been about to The others glanced back and forth, heads shaking.

"Do you think he's okay?" Lance asked, something close to panic darting across his features.

"Yeah, could someone have tracked him?" Hunk sounded worried, "the Blades of Marmora still have enemies and stuff..."

"Ok- everyone calm down. He is probably just in the bathroom... or stepped out for some air. People get split up when drinking for all kinds of reasons," Pidge sounded pretty calm and sober, but the very deliberate nod she gave at the end of her speech made her wobble a bit, betraying her own intoxication.

"Right, right," said Hunk, "alright- reasons drunk people leave the table. Dancing? No. Getting more drinks? No. Playing space air hockey? No. So, that leaves- bathroom, outside- for food, air, or walking-, and hook-ups."

"Hook-ups? Seriously?!" Lance gaped, "have you MET Keith? Does he seem the type to go from stranger to seal the deal in less than a song to you?"

"Yeah- good point," Hunk nodded. "I'll check the bathroom. I was headed there anyway." He bustled away, graciously extricating himself from a few bar-goers who tried to strike up a conversation with an exaggerated 'pee-pee dance'.

"I am sure he is fine," reassured Allura, "he is quite capable of taking care of himself." She sighed, "he's my favorite Paladin."

"I'm going to look outside. If something is wrong, he might need back-up," Lance said, an edge creeping into his voice.

"Be ready to give him some space if all is well," Shiro advised, "tonight is sort of outside his comfort zone."

"C'mon!" Lance protested, "I know how to handle Keith!"

"Does... Does he ACTUALLY believe that?" Pidge asked, incredulous.

"Yep. He really does. He's WRONG, but what can you do?" responded Shiro- joking, in part to keep the others from worrying but also to keep his own panic in check.

"Let's just... all head back to the table so the others know where to find us," Allura suggested helpfully.

"I am ordering a round," Pidge said suddenly, "we won't drink it until he's back- but if he's close by, we'll need the drinks to get back on track."

Shiro was about to argue when he saw the young Paladin's face. She looked angry, but he saw the slightly unhinged look she had in her eyes and he recognized it from her efforts to locate her family. Sometimes, it really broke his heart that Keith couldn't seem to figure out how to let them all in. There was so much love for him in this little ragtag family they'd crafted, if only he'd just... drop his walls a bit. "Sure," he answered, dropping his hand to Pidge's shoulder in affectionate support.

"Thanks, Space Dad," she sighed, then froze. Her large eyes got even larger and she clamped both of her hands over her mouth in moritification. It was too cute for words- which she would NOT appreciate hearing.

"What was that?" he asked.

"What? Me? Um.. No. I mean- nothing?" she floundered, not meeting his eyes as she stomped over to the table and snagged a chair.

"I believe she called you 'Space Dad'," Allura offered helpfully. The Princess's features drew together as she focused, her finger tapping at the corner of her pursed lip. Distractedly, she dropped into the booth. "You ARE very protective and encouraging of them all. I can see why they would see you as a kind of father to them."

"Space Dad?" he echoed. "I am the same age as Matt!"

"You are?" Allura looked puzzled, "you DO seem significantly more... parental than Pidge's brother."

"You are older than Matt!" Pidge yelped.

"Not by much," he countered, "same age difference as you and Keith. Oh my god! Keith is RIGHT! You DO all think I am a stick in the mud!"

"What?" Pidge snorted. "Pffft..." made a face, "bah..." and half shook her head, "pshaw," waved her hand dismissively. "We... so... do... not?"

Hunk chose that moment to return.

"Do you ALL call me Space Dad?" Shiro demanded of Pidge, "or is it just you?"

"Duuuuuuuuuuuude- you told him about the Space Dad thing?" he shook his head at the Green Paladin, "not cool, dude. Not. Cool."

"It's not like its an INSULT!" Pidge countered.

"I am TWENTY-FIVE years old!" Shiro nearly shrieked.

"Really? You look older," Hunk replied, "I mean- umm... You don't look OLD... just, you know, older than twenty-five. I thought you were... like... thirty?"

"Thirty!" Shiro gasped, clearly affronted.

"Thirty is NOT old," Hunk reassured. "Thirty is like... the new twenty." He was very, very glad he hadn't said thirty-five given Shiro's outrage at being seen as a thirty year old!

Allura watched the exchange with rapt interest, unsure why Shiro, of all people, would be reacting in such a way to a simple mathematical error. She thought the nickname was sw- "I think it is sweet," she declared, as soon as the thought flitted through her mind. "They look up to you. Trust you to keep them safe."

"Yeah!" Hunk leapt at that explanation. "What Allura said!"

"Right- and you are the one that busts us when we do dumb shit," Pidge added.

Hunk groaned, dropping his face into his hand and shaking his head at Pidge. "What is WRONG with you?" he muttered. That was SO not helping their case.

"Where did this nickname even come from?" Shiro wheeled to put his entire focus on Pidge.

Hunk scooted behind him, out of his line of sight, and was frantically shaking his head and miming getting his throat slit at the tiny techie. Please. Please. PLEASE. Let her have enough sense not to tell him the whole weird, gossipy story.

She must have seen his face because after she yelped and flinched away from Shiro, she pushed her glasses up her nose and waggled a hand at him. "You have to ask?" she snarked, "look at yourself RIGHT NOW. You are like one 'you better explain yourself young lady' away from a sweater vest and reading glasses."

Shiro blinked. He blinked again. He opened his mouth..."So- um... no Keith in the bathroom," Hunk supplied helpfully. "Any word from Lance?"

Chapter Text

"Stupid Keith," Lance muttered to himself, trying to focus on his irritation instead of his worry and fear. He and Allura had had a MOMENT! At least, he THOUGHT they had had a moment. He sighed, kicking at the floor. He'd PROMISED himself he wouldn't read into anything with Allura. But there had been a couple of times tonight where he was pretty sure they'd like... clicked. Not just wishful thinking, that he could recognize easily enough. Like, it really FELT like it was real. But then, he was drunk, and she was drunk, and... ARGH! And then stupid Keith had stupid vanished and then stupid HIM had gotten stupid scared that his damn idea for a fun night had gotten one of them hurt or worse. And so now, instead of having fun, he was fighting a cold, inky stone of dread in his belly.

"Stupid Keith," he repeated, brow furrowing as he stepped out of the bar and into the night air. Making him feel all this conflicting shit. Didn't he know they worried? Didn't he know SHIRO worried? Didn't he care? At all? About ANY of them? He'd better be in trouble. He'd better be hurt or something... something important. Cold, cold waves of fear and worry and self-recrimination lapped at the deep freeze of his anger, adding paper thins layers of iciness with each pass.

"What?"

Lance froze in place. That had been Keith. He turned. There, mostly hidden by shadows was his teammate. COMPLETELY FINE! His eyes traveled from one of Keith's boots, up his jean-clad legs, over his red and white jacket, across that pale, delicately boned face and inky cloud of hair that looked so sof-mullet. Across the mullet... and down the other side. Not a single visible scratch. Relief flooded him and INSTANTLY flash froze as brittle, frigid outrage. "NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY!" He roared.

"What the-" confusion washed over Keith's face, defensive anger sparking in those violet eyes. "What the fuck are you talking about, Lance?"

"Split the party- like in video games. It's an asshole move," he seethed.

Keith balked, confused and indignant. Video games? Lance was mad at him about video games? "What does that have to do with anything?" he did not want to ruin tonight with, yet another, blow up with Lance. He'd been trying SO HARD not to set him off and it had been mostly working. Everyone had been having fun. He'd even been having fun!

"You disappeared, Keith," Lance barked, gesturing wildly. "We were all dancing, and then you were just... gone. No one knew where you were."

"I was just out here- I was already on my way back!" Keith argued, "I'm not a child! I can take care of myself!"

"Yeah- and so can I and so can Shiro and so can Allura- but that hasn't stopped any of us from getting hurt or... taken," he blurted out. "You can't just... take off."
"I didn't take off! I am RIGHT HERE! It took you like five seconds to find me. You guys were all busy- dancing and flirting and having fun. How was I supposed to know any of you would notice that I was even gone before I came back?"

"Quiznak, you are so dense," he groaned, rubbing at his face. "Notice!? Of COURSE we noticed! We ALWAYS notice when you aren't around, Keith!" He was getting so frustrated. "You are part of the team. You're one of us. We all have to watch out for each other, Keith. That's how this whole thing WORKS."

"I am not used to having anyone paying attention to where I am going," Keith offered up, fighting the urge to lash out. It was hard. SO hard not to flip his shit.

"WHY? Because the Blades of Marmora don't pay attention to where you are on missions? Between missions?" Lance said skeptically. "Because Shiro doesn't keep tabs on us when we are off the field? Hell- like CORAN doesn't know where we all are right this minute? That's BS- and you know it. You really expect me to believe that keeping people in the loop is something NEW? I am not an idiot."

"It IS new," Keith snapped. "We haven't been off Earth THAT long, Lance. All of this... team stuff? That IS new for me!"

"You and Shiro-"

"Me and Shiro are NONE of your business, Lance," he hissed, "and that is different than all this team stuff, anyway."

"Is it? Well, fine, but you worried Shiro, too!" He made an exaggerated show of taking a deep breath... and then another... and then a third. "Fine. Whatever. You aren't dead or bleeding. Let's just... go back inside so everyone can relax."

"Why would I be dead or bleeding?" Keith grumbled, kicking at the ground with his boot.

"Why would you- Oh. My. God. Have you MET you?" Lance blurted in exasperation, stomping off toward the door. "I am your friend. I'd jump in front of a bullet for you and I STILL want to kill you half the time! It's a miracle you are still alive." Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit. Had he really said that? Outloud? To fucking KEITH?! Quiznak.

"Wait." Keith half jogged to catch up to him. Damn, Lance had a really long stride when he was on his own- he'd really cleared some distance. He reached out, hand grasping Lance's shoulder in a very Shiro-like move. "You called me your friend..." God- his voice was so... small... weak. Fuck.

"Yeah- fine. You're my friend," he admitted begrudgingly. "We're friends. Not like me and Hunk, or whatever. But yeah. I'm your friend."

"You'd take a bullet for me? Really?" He barely managed to form the words. It was like he couldn't get the air in his lungs to MOVE.

Lance sighed, anger draining at the surprise and disbelief in Keith's voice. His shoulder's dropped, tension leaving his body. Taking a breath, he turned his head to meet Keith's eyes over his shoulder. Sincerity flooded his ocean blue eyes. "Yeah, of course I would. Just like you would for us. Just like any of us would. That's what a team IS."

"Team. Right." Keith dropped his hand, some tentative, tiny, hopeful thing deep, deep, inside him snapping and retreating.

Chapter Text

One glance at his face and Lance could SEE the wall Keith used to keep them all at arm's length start to go back up. Ohhhh, no he didn't. He did NOT get to push them away even more! Without thinking about it, Lance moved. "Stop," he hissed, turning and pulling Keith into a tight hug, his arms snapping tight enough around Keith's torso that he could feel the ribs move with each breath. "Keith, we're your friends. We missed you. We were scared something happened to you. Got it? We worried because you are our FRIEND. Aside from the whole team thing."

He knew he should back away. Break the hug. Keep his protective buffer in place. But... he just COULDN'T. This wasn't like the hugs he got from Shiro on occasion- short, sudden bursts of easy affection, over almost before he registered they were happening. This was so, so, so different. Lance's arms were wrapped around him like a vice, tight and solid. And he wasn't letting up, either. A memory flickered in the back of his mind. He'd been five or six, tops and he'd been out playing by himself and lost track of time building a little dam of rocks and twigs in a small stream he'd found near his house until it had started to get dark. He'd run home. Booked it as fast as his little kid legs would take him- sure that he was going to be in the biggest trouble of his life, but instead, his father had given him a crushing hug that went on forever. He'd said the same thing as Lance, too. That he'd been scared...and Keith hadn't gotten in trouble, at all. The memory of his Dad was so clear. So sharp. So... important. How had he ever forgotten about that?

Awkwardly, Keith wrapped his arms around Lance, breathing in the scent of him that stirred echoes of HOME. "Sorry," he whispered, his forehead dropping to Lance's shoulder. Tension slowly started to drain out of him. "Didn't think..."

"Yeah," Lance answered, kind of floored by the reaction. Keith reminded him of a kid who'd had a bad dream and wasn't quite sure that they were back in the real world yet. So, he held on to the hug, keeping it tight and close- sensing that backing off too soon would be a capital-B capital-T Bad Thing. "S'ok."

His breathing was getting better, but it was still weirdly stuttery, and Keith couldn't seem to figure out why it kept hitching and shaking. After a moment, he noticed that Lance was slowly rubbing circles over his back and that his breaths had started to match up to the movements. This was weird, and awkward and not at all normal. He should REALLY step away. Lance was going to think he was the biggest loser ever.

"Whatever you just thought, right then? Yeah, it is bullshit," Lance muttered, "total bullshit."

"What?" Keith asked, surprised.

"You were calming down," Lance explained, still locked around him, "and then you got all tense again. You thought something that hurt and you flinched... and it is bullshit."

"How do you know that?" Keith asked skeptically.

"Because that's when the bullshit thoughts like to show up," he answered easily, "when you start to calm down."

"That happens to you, too?" Keith asked, his voice shy.
"Happens to everyone, buddy," Lance assured him. "Part of being human. You still count." He made a little huff of laughter, letting Keith know it was meant to be a tease, not a dig.

"Oh." His arms shifted and he relaxed a little more into the hug- deciding in that instant that he might as well trust Lance not to turn this into some kind of disaster. It would GUT him if that turned out to be a mistake and Lance said anything about it to the others... but since it had already gone on for a weirdly long time- and even with his shitty social skills, he knew this was a WEIRDLY long hug- he might as well soak up as much benefit as he could from it. He was getting so... tired... of always being on edge and alone. Just, so TIRED.

Now that he was fairly sure that Keith wouldn't bolt on him, Lance relaxed a little. He didn't back off on the hug (because, sometimes you just needed to be SQUISHED for a hug to work its magic), but he just sort of thawed. It was a subtle change, but unmistakable. The hug had transformed, in that way that hugs sometimes do, from something he was doing TO Keith into something they were sharing. Gotta love booze for its ability to make cuddly shit easier. Didn't hurt that the long lines of their bodies seemed to FIT better than most, either. Or that, despite the chill in the night air, Keith was just... so incredibly warm. Not like feverish-warm, more like blanket-fresh-from-the-dryer-on-a-cold-day-warm, like sun-baked-Cuban-Beach-sand-heat-at-sunset-warm. The last lingering icicles of of irritation and annoyance and worry stood no chance against that kind of cozy, endearing, homey, heat. After a bit, he leaned back, a soft smile on his face, "we should get back inside. Ready?"

Keith nodded, his eyes stormy with STUFF that even Lance could tell wasn't really about him, or this particular night. Like, old ghosts, not new ones. "Yeah," his breath shuddered, "guess so."

"Nope," Lance said cheerfully, "not quite yet." He pulled him into another quick, tight hug, giving him one final squeeze. "There we go." The hug broke and he took a half step back, stretching, "man- I really needed that."

Keith blinked in confusion, "what? You did?"

"Yeah, dude. I miss hugs," he rolled his shoulder, "alright. Good to go? Let's check. I say 'Vol', you say 'Tron'. Vol?"

"Uhhhh... Voltron?" This again? Now? Why was Lance acting so... NORMAL?!

"Oh for the love of- yep, you are back to being Keith," Lance rolled his eyes, clapping a hand on Keith's shoulder and pushing him toward the door. "Let's go back in so you can apologize for freaking everyone out and I can be the hero that rescued you from the gritty streets of... whatever this place is called."

Chapter Text

"You FOUND him," Allura crooned as they approached the table.

"See?" he hissed to Keith, "Hero. Of course I did, beautiful," Lance schmoozed, spinning on his heel and shooting finger guns at the Princess while flashing her a stellar smile, "I had to, otherwise I'd lose the title of being your favorite Paladin."

"Oh thank god," Shiro muttered. For a second, it looked to Keith like he was going to rush over, but instead, Shiro waited until he was closer and caught him in one of those hand-clasp-back-slap-hugs he did all the time. "You good?"

"Yeah, yeah. I am fine. Never in any danger," he answered, "sorry for worrying you guys." His eyes darted to Lance and his totally cheezy flirting with Allura. Who was giggling... great. Like Lance needed ENCOURAGEMENT. Ugh. His brow furrowed, a scowl tugging at the corner of his mouth. But, at least it looked like wannabe Casanova over there wasn't going to spill the beans about the fight and... just... all the shit from outside.

"You sure?" Shiro asked, curiosity and worry plain on his face.

Keith shook his head, clearing his thoughts. His face brightened a bit, "yeah. Yeah. I'm good. I'm totally good. Drinks?"

"DRINNNNNNNNKS!" Hollered Pidge and Hunk in unison.

"Right here, my buddy," said Hunk, moving his hand to showcase the selection of glasses on the table. "We got the stuff we were all drinking earlier, and a couple of the things you had. Shiro said they were some kind of Galra drink- but he wouldn't let me taste one." He shot Shiro a playfully dirty look, "such a Space Dad."

"Whaaat?" Yelped Lance, looking panicked, "who spilled! Hunnnnnk? Was it you?"

"What? No! I would NEVER."

Pidge hunched down in her chair, scowling and looking anywhere but at Lance.

"Pidge, seriously? C'mon, you are breaking my heart here!"

"I told Shiro that I thought it was sweet," Allura supplied helpfully, "that it meant that you three look up to him and feel safe in his presence."

"Ummmm... okay..." Lance slid his eyes over to his former classmates who were both nodding a little too enthusiastically. Alright then, the original source of the nickname had not come out. Good. To. Know. "Yeah... sure... that's totally it. 100%"

"Space Dad?" Keith asked Shiro, trying really really hard not to laugh and failing miserably. "Oh. My. God. Space Dad!"

"Stop it," warned Shiro.

"I can't!" Keith wailed, "Space Dad... that's hilarious! Is it because of the hair? Tell me it's not because of the hair!"

"Keith," Shiro growled.

"Because you can TOTALLY dye that back to black," Keith teased. "You know- if you think 'hot dad' isn't a look for you."

"Last warning Keith," he hissed.

Keith doubled over, laughing so hard he started to wheeze. "Oh my god. Oh my god. Space Dad... it's too perfect!"

"Pidge?" Hunk leaned in his chair, and loudly whispered, "What is happening right now?"

"I. Don't. Know." Pidge responded out of the side of her mouth, "but while they are distracted, we should drink."

"Man, I love you, you twitchy little genius," Lance purred, grabbing drink for himself and Allura. "Chug? Yeah, chug."

"Chug?" Allura asked.

"Like during the game," Hunk explained.

"Oh! Yes! I am good at that!" she announced brightly, "Hunk, you, dear man, are-"

"Yeah,yeah- your favorite Paladin. No time. Toss it back," Hunk hissed with a significant glance at Shiro who was still scowling at Keith's uncontrolled laughter.

All four of them hurriedly downed their drinks. Allura giggled, she enjoyed being part of the mischief for a change. It was such a nice break from the pressures of her day to day duties. Lance began gesticulating wildly at the bartender, trying to prompt him to refresh their drinks before Shiro noticed they'd snuck them.

Keith's laughter seemed to have petered out. Now he was just gulping air breathlessly, tears streaming down his face. "Sorry," he gasped, "sorry... that just..." He giggled, "Space Dad... oh god... Sorry. Sorry. I dunno why that hit me like that."

Shiro could count on ONE hand the number of times he'd seen Keith crack up like that... like, since they'd MET. "Fine. Fine. Whatever- just don't ever let me hear you call me that. Come on- let's have a drink."

They returned to the table, where they were greeted by four huge grins, no conversation, and Paladins who were clearly trying to be the picture of innocence. Keith snickered, flopping into the booth between Lance and Allura- totally, completely, 100%, by accident.

"You aren't fooling anyone," Shiro laughed, spinning the free chair so that he was straddling the seat and his arms were resting on the back.

"We ordered replacements," Allura assured him.

"You did, huh?" Shaking his head, Shiro handed Keith one of the Galra drinks and grabbed himself one of the others. "Good to know. I can't believe I am drinking something that tastes like fruit punch at a 2 star Spring break resort."

"They taste like hurricanes," Lance supplied, "beach drinks. Rum punch. God, I miss the beach."

"Nope. No. No-hoh-hoh-oh. No way. No thinking about home. NO WEEPY DRUNKS!" Hunk surged to his feet, "not on my watch. Up! UP! You are going to dance. Right now. Move it, move it."

"Hunk- no one else is dancing." Lance protested.

"Not true- I am going to dance," Hunk countered.

"So- just me and you?"

"Yeah. Sumthin wrong with that?" Hunk crossed his arms over his chest, a stern look on his face. "Not that it matters- you'll forget everything as soon as you start moving anyway."

"Not. True," Lance hissed.

"No? Remember the time you had your head phones on at school and the next thing you know you'd grabbed Miss Ellerson and tried to spin her?"

Lance cringed, "yeah that was bad."

"Just a little. Yep," he made shooing motions, herding Lance out of the booth.

"Fine, fine... Anybody else?"

Allura hopped up, "can you teach me more of the Earth dancing with the dips?"

His cheeks flushed slightly, holding his hand out to her, "I said I would, didn't I?"

"You did," happily, she grabbed his hand.

"Awww," cooed Pidge, "I'm glad Allura likes Earth dancing."

Keith made a face, twisting away from the dance floor to focus on his drink.

"I'll join you when I am done my drink." Shiro said after a moment. "You two," he said to Keith and Pidge, "do not go overboard with the drinks."

Pidge gave him a playful salute, "aye, aye Space Dad!"

Keith BARELY managed to hide his snicker with a deep swig of his drink, opting to give Shiro a thumbs up instead.

"Great. I'm never getting rid of that nickname, am I?" he shook his head, resignation clear on his face.

"Could be worse," Pidge offered, "Allura is Prunesplish forever, now."

Chapter Text

Keith lost track of how many rounds had been ordered since the incident outside, but FINALLY, his brain had a nice thick fuzz layer and he was starting to feeling boneless. They'd discovered that Pidge knew a ridiculous number of drinking games- which lead to a heated debate between Lance and Hunk over whether she had a secret drinking problem, or had done research in preparation for the party. Finally, Shiro had interrupted them to point out that Pidge had an older brother, which was a perfectly valid way to learn about drinking games. Now that he'd heard the nickname the other three had for Shiro, he couldn't help but chuckle EVERY time Shiro put himself in between one of their arguments... which meant he'd been doing a lot of laughing tonight.

Currently, Shiro, Allura and Lance were dancing to K-Pop, Shiro was belting out the lyrics at full volume. This was especially funny given that this particular song was, as far as Keith could tell with his rusty Korean, about how puppies were your best friend after a break-up. Shiro's Korean was worse than his, he'd just learned the song phonetically. He and Hunk had staked out seats and were playing poker with a pack of cards Pidge had had stowed away in that backpack of hers, and Pidge was lying on the floor, with the post of the table open and electronics strewn all over the place, trying to figure out how the drink delivery system worked.

"You know," Hunk was saying, "I am glad that at leassht SHMUM of us get drunk like guysh. I never figured Shpace Dad for a girl drunk."

"A girl drunk?" Keith blinked at him, trying to remember the odds of getting a straight flush with his cards. "Hit me."

"You know," Hunk nodded at the dancing trio, dealing a card to Keith, "all 'wooooo! I love this song! Dis is my JAM!' and shit. Like Lance."

"And Prunesplish!" Pidge chimed in from the floor, just as Allura, once again, let loose with the disco call that Lance had taught her earlier. "See?"

Keith laughed, "oh my god, you are so right. They are freaking 'woo gurls'."

"Yup- 2 drinksssh and Lance turns into a freaking bachelorette party," Hunk snorted, "ushually works for him though. I raise you one... uh... red thing."

"Works?" he tossed a... red thing into the pile, "I call."

"For hooking up," Hunk explained, "the hook-upssh THEMSELVEZZ, those hardly ever turn out well, but boy can he get stuff started."

"Oh my god," came Pidge's voice, "do you remember that time after the Voltron Show with the three.. um... crap... what were they called... Cina, Hina, and Pina... remember?"

"Oh shit, yeah!" Hunk snorted, "turned out they were sisterz and their father showed up. Lance had to run out of there in like boxers. No communicator or anything. RED had to go get him!"

"Pidge cackled, "and then Coran had to go get his shit the next day!"

"And Bii Boh Bi had to pay their father in those weird fluffy cookie things," Hunk actually dropped onto the table, laughing so hard he stopped making noise.

"Sounds... eventful," Keith answered, He hadn't heard many stories about when the team was doing the whole 'Voltron Show' thing, but it sounded like they'd had some adventures that had nothing to do with the Galra. "Wait- who won that hand?"

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" Pidge suddenly sat up, "remember the time he hooked up with the one that eats its partners after mating and he didn't find out until they were like JUST about to do the deed?"

"What?" squawked Keith, "that's a THING?"

"Oh yeah," Hunk nodded solemnly. "That's definitely a thing. That shook him up so much he didn't flirt with ANYONE for two whole days!"

Pidge was nearly crying from laughter, "or the one that could only 'copulate' in a pool of acid?"

"He has the WORST luck," Hunk giggled, "we used to make bets."

"Pidge!" hollered Allura from the floor, "Piiiiiidge! Florpbell!"

"Seriously?! AGAIN? How tiny are Altean bladders?" Pidge grumbled, crawling out from under the table. Her hair was standing up on one side of her head, purplish grease smeared across her nose. "Coming, Prunesplish." She wove her way over to the Princess and they made their way towards the bathrooms.

"What were we doing?" Hunk asked, reaching for his drink.

"Ummm... poker?" Keith guessed, distracted by watching Shiro and Lance try to outshine each other.

"You should go dance," Hunk suggested, "you haven't all night."

"Nah- I don'dance," he said, with a dismissive wave, "not a dancin' kinda guy."

"Thaz weird."

"Why's it weird?" he asked.

"Cuz you can fight. Like, hand to hand... and you can jump high and shit. Seemsh like you'd like dancing."

"Nope," he said with a shrug. "We all used to go out, an they'd dance, an I would do this. Sit at the table an watch. Couldn't drink back then, though."

"Who's we?" Hunk asked, this was the first time Keith had ever mentioned friends from back on Earth.

"Me an my friends," Keith answered, "SOMETIMES I would sing at Karaoke... but no dancing for Keef."

The Yellow Paladin snorted, "you just called yerself KEEF!"

"Psssh- no I didn't!"

"Yeah- you TOTALLY did! Shiro! Shiro!" Hunk hollered, jerking a thumb across the table, "he just called himself KEEF!"

"Awww, Keefy!" cooed Lance playfully, "come dance wif us!"

"Did not. Will not. Not happening!" Keith called back, laughing.

"Ummm guys?" Pidge returned alone, "there's a problem."

"Again? Pidge, did you drop Allura?" Shiro asked, a little too sternly.

"What? No!" Pidge snarled, "she's decided that the hand drying machine is some kind of diplomat, and she's like half forgotten english. I can't get her to budge."

Everyone stared at Pidge for a solid minute before bursting into laughter.

"Tell me," gasped Hunk, "oh gods, pleasssh, TELL me you recorded that!"

Pidge rolled her eyes, "what do I look like? An idiot? OF COURSE I FILMED THAT SHIT!"

"Calm down. Calm down." Shiro held his hands out to settle them all down, "I got this."

Chapter Text

Pidge chewed her lip until Shiro disappeared from sight. The instant he was out of earshot, she wheeled toward them, "wanna see?!"

"Hell yeah!" crowed Hunk at the same time that Lance was hissing "yess!"

The next thing Keith knew he was being completely squashed- Hunk sort of half behind, half beside him, Lance on his other side, his back pressing into Keith's chest. No sooner had they gotten into their spots than Pidge crawled across their laps, flipping on her back and holding up her phone so they could all see the little screen. It was... shockingly comfortable. A soft smile ghosted across his face and he fought the urge to close his eyes.

"Tip it," Lance griped, shifting and squirming until his head was pretty much tucked up under Keith's chin, the soft, dark hair tickling his throat.

"That's too far," Hunk grumbled, scootching even closer, and hooking his chin over Keith's shoulder.

This is what it was like to be one of them, Keith realized hazily. When the three of them would crawl all over each other, or all pile into one spot to talk or play video games. All the 'puppy' antics that made them all seem so young. This was why they did it. It was... something... about connecting. Not feeling so alone, so far from home. The world immediately felt a little smaller, a little less scary, a little more manageable.

"There! Can everyone see NOW?" Pidge asked. Once she got their confirmations, she tapped her screen and Allura flickered into view, clumsily moving.

"Was that a Xylottx curtesy she was supposed to be doing there?" Hunk asked.

"How would I know?" Pidge countered.

~"Allura, that's a hand dryer!"~ Pidge's voice echoed from the phone.

~"Shhhh! Pimj- you are going to offend the Ambassador!"~ said the tiny little image of Allura.

"Hehe, Pimj," snickered Lance, wrapping his arm around Pidge's shoulders, which dropped him a little lower on Keith's chest, his forearm following the line of Keith's thigh under Pidge's weight and idly played with her hair.

~"Hey! Prunesplish- it's a MACHINE. Not even a Robot. It's literally a fan and a heater!"~

~"Yes? And? Does that mean that we can be rude?"~

~"Yeah, it totally does! Allura, let's GO!"~

~"Ah... pardon me!"~ The Princess's head bobbled, her chin jutting out with a familiar attitude, as she waved her hand at the screen, ~"I am the royalty here. I think I know when I see am anbustitor!"~

~"Anbustitor?"~

~"Yes! An Anbustitir! Escuz me, escuz me... uhhh... have YOU had years of diplomacy training? Is this yer job? Uh cuzz... this is MY job. Iz MY job to talk to the Anbustitors! Olitionslyezoultkem zyrnumin scotlupom, or not?"~ Hand on her hip, Allura waited indignantly for Pidge to answer.

~"Ummm... I don't know any of those wor-"~

~"Well? Zyrnumin scotlupom, or not? Mmm? Yeh. Yeah. I thought so. I thouch so!"~

~"Prunesplish, we gotta go! Princess... time to leave. Lance is waiting to teach you more dancing? Uh... there are more DRINKS? Allura- let's go see your favorite Paladin! Ah screw it... not my job."~

Just before the recording cut off, they could hear Allura haughtily agree that no, it certainly wasn't her job!

"Yup, and then I came out here. This is quiznaking GOLD!" Pidge cupped her hand over her mouth, making the sound of roaring applause.

"Oh. My. God." Hunk breathed.

"Damnnnnn," whistled Lance, "she is drunnnnnnnnnk!"

Keith couldn't help it. All he could do was giggle. Tiny, child-like peals of delight bubbled out of him. It was just so bizarre. The entire night had been SO bizarre! He shook helplessly, sandwiched between the guys, with Pidge draped over his legs, making the whole tangle of them shake. His giggles set off Hunk's. Hunk's triggered Lance's. Lance's prompted Pidge's. Within moments they were all howling in laughter, at nothing. Arms snaked out and wrapped around each other, as if they had the power to somehow contain the laughter. It only got worse when a few minutes later, Shiro strode out of the bathroom with an irate Altean Princess slung unceremoniously over his shoulder, screeching indignantly in a language none of them knew- although they'd certainly heard a few of those words from Coran when things went wrong with the Castle of Lions.

"Allura and I are headed back now," Shiro said, scooping the little two-necked bottle from the drinking game up from the table. "Allura- I have your quiznaking trophy, stop bitching. You four-don't do anything stupid. Katie- keep them from getting themselves killed."

"You got it, Space Dad," Pidge replied. "Wait... did he just call me Katie?"

"Did he jus tell Lallura to stop bitching?!" Lance dissolved into more laughter. "¡Dios Mío!"

"Sorry, Pidge!" Shiro was nearly out the door, Allura hammering futilely at the back of his legs. "Old habits die hard!"

"Lallaura... thaz not her name!" Hunk snickered, and that was enough to set the laughter off again.

Chapter Text

When Lance finally stopped laughing, it took him several minutes to catch his breath. Then he reached for a drink- it was half finished, but it had to be either Pidge, Hunk, or Keith's drinking and that was fine with him at that moment. "Hey- why are we still listening to K-Pop?"

Pidge levered herself up to a sitting position, "Space Dad forgot his phone!"

"Stick it in your backpack and put MY music on," Lance ordered, holding his drink up like it was a chalice.

Hunk slid out from behind Keith and stood, "gimme- I got it." Lance dug out his phone, sprawling across the booth to get into the pocket of his jeans. Using Keith as a pillow he held his phone up to Hunk.

"Yeah," Pidge grumbled, crawling back under the table, "I was doing something."

"What ARE you doing?" He asked her, letting his arms flop above his head.

"Trying to figure out how this thing collects the empties," Pidge answered distractedly.

"Oh. Solid plan." His eyes met Keith's, who was staring down at him in drunken confusion. Poor guy wasn't used to being furniture for people. He almost felt bad. Almost. "Hi," he said, his voice sounding odd to his ears.

"Hi?" Keith responded, one eyebrow quirking upwards in an expression that could be flirty... or just really confused. "Comfortable?"

"Yeah, actually," Lance answered, feeling his cheeks flush... because now that he realized where he was, he was getting less comfy by the second. It was always so hard to tell where he stood with Keith. "Been on my feet a lot tonight."

Keith nodded slowly, "I saw. Dancing with Allura and Shiro."

"Yeah," his brow furrowed, "that is not what I thought I'd be doing when we left the Castle."

"La-ance," Pidge singsonged, from under the table, "you-ooo arrrrre drrrruuuuu-unnnk! I can tell- your accent is leaking!"

"What? It is not!" He protested, his attention shifting away from Keith.

"Uh-huh!" she insisted, "you're getting all lilty."

"Accent?" Keith asked.

"He's Cuban," Pidge reminded Keith. "It sneaks out sometimes when he's like tired, or sick, or DRUNK, apparently."

"One time," Hunk added from where he was switching out the music, "he forgot he'd taken pain meds and went drinking... that time he just full on switched to Cubano for the whole night."

"Hey!" Lance interrupted, "THAT got me laid... almost."

"Almost?" The word was out of his mouth before Keith even realized it. Having Lance draped over his lap and lower torso was really messing with his head.

"He means he passed out with his pants around his ankles, scared the hell out of ... uhh... Kelly? Yeah, Kelly," Hunk nodded, "and I had to carry his ass back to his dorm room."

"You guys have been friends for ages, huh?" Keith asked through his giggling.

"Me and Hunk?" Lance answered, smiling up at him, " yeah, everrr since we werrre pequeños niños."

"Little kids," Hunk supplied helpfully.

"Yeah, I know. I speak Spanish," Keith answered. "Lots of Spanish speaking kids in the home."

"YOU speak Spanish?" Lance asked, his whole face alight, "how much?"

"Uh..." he hadn't ever really tried to assess his fluency, "I don't know? I understand more than I can say. I get by. My accent is pretty awful."

Lance was visibly excited, "but, if I like was speaking Cubano, you'd understand me?"

Keith shrugged, "I could try. If it doesn't make sense to me, I'd tell you."

"Lance!" Hunk called out, "which playlist?"

"Doesn't matter!" he answered with a roll of his eyes, still beaming up at Keith.

Keith smiled back, it was kind of adorable how excited Lance had gotten about finding out that he spoke Spanish. "My accent really is terrible," he warned, "and I am rusty."

"Don't care," Lance breathed. Music started blaring and Lance's attention shifted. "Well... I'm gonna go charm me some locals," he curled up to his feet in a way that hinted at his grace on the dance floor, and thunked the top of the table with his fist before finishing off one of the drinks that were on the table. "Don't think you get to hide under that table all night, techie."

"Hey!" Pidge protested, "I've been being social!"

"Another round?" Hunk asked as he dropped into the chair across from Keith again.

"Sure," Keith answered on a chuckle, "why not?" His buzz had already started to fade, anyway, "get me one of the Galra drinks."

"Done!" Hunk went up to the bar to get the drinks- since Pidge had totally gutted the tech in their table- and he was back much faster than Keith had anticipated. "I think he was watching for us to head up," Hunk chuckled.

"Thanks," Keith accepted the glass and took a big sip.

"This alien booze is weaker than the earth stuff," Hunk observed. "Takes more to get a buzz, buzz fades faster."

"Yeah, I noticed that about that stuff too," Keith agreed. "This is stronger... but... yeah, not the same."

"He didn't freak you out with the Cubano stuff, did he?" Hunk asked after a few minutes, nodding at Lance, who was laying the charm on THICK with the locals.

"Freak me out? No," he shook his head, "just surprised me. That's all."

"It's just his homesickness," Hunk said with a shrug, "it was pretty bad back at the Garrison. He used to have a running countdown to every long weekend and every break. Now... I can understand him, and I can say a bit. But, like his family is SO loud- you have no idea. He's one of the quieter ones." Hunk bugged his eyes at him, "can you imagine?"

"Not really," he replied, "I am kind of the opposite. I like the quiet."

"Yeah," Hunk said dryly, "I think we all noticed that, Keith. You became a secret agent assassin guy. Big on the quiet."

Chapter Text

The bar was mostly empty at that point, the novelty of staring at the famous Voltron Paladins having worn off for a lot of the crowd that had been there earlier, but Lance still had no problem finding locals who wanted to learn Earth dances from him. He lost himself in the music and the flirting- loving the attention and the way dancing always felt like flying to him. Several songs from his home played through with him gliding easily from partner to partner- sometimes trying to find ways to adapt a step to non-Human skeletons was a bit tricky with how drunk he was, but he was having fun... and it seemed like everyone else was, too. Then he heard it, the start of "Despacito". Immediately he made a beeline to the table. "Up! UP! UP!" he barked, pulling Pidge out from under the table.

"But-"

"No! What's the rule?" He demanded.

"Everyone dances to Despacito," Pidge sighed, knowing better than to argue. Hunk was already on his feet, snapping and scooting over to the dancefloor with a big grin.

"Shut-up, you love it," Lance teased as he reached out and grabbed Keith's wrist. " You, too."

"What? No! I don't dance," Keith protested.

"EVERYBODY dances to Despacito," Lance repeated fiercely, shifting his grip to Keith's hand. "That means you, too."

Keith started to panic, eyes darting to Hunk and Pidge for help- that based on their faces was NOT going to be forthcoming. "I don't know how to dance," he hissed.

"Doesn't matter- I'll teach you. It is EASY. C'mon!"

Reluctantly, he let Lance drag him out to the floor, where he was put in a LINE with Pidge and Hunk who seemed to think this was totally normal. Lance moved his body around like he was correcting his fighting stance- all business. Then he positioned himself directly in front of Keith. "Just do what I do," he said, as if that was the easiest thing in the world.

The first few moves seemed simple enough. He knew his timing was a little off, but he'd never done this... whatever the hell it was.. before. Hunk looked like he'd done this dance a million times. Pidge was less practiced, but she kept adding these little flourishes that he could NOT keep up with. Lance, on the other hand, seemed to have NO BONES. Keith couldn't even wrap his head around how Lance was managing to move like that without hurting himself.

By the second verse, Lance had given up on this 'follow the leader' teaching style and had gotten in close. "How are you so bad at this and so good at melee fighting?" he muttered. "Here, put your hands on my hips," he stood about six inches in front of Keith, facing the same direction, so that Keith was looking at his back and wrapped Keith's hands around his hipbones, "ok, just move when I move. Match my movements."

He'd seen Lance do almost the same thing with literally dozens people over the course of the night, but somehow this still managed to completely floor him. But he tried. He really did. Lance started to move and Keith tried to step when he stepped, sway when he swayed, but then the tempo picked up and he was a mess. He could barely keep from tripping over his own feet- and he wasn't even dealing with those sinuous arm movements, or the way Lance was making his spine roll like a wave. Just the foot work and hip positions were too much for him.

Before he knew it, Lance was turning under his hands. "Relax," he'd laughed, "this is just dancing... not life and death. Breathe Keith!" He rested his own hands on Keith's shoulders, "okay. You know what? Let's forget about the choreography." He smiled encouragingly, "look at my face, not your feet. Good. Now, follow my hips and my hands. Let me steer you. This is supposed to be fun."

Keith didn't even know how to respond to that, he was so out of his depths. He couldn't even form any kind of protest. So, he did the only thing he could do, locked his gaze on Lance's and tried to let him move him through the dance.

"Better," Lance said encouragingly, "but you need to loosen up. Like a ready stance... orrr like you are in the pool! You like swimming. Loose joints. Imagine that the music is the water currents."

That seemed to help, he felt less clumsy and the moves started to make a kind of sense to him. Similar to the fighting drills he went through to create muscle memory- it was all about patterns. His confidence grew a little.

Lance nodded, "there we go! You are starting to get it. Hunk! Repeat the song. Keith's ALMOST got it."

"What? No! ONE song."

"No," Lance countered, "the rule is everybody dances for Espacito. Hunk's repeating Espacito- so you have to dance." He stuck his tongue out playfully. "It's okay. You really are close to having this click. I can feeeel it. ¿Por favor para mi?"

Chapter Text

He scowled at Lance, then sighed, Hunk's comments about Lance's homesickness fresh in his mind. "Fine, but no more repeats!" He was rewarded with a dazzling smile and he was damn glad for the flush of the alcohol, because he was SURE his cheeks were burning. He was just so far out of his comfort zone. Normally when he felt like this, he lashed out, but he'd been working with the Blades to learn better impulse control and he'd had so little time with the guys lately that he didn't want to ruin the time they did have with senseless bickering.

"Hey." Lance gave his shoulders a little shake, "get out of your head. It's messing you up." He flashed him on of those super cheezy grins that Keith found so irritating, "eyes on me."

Keith rolled his eyes, but it made him chuckle a little.

"You know, I have never seen you laugh as much as you have been tonight," Lance observed, "watch my knees. It's not hard but you kind of need a heads up so it doesn't throw you.

Keith looked down and tried to mimic whatever the hell Lance was doing to make his legs just... flow.. like that. "Galra booze," he said, by way of explanation.

"Alien booze is weird," he agreed. "Okay. Here we go. Song's restarting. Ready?"

"I guess? I'm not doing much," he answered.

"Careful," Lance teased, "make this seem boring and I'll start showing off."

"You aren't already showing off?"

He expected Lance to make some kind of a smartass comment. So, the smile that edged on bashful surprised him, "yeah... maybe just a little bit. I don't get the chance to do this often."

"Were you showing off with Allura when you dipped her?" The words hung between them before he even realised he was going to say them... and they hadn't sounded light or curious or positive in any way.

Lance stiffened, something dark passing over his features. His eyes bored into Keith's and he looked like he was ready to say something, start a fight between them. Then he blinked, his face suddenly curious. "You saw that? But you were outside..."

Panic flittered at the edges of his vision, making his heart race. "I said I'd only been gone for a few minutes. I was just... checking something. Turned out to be nothing."

"Nothing, huh?" Lance's eyes narrowed, that open, expressive face shuttering, closing itself off to him. Lance didn't trust his answer, it was clear as a bell.

"Yeah. Nothing."

Lance didn't even respond to that, just shifted his entire focus to the music. It was weird, nothing had CHANGED in how they were moving, but everything felt like wrong angles and missed beats. The joy had drained right out of Lance's movements and it was so obvious.

Keith didn't know what to do. He felt like he should apologize- but he didn't know what for. Anger at himself for fucking everything up started to build in his chest. He wanted to scream. He wanted to hit something. Kill something. Just, channel this... mess... into something so it wasn't rattling around in his chest anymore. Lips pressed in a tight line, he stared at Lance's shoulder, refusing to risk catching his line of sight.

It felt like ten years instead a few seconds before Lance spoke, his voice serious and quiet. "The first time. I was just joking around with Allura. Trying to treat her the same as I would any other friend. Being the idiot flirt makes her laugh now, doesn't bug her anymore. She has like 3 whole HUGE jobs, and she never complains. Plus, she's grieving. For her and Coran, it doesn't feel like 10,000 years. One minute, she saw her father put her in that pod, and then next, I was being a moron. She lost EVERYTHING except the castle, Voltron, Coran and some mice. I can't imagine what it would feel like if that was ALL there was left of Earth. I'd be devastated, but she is... doing amazing things. She needs help laughing sometimes. The second time..." his shoulder rolled in a half shrug, "I don't know what that was... but it wasn't showing off."

"I... never really thought about that," Keith admitted. His anger at himself got worse, he'd made Lance feel bad for doing a really GOOD thing... and he couldn't even explain WHY he'd done it. His skin felt too tight- how much was left to this song?

"I tease her about how beautiful she is," Lance admitted, "so I know what people think. But... really. Her looks are the most boring thing about her."

Nope. He couldn't push through to the end of the song. Keith dropped his hands and stepped back from Lance. It felt like he was going to ignite. Rage was boiling over in his gut. Rage that made NO SENSE. "I need some air," he growled and stalked off.

Chapter Text

"Quiznak," muttered Pidge. Her eyes darted to Hunk's ," I promised Shiro" she started at the exact same moment as he was saying "I got Lance." They nodded at each other and split up, her heading for the door, him crossing to where Lance stood. Along the way, she grabbed two of those Galra drinks. Keith had been pretty calm and happy not that long ago, after all.

Once outside, she leaned against the wall and let him stomp around a bit. When he seemed to be ramping up instead of calming down she spoke up, "thirsty?"

Keith pulled up short, barely managing to catch himself before he snapped at her. "you don't have to say it."

"Say what? I am asking if you want a drink. I have that weird wine stuff you've been swilling," she offered up one of the glasses. "I'm not Hunk- if you don't want to talk I am not going to try to get you to."

"You don't have to say that Lance and I are on the same team and we need to find a way to work together," he said, accepting the drink.

"One- your primary focus has been with the Blades of Marmora lately, not Voltron- and that isn't a dig, it is just facts. We are still fighting the same war, just on different fronts. Two- you and Lance work together just fine- better than fine, actually. Working together isn't the issue. Three- when it comes to Voltron, being able to work together, but nothing else is a liability." She shrugged, "but NONE of that is stuff that you should or COULD deal with tonight. How was that? Did I sound too drunk?"

He snorted, "sounded decently sober."

"It's almost like we might have put some thought into how to deal with this kind of stuff, huh?" Pidge nudged. "We're kind of used to the way you guys do this."

"This is different," Keith muttered.

"Alright- if you say so," Pidge agreed, "but can I tell you what it LOOKED like from an outside perspective?"

He stomped around a bit, finishing half the drink, before leaning against the wall, one arm crossed protectively over his chest, "yeah. Fine. Sure. Tell me."

"In the lions, you guys trust each other. In a fight, you know that Lance has you covered, he knows you are going to do everything humanly possible to make sure he gets out of that fight whole. Neither of you doubt that for a second. You know that you are both capable and smart and not afraid of a fight. We all do. I know that if Allura is on my six, my six is SAFE. Same for Hunk, you, Lance, Shiro- all of us. It is TRUST. Right?"

"Yeah," he answered immediately, "that's not a secret, we did all that team building stuff."

"Exactly- we did all that team building stuff so that AS VOLTRON we worked as a single unit... but Keith- you guys didn't do any of that stuff for life OUTSIDE of Voltron. That's where it falls apart for you two. Have you ever noticed that when you do something that we disagree with in Voltron, it is Lance's opinion that sways you?"

"What? That's not true- Lance and I disagree about tactics all the time!"

"Yeah, you do. You disagree with ALL of us about how to handle situations from time to time. But- if the team is split, but you and Lance agree? That's what we are doing- not always, but most of the time. It's not favoritism, no one thinks that. You guys have very different tactical approaches, so if you both think one option is better, it probably is. You know he's giving his HONEST OPINION and you know he is capable of making a good call. Right?"

"Yeahhhh?" skepticism ran rampant in his tone.

"Okay- so that is tactics and fighting. NORMAL LIFE?! No offence, but you guys are BOTH a mess."

"Thanks, Pidge- so glad you are my friend right now," he responded his voice flat, "I feel so much better."

"We ALL are, Keith- don't hog the trauma," she sniped. "Here?" she gestured vaguely at the outdoors, "you don't really think you have enough reason to trust him not to screw you over. So, you try to plan for every variable, but you don't GET how his brain works, and so you get like... all locked up in you head until you like burst."

"So, you are saying this is my fault? Great," he drained the rest of his drink.

"No, I am talking to you, so I am talking about you. I have to deal with Lance all the time, too Keith. NONE of us think he's perfect. We have all fought among ourselves before. But we work it out. We all know that we are stronger than an argument, or a screw up. You Keithed. It happens. We all know it will blow over. "

"I Keithed?" he gaped at her.

"Yeah, you acted like you. He Lanced. You Keithed."

"You turned our names into verbs?"

She nodded, "it's easier."

"How do you even know he 'Lanced'? Maybe this IS all my fault."

"That's actually really sweet- you are... kind of... defending him," she pointed out, "that's progress! But I know because I have been here all night. Things were going good, so he tried to push you, and then he pushed too hard, you hit your limit and you blew up." She offered up the other drink, pressing it into his hand, "you were doing great until he decided you HAD to dance."

He sipped the drink, thinking about what she said. It wasn't QUITE true, but there was SOME truth to it. "How did you come up with this theory?"

"Because he's done it to me," she answered easily, "I am not exactly a social butterfly either, Keith. He is trying to help- but he gets caught up in it and loses sight of who he's dealing with. We ALL have our things. I get sucked into my tinkering and go all hermitty or get lost in theories. Allura gets bogged down in history and tradition and comparing herself to her father. Hunk gets tangled up in all the worst case scenarios and paralyzes himself. You get stuck in your head questioning motives and ulterior motives. Lance gets tangled up in competition or forgets that what works for HIM won't always work for everyone else. He doesn't think that pulling apart machinery could be as fun as dancing, so he makes me dance. I dance as long as it is fun, and no more. We've figured out when to push and when not to. You guys just haven't yet, that's all. He Lanced. You Keithed. It happened. It's done. Tomorrow everything will be fine. Neither of you are the bad guy. Even YOU know that. We all do- including Lance. Alright?"

"I still think you are making it sound too simple," he muttered, drinking.

"Well YEAH- I AM drunk, Keith. I think I just used up all my smort brainy power."

Chapter Text

He blinked at her for a long moment, anger and guilt warring with something... lighter. Finally he cracked a smile.

"Aww come on! That was a good one! " Pidge cajoled, "I at least deserve a snort!"

"Fine," he relented with an eye roll, snorting lightly at her joke. "Satisfied?"

"Let's see- no one's bleeding or arrested. You have an ACTUAL smile on your face... annnd you just drank two more drinks, so you should be getting a good chill on real soon. I think I'm good," she crossed her arms over her chest proudly.

"That's the same look you get when you hack something," Keith muttered.

"Didn't I?" she answered smugly.

"What? No, you just..." he blinked, then groaned, "quiznak. You think you hacked me."

She made a spooky face and little wave motions with her hands, switching to a tone of voice that Keith recognized from hearing campfire ghost stories, "we are all made of the sammmme spaaaace dust..."

That earned her a genuine snort of good humor and she laughed. "We should hang out here for a bit while Hunk works his mojo."

"What?" Keith asked, collecting the two empty glasses.

"He's talking to Lance. Not sure how long that will take," she answered with a shrug moving to lean against the wall beside him.

"He's amazing," Keith said with a shake of his head, "Hunk, I mean. Dealing with people- it's so easy for him."

Pidge nodded, tucking herself up against his side and wrapping her arms around his waist, "yup- he's definitely the right guy for Yellow. I know right now things are kinda tense... but thanks for coming out with us tonight. Having you here... it's good."

She was so short. He wasn't used to hugs from people who weren't taller than him. His fuzzy brain struggled with where to put his arms for a second before he ended up just flopping one down the length of her back, his hand cupping her hip. There had been a lot of... touching... tonight. It was kind of nice, as long as he didn't think too much about it and get freaked out.

"Can I ask you something?" she said after a few minutes.

"Sure- but I might not answer."

"Fair enough. I was just thinking about the Lion's. I cannot imagine piloting anyone but Green. She's my girl. But you've piloted Red and now Black- do you still have a bond with Red? Does Red FEEL different than Black?" She pushed her glasses up her nose and blinked up at him, brown eyes alight with curiosity, "we never really talk about the Lions with each other. I know it feels really... private... for me. But, there are so few of us who have this connection with them. I dunno... things I can't quantify and analyze prick at my brain."

He gave her hip a squeeze and thought for a moment, "Red, used to feel like a campfire in my... soul? I guess, when I wasn't piloting her. Warm and inviting and homey. Never far away. Black feels like... another layer of skin, maybe? Always with me. Even when Shiro is piloting now, I still feel it. The bond is strong. Red's isn't strong anymore. It's more like... embers. Warm, but banked. But, I can still get echoes from both of them when they are being piloted. Red's happy. Black's waiting... but I think Black understands that I need to be doing what I am doing right now."

"Do you think Red would let you pilot them again?" she asked.

"I think... remember when we all got scattered and Shiro was hurt and I flew Black for the first time? I think Red would only let me in if it was to protect one of you... maybe even just Lance." He felt a little flare in the space that used to house that campfire he'd mentioned, and he knew, in the abstract way that Red communicated what would and wouldn't be permitted. Smiling, he continued, "scratch that. IF I NEEDED to fly Red, like, it had to be me, not him, and it needed to be done, then I could. I get the impression that as far as Red's concerned, this is like a friendly break-up. We're done, but we're good."

Pidge gasped, "oh god, I can't imagine 'breaking up' with Green! That's awful."

"No," he laughed, "it's ok. Really. I was just trying to find words... it's not... they don't think like humans. Not sure how well Black would react to me piloting Red, now that you mention it. I think it would depend on the situation." This time he felt a ripple, confirming his words, "yeah. Black is cool with context."

"Ok, enough talking about them like this. It feels weird, " she shuddered, "thank-you for answering. Alright. We can probably head in now."

"Alright, if you say so," he deferred to her- he had no idea how long it would take for Hunk to 'work his mojo' as she put it.

Pidge levered herself up off the wall and dusted her butt off, which made Keith realise- "Hey... you have a smear... of stuff on your nose."

"I do?" she pulled out her phone and activated her camera. "Aww man! Seriously? How long has this been going on?" She scrubbed at her nose with the tail of her shirt then tried to smoosh the chunk of hair that was sticking up. "Better?" she asked, finally.

"Perfect," he chuckled. "Ready?"

"Yeah," she answered, rolling her eyes. "Stupid grease."

"He held the door for her, chuckling to himself. Somehow, Pidge had known exactly what he needed to hear.

"Hey Keith," Pidge got his attention as they were headed back in, "have you noticed how Lance seems to think that all the rest of us are completely oblivious to the way he looks at Allura when she's not looking at him?"

Keith darted a glance at her, "yeah. I've noticed. Just because SHE didn't see it doesn't make it some big secret. Seriously."

Pidge nodded, then pinned his gaze with her own, "yeah, exactly. ALL of us have seen that look more times than we can count. It is naive to think that just because no one has SAID anything, no one KNOWS. Right?" She patted his arm and scooted ahead of him to make sure the coast was clear.

Chapter Text

"Hunk was sorting through the snarl of wires they'd been using to interface with their phones and gestured to the table, "you need to clear that up Pidge. I got this."

"Are you kidding me?" she squawked. "Did you remind him?"

"I did. He remembers. But... you know his luck," he shook his head.

"Yeah, do I ever. Boy is CURSED." She pushed her backpack at Keith, "start gathering up our shit. We are leaving soon. Hunk? What happened we were gone like FIFTEEN minutes?"

"He ranted for all of two minutes, then spotted someone from earlier, turned on the charm, and the next thing I know, he's stumbling into a closet with a local."

"Dammit, Lance," she growled, "I hadn't figured this out yet."

"What is HAPPENING?" Keith barked, feeling completely out of the loop.

"Lance found a hook-up," Hunk explained, "and, as we mentioned earlier- he's cursed."

"And that usually means we need to make a hasty exit- so we like to be prepared," Pidge added, staring quizzically at a piece of metal before stuffing it into the post of the table.

"So, we're fixing this stuff, and YOU, Keefy, are making sure we don't leave anything behind. "

"Fine," he grumbled, already moving to collect the little bits of detritus that they'd shed over the course of the evening. Lance's army jacket, Allura's big earrings that had annoyed her while dancing... and one of her shoes? How had that happened? The playing cards, a little baggie of worthless crystals in red or green that substitute for poker chips in a pinch. Nothing overly valuable or sentimental, but still not things that they'd want to leave behind if they didn't HAVE to. "Does he do this a lot?"

"Not anymore," Pidge answered, her voice was muffled by the table and sounded distracted, " the novelty of it wore off during the Voltron Show... and we hardly ever get to have some RR anymore."

"Meh- it depends," answered Hunk. "it's been awhile since the last time."

"Horndog," Keith muttered under his breath.

Hunk leveled a look at him that Keith had never seen before. It was... hard, bordering on angry.

"What?" Keith asked, confused.

"Nothing," Hunk answered, shaking his head, his face melting back into his normal, jovial expression. He glanced at Pidge to see if he could glean something from her, but she was not looking his way and was visibly busy.

"No, seriously. What?" He asked again.

Hunk sighed, "seriously, nothing. Just... I don't want another clash between you two tonight. Okay?"

Yeah," Keith answered, deflating a bit.

"Keith- tonight's been a blast. A couple of little hiccups but tons of fun... and I have some awesome surprises back at the Castle I don't want spoiled. Nobody is pissed at you."

One of Keith's eyebrows rose skeptically and he darted a glance toward the back rooms, knowing that Lance must have disappeared into one of them, the question unspoken.

"Ohhh- he's not pissed anymore. Trust me," Hunk laughed, "completely distracted- which means it is done and forgotten."

"Well, that's good, I guess. Okay- I think I have everything," he answered closing the backpack.

"I am pretty much done with the wiring," Hunk replied. "Pidge? How are things on your end?"

"Ummm... good. I think?" she answered from beneath the table, "I was pretty sloshed when I was pulling some of this apart, but the circuitry has a kind of logic... I am getting there."

"Hunk returned to the table taking the backpack from Keith and dropping Lance's phone into it. "Don't want to lose our last bits of Earth tech," he explained with a shrug. "Are you guys getting hungry?"

"I would kill for a good old fashioned greasy pizza," Pidge groaned.

"Yeah, I miss pizza," Keith agreed, "but also... bacon double cheeseburger with fries so hot they burn your tongue? Man... I can practically taste it!"

"Or... you guys... chocolate cake. With mocha buttercream frosting," Hunk nearly whimpered at the thought.

"Chili dogs," supplied Pidge.

"Lemon meringue pie," sighed Keith.

"This is cruel you guys... we gotta stop... but... like fresh picked strawberries? I dream about those. Don't get me wrong, I love learning about different space foods... but nothing has topped Earth for taste yet."

"Those fluffy green things that tasted kinda like peaches and kiwi were good, though," Pidge offered helpfully.

"And you made those pizza rolls for the party on Arus that were REALLY close to the real thing," Keith reminded him.

"Really? Aww thanks, Keith. That means a-"

There was a screech and Lance came skidding into the room, pulling his boot on. His pants were undone and barely staying up, his shirt pinched between his elbow and his ribs. Small, circular hickeys decorated his throat and shoulders, "guys! We gotta go! Move! Move move move move..."

Hunk's face transformed from earnest gratitude to 'told ya so' in a micro second.

"Seriously Lance?!" Pidge muttered, rolling out from under the table.

Lance was already pulling at Keith's shoulders, trying to get everyone moving "deadly serious! Let's GO! We do NOT want to be hanging around any longer than we have to!" He did up his fly and helped Pidge to her feet. The screech repeated and the color drained from his face, "BOOK IT!"

The look on his face spurred all three of them into a flurry of movement and they straight up RAN out of the bar, and for several blocks before slowing down to a walk and looking at Lance for an explanation.

"I remembered!" he insisted, a sheepish smile on his face, "I swear!"

"Remembered what?" Keith asked, vaguely remembering that Pidge and Hunk had already mentioned something along the same lines.

"He remembered to ask if the sex was likely to kill him," Pidge said dryly.

"I ASKED!" Lance insisted.

"So, why did we have to bolt, then?" she snarked.

"Physiological incompatibilities!" Lance blurted out, "and THAT is as much detail as you are getting!"

Chapter Text

They'd run for several blocks before stopping to catch their breath. Panting, laughing, wheezing and falling all over each other they took turns shoving playfully at Lance.

"Cursed!" cackled Pidge.

"Guys... *gasp* c'mon... *gasp* I'm the... *gasp* victim, here!" Lance protested.

"Victim... *pant* of a..." Hunk held his hand up, gulping down air. "Of a *pant* SEX CURSE!"

Keith didn't say anything. He didn't really have anything to add to the exchange, and he wasn't all that confident that anything he DID say would be welcomed by Lance- given how the dancing had crashed and burned.

"No fair!" Lance squawked, breathing more normally. He stood, and began properly adjusting his clothes. The boot he'd been tugging on when he'd come running out was yanked off and knocked against the wall a few times, presumably to get rid of some kind of pebble or similar. He peered into it, one eye squinting shut in a way that was downright charming before he pulled it back on. Leaning against the wall on the opposite side of the little alley they'd ducked into, Keith watched him through his lashes as he shook out his familiar white and blue shirt, and began to put it back on. "No fair!" he protested from the inside of his shirt as he fumbled with it, "that had a lot of potential- she was super cute!" His head popped out of the neckhole and he grabbed Pidge's backpack, rummaging through it until he found his coat.

The white cotton pulled tight over his chest, reminding Keith of just how much Lance had filled out since they'd ended up in space together. They all had, really- flying the Lions took a lot of physical work, fighting in them took more, and there was always the possibility of hand to hand fights. Being a Paladin required being in good shape and they'd all been getting stronger, tougher, bigger. It was inevitable, really. It was also most evident to Keith in Lance- who had been very thin when they'd first found the Blue Lion. The once baggy shirt was bordering on snug now. It still bagged at the hem, but it stretched snug over the chest and shoulders, all pristine white and bright blue, little red dots breaking up the cool colors. Wait. What? "Lance," he said sharply, making the Cuban's head snap in his direction.

"Geez, Keith! What?"

"Dude- you're bleeding," he blurted out, levering off the wall with the push of one heel and crossing to Lance. "Look at your shirt!" He crowded close, taking a good look at Lance's skin. Each of the little circular love bites seemed to be getting darker, tiny blooms of blood rising to the surface at the very center of the discoloration, "your throat, too... your hickeys are bleeding."

Lance glanced down at his shirt, then touched one of the marks, hissing at the touch and bringing back fingers dotted with blood. "Quiznak," he muttered, "maybe I am cursed."

Now that he was really looking, Keith noticed something odd about the marks- they were pretty evenly spaced, and seemed to have a pattern. They were smallest behind Lance's right ear, trailed down and around the back of his neck and the left side of his throat, across his collarbone and disappearing under his shirt, where the little blossoms of blood continued in a slash over his chest. The further from his ear they were, the larger they were. They didn't look like hickey's up close. They looked like bruises. "What the hell did this?" he mused out loud.

"No details!" Lance turned beet red, jerking his arms into his jacket, "I'm fine."

"Are you sure? They look pretty angry," Keith asked, concern lacing his voice.

"I'm sure. Totally fine. I'm fine," Lance insisted.

Hunk cleared his throat, reminding them that they weren't alone. Reflexively, each of them took a step away from the other. "Lance, I know you wanted to hit another bar... but I think we should probably head back to the Castle of Lions."

"No way! I'm fine- Keith's just a worrywart!" He seriously looked like he was about to stomp his foot in frustration like a kid.

"You're bleeding," Keith reminded him dryly.

"No! It'll be cool," Hunk insisted, "I have the best surprise planned. Seriously."

"I can vouch for that," Pidge piped up, "I helped. It's pretty awesome... also- the Castle has food. I could murder a milkshake right now."

"Is a milkshake, FOOD?" Keith asked Pidge, "isn't it a drink?"

"Don't care what you call it- I want one."

"No!" Hunk interjected, "don't drink dairy after booze." He looked a little green, "TRUST ME."

"But-"

"TRUST. ME."

"Geez!" she threw her hands up, "fine- but you are finding me something to snack on!"

"Deal," he agreed easily, wrapping his big hands over Lance's shoulders and pushing him purposefully down the alley in the direction of the Castle.

"This better be good," Lance grumbled.

Chapter Text

By the time they stumbled into the Castle, they were laughing their asses off again. At one point Pidge had climbed onto Lance's back and challenge Keith to something she called 'slap jousting' that required him to climb onto Hunk's back. His face still stung- Pidge's tiny, bony little hands could do some serious slap-damage, but he'd made a fair showing. It was hilarious how competitive Pidge got when drinking. She'd started no less than 6 different ridiculous contests between the four of them on their way back, ranging from the aforementioned slap jousting to a much tamer 'who can hold their breath the longest' challenge. His favorite had been when she'd challenged Lance to see who could climb a flagpole higher. After she declared herself the winner, Keith shrugged out of his coat and shimmied a good three feet higher than she'd gotten. Training with the Blades of Marmora came in handy at the strangest times. She'd been bitter and muttering for several blocks. It had worked like a charm. Between the joking and the weird little competitions their night got back on track. Any trace of lingering friction amongst them was forgotten.

Hunk led them to a non-descript store room and opened the door with a flourish, "Allura gave me this room for my dart board."

"You have a dart board?" Keith asked.

"Shhh," hissed Pidge.

"As I was saying," said Hunk, shooting Keith a pointed look, "Allura gave me this room for my dartboard. But I have been tweaking it up- Welcome to The Paladin Pad!" He ushered them in excitedly.

"Niiiiiiiiiiice," whistled Lance.

"Snacks!" Pidge bee lined for the dishes that were stacked on top of what seemed to be a storage container draped in... was that one of the decorative Altean banners?

"Ok, quick tour," Hunk said, pointing around the room, "Dartboard and darts... Pidge found the snacks... giant fluffy pillows to flake on... earth video games hooked up to a big screen... card table... thing I found that is kind of like a guitar- you are welcome Lance..."

"Guitar?" Lance scrambled over to the alien instrument, snatching it up and immediately falling back into one of the pillows with a level of trust that Keith envied, already tinkering with the strings and knobs. "This is awesome, thanks man!"

"Like I said, you're welcome Lance... but you guys... this here... oh THIS is the best part!" He poked his head out the door and looked up and down the hallway before shutting it, "this HAS to stay between is- got it?"

They all made vague noises of agreement, but he wasn't satisfied, "nuh-uh. REAL promises."

"Sure, I promise," Keith said first, with the other two echoing him.

Hunk sidled over to the wall and popped a panel off, revealing a mess of tubes, knobs and cannisters. It took Lance a second to recognize it, but when he did, his whole face lit up and a smile stretched over his features. "Hunk, my MAN, you glorious tinkerer you... is that...?"

Hunk nearly danced in place, nodding his head off, "mmmhmmmm! It is! IT IS!"

"Best. Night. EVER!" Lance cried.

"Aren't you STILL bleeding, Lance?" Keith asked.

"Shut it, mullet. Best. Night. Ever."

"Ohhhh- kayyyy," Keith drawled, "I give. What is it?"

"Quiznak," Pidge said around a mouthful of the closest thing they had found to popcorn in space, "it's a still. You made a STILL!?"

"Hear me out-" Hunk said quickly, "high proof vodka is very handy... for cooking, for fuel, for umm... disinfecting things... for cooking..."

"You said that already."

"Umm... cooking, fuel, disinfecting, and... uhh.. Oh! For pain relief... and of course for drinking."

"Vodka," Keith said, his smile turning impish. "You made vodka."

"From the peelings of those tubers we got from Shay."

"Hunk, man. I love you more than any other person in space," Lance declared. "This is the best!"

"Yes!" Hunk clapped, "ok, so I found some... let's call it juice, that tastes mostly like OJ. Who wants screwdrivers?"

"ME!" all three of them chorused.

"Keith!" Pidge yelled, dropping onto a pillow in front of the screen and slapping the one beside her, "come play Killbot Phantasm 1 with me!"

"Man, I haven't played this in months," Keith said folding his legs under him and stripping out of his coat. "Don't bitch at me for being rusty."

"Don't make us lose, and I won't bitch," she countered.

Hunk handed them each a glass. The contents were a murky, slightly greyish blue that clung to the edges of the glass oddlly. Pidge made a face and sniffed it, then shrugged and took a deep swig. "Not bad," she decided, "hello space screw driver- welcome to my life. You and I are gonna be goooood buddies, I can tell."

"Uhhh... Pidge?" Keith turned to her.

"Yeah?"

"Just how often do you think you are going to be hitting the vodka?"

"Not often," she answered easily, "but when I do, it will be my favorite thing ever."

"Solid logic," interjected Lance as Hunk handed him his own drink.

"You- once you get that thing tuned, you are playing darts with me," Hunk said to Lance.

"What? No! How did I end up being the one to play darts? I hate darts."

"You said you'd play- when you first starting planning this whole thing," Hunk's voice was smug.

"Quiznak, I did, didn't I? Ugh. Fine. I'll play. ONE game."

"Best three of five," countered Hunk.

"Hell no- best 2 of 3," argued Lance.

"Deal." He looked smug, dropping into one of the chairs at the card table, and pouring himself a drink.

Lance took a sip of his drink and coughed, "whoo! You were NOT joking about that 'high proof' part, were you?"

"Space potatoes are POTENT," laughed the Yellow Paladin.

Curious now, Keith took a sip. The alcohol burned its way down his throat and made his belly feel all toasty, even after just a sip. "Damn, Hunk!"

"Right? I was so pumped to show you guys this spot!"

Chapter Text

Hunk's homemade vodka really did pack a punch. It didn't take long before both darts and video games became impossible and the four of them each staked out their own little spot in the room. Pidge was sitting cross legged on top of the card table. Hunk was flopped on his belly on a pillow, his chin propped up on one elbow, playing solitaire on the floor. Keith was sitting backwards on a chair near Pidge, fiddling with the music player Hunk had dug out. He and Pidge had copied all their earth music to it when they'd been putting the room together. Keith was trying to find something other than pop to listen to. Lance was... well, sloshed.

Now THIS, this was what a good drunk was supposed to feel like, Lance mused, sprawled bonelessly over the huge pillow and strumming the not-guitar idly. Hunk was a genius. He should know that. "Hunk!" he called out, making a dramatic noise with the not-guitar, "Hunnnnk!"

"I know, I'm a genius," Hunk answered, laughing.

"We ALL know," griped Pidge. "You've been saying that for an hour."

"Still true," Lance pointed out, turning his attention back to the instrument in his hands. He was so beyond rusty, and he was never particularly GOOD at guitar, anyway. It was just something to keep his hands busy, and a way to fiddle around with his love of music. Didn't hurt that breaking out a guitar and singing a couple of stupid-simple love songs tended to have girls falling into your lap at parties, either. But he'd missed it. More than he thought. He started humming along as he tried to work out the chords to a song he used to be able to play pretty well.

"Lance!" Pidge sounded irritated.

"Wha?" he answered her.

"Do you have it or not?" she demanded.

"Ummmmmm?"

"SitV. The app. Scream Into The Void... do you have it from back when we were at the Garrison."

"SitV? Man! I haven't thought about that in ages. Yeah... yeah, I think I still have it." He reached into his pocket for his phone. "Quiznak- guys! My phone's gone!"

Hunk made a hissing noise, "nah- we got it man. No worries."

Pidge's backpack landed on his face, "ow! Not cool."

"Check," Pidge insisted, "I'm adding it to Keith's phone now. It creates its own network, so we can all use it."

"Uh, we are all in the same room- what do we need a chat program for?"

"For drinking games!" she crowed, "the anon settings are perfect for 2 truths and a lie.

"MORE drinking games?" he grumbled, digging out his phone and scrolling through his app list. "Yeah- I have it."

"Pull it up," Pidge ordered, handing Keith back his phone. She fiddled with her own for a moment, "ok- you guys should all have invites from me. Accept them, then when you get the prompts, type in your 2 true things and one lie. After we all do that, they will show up in random order in the chatroom, anonymously. We have to guess who wrote it and whether it is true. Get anything wrong and you drink. If you write something and EVERYONE gets it right, you drink. Ready?"

"Damn, it was really hard to type sensibly into the little screen. Lance had to retype his lie three times.

After a few moments, a message popped up on the screen.

Message from anon: [I have a criminal record]

"Keith!" Lance and Hunk cried simultaneously, "TRUE!"

"Keith blinked at his screen, "that wasn't me- I mean, I DO, but I didn't write that! So... that means... Pidge! I am going to say... true?"

"You two lunkheads have to drink. Keith, you got it," she high-fived him. "Delinquent Duo fo'lyfe!"

"You know it, Pidge," Keith replied, "ride or die."

"You have a record?" Lance slurred, skeptically.

"Hell's yeah," she shot back, "hacking, unauthorized access to restricted areas, BE... and I suppose now also, illegally enrolling at the Garrison. "

Hunk let out a low whistle, "you are such a badass."

"Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you," she cooed, making a mock bow with a flourish of her arm as the boys drank.

"Impressive," Keith laughed, "I've just got loitering, trespassing, and theft. The foster kid trifecta."

"Not assault?" Lance asked, surprised, "you're kind of a hot head... like I SAW you get into fights back at school."

"Yeah, but no one ever laid charges for that stuff," he explained, "no charges, no record."

Message from anon: [I got expelled for fighting with Griffon]

"Speak of the devil," Lance laughed holding up his phone. "Keith, and that is definitely true."

Keith smiled serenely. Hunk studied his face, "I dunno... I mean, yeah has to be Keith, because it wouldn't work for any of us, we weren't expelled... but it feels too easy. I'm gonna say false."

"I'm with Hunk," added Pidge, "Keith's too sneaky to make that one of his truths. Too obvious."

Keith laughed, "Lance you drink. That's not why I got expelled."

Lance pouted, but he drank. Hunk and Pidge gave each other a thumbs up.

Message from anon: [When I was five I wanted to marry my teddy bear]

Pidge read the message and cracked up, nearly falling off the table. "What the hell kind of confession is that? Ummm... definitely not Keith. So, it's one of you two..." She tapped her chin, thinking.

"Tick tock," teased Keith. "I think... Hunk... and lie."

"I'm gonna go with Lance, and lie," Pidge said finally.

"Well then, I am going with Lance, and TRUE... just cause I gotta be different," laughed Hunk, "and that SOO wasn't me, drink up Keith."

"You know me so well, dude," laughed Lance. "It is totally true- my aunt was getting married and I was TOTALLY into all the planning... and I have never loved anything as much as that teddy bear. Cried for days when I lost it at the beach. RIP Patchy. Keith drinks twice. Pidge once."

They all chuckled at his story, it was silly and endearing and pure LANCE.

Chapter Text

Message from anon: [I know how to surf]

"Gotta be Lance, and true," Pidge said immediately.

"Could be a lie," Hunk pointed out, "and Keith lived in the desert."

Keith's eyes narrowed in on Hunk. He hadn't chimed in on any of the other answers like that. "I'm going with Hunk, and a lie." he said- at the exact same moment as Lance also voted for a lying Hunk.

"Damn, I thought I'd get you guys with that one, Lance and Keith are right. I never learned to surf. Pidge you drink twice."

"This is fun," laughed Keith, clearly surprised.

Message from anon: [I love the rain]

"LANCE!" the three of them yelled.

"Definitely true," Pidge continued.

"Too easy," said Keith.

"Dude, you literally talk about how incredible rain is like three times a week," Hunk pointed out, shaking his head. "Drink twice."

"Can I help that I am an open book?" Lance griped, but he did take two swigs, finishing off his drink. Hunk made the rounds of the room, topping everyone up.

"You need to tell us something we don't already know," Pidge insisted, "because that was a crap answer and you know it."

"Fine" he groused, "ummm... lemme see... my favorite book is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

"What? WHY?!" Pidge had her head cocked to one side, blinking owlishy at him.

"You have a favorite book?" Keith was floored.

"Yes, I have a favorite book. I read," countered Lance, "and no big deep reason- I just love it."

Message from anon: [I can beatbox]

"I WOULD say Lance," Hunk said, "but we've already heard two truths from him... but not his LIE!" He nodded his head once, firmly, "I'm going with Lance and lie."

"Keith!" Lance said, just as Keith said Hunk's name.

"Nope- that one is me," Pidge answered, "but is it true or false?"

They all eyed her through squints of concentration. "Lie?" guessed Lance.

"Yeah, lie," agreed Keith.

"I think it is true," Hunk said.

In lieu of an answer, Pidge just started beatboxing.

Really well.

"Quiznak!" Lance gaped at her, "where did you learn that?"

Yes!" Hunk crowed.

"How did you know?" Keith asked him.

"Oh... when we are working on repairing stuff, Pidge can usually make the knocking or scraping or other 'weird' noise that indicates the problem. Super helpful for diagnostics."

"Drink, drink!" Pidge barked.

They drank, Lance choking a little in his rush to ask again, "seriously! Where did you learn to do that?"

"I didn't learn it anywhere, really... I just... kind of figured it out myself. I had to keep myself occupied while my code compiled and stuff."

Message from anon: [I have always wanted a dog]

"Hunk!" Lance and Pidge exclaimed together, "definitely true."

"In that case, I am saying Keith, and a lie," Hunk laughed.

"Everybody drink! You two drink twice," he half shrugged, "I like dogs."

Message from anon: [I can play ukelele]

"Huh," Keith chewed his bottom lip. It was actually kind of fascinating that Lance had never noticed he did that before. But now that he'd noticed, he could remember a bunch of times when he'd seen it. How had he never noticed how endearing that was before? It made Keith look WAY less emo, more relatable.

"I think," Pidge said, "that's Lance's lie. He was just playing around with the guitar, so he probably just switched an instrument he CAN play for one he can't as the lie."

"Interesting theory," Lance said, finally managing to tear his eyes from Keith's lip. "What are your thoughts, Keefy?"

"We haven't heard Pidge's lie yet, either," he pointed out, "and hardly anything from me or Hunk."

"Lots of options," Hunk agreed.

"I think it is Hunk's lie," Keith said finally.

"I think Hunk is telling the truth," countered Lance.

"It's true," Hunk said, "learned it at summer camp when I was seven."

Message from anon: [I've never failed a class]

"A-ha! There's Lance's lie," Keith grinned smugly, "it had to come up eventually."

"No... I know Lance has never failed a class, and he only has a lie left" Hunk said, "and I didn't write it so..."

"Pidge!" Lance decided, "and it's true!"

"Quiznak, you are DRUNK, Lance, I've already used up my truths." Pidge shook her head, "I failed eighth grade english- the poetry section TANKED my grade. I pulled a forty-freaking-nine percent. Had to do summer school because of dumb poems."

"You sound so mad," Lance giggled.

"I AM mad- one percent? I mean come ON!" Pidge nearly snarled, "we need to talk about something else."

Message from anon: [My favorite food is sushi]

"Hunk!" Pidge and Lance chorused, "totally true."

Hunk looked offended, "guys... seriously? Sushi? I'm hurt, you guys. So hurt... BURRITOS."

"That's me," Keith supplied, "I love sushi."

"But... you lived in the desert. In like a shack in the desert," Lance said, visibly confused.

"I didn't live there my whole life!" Keith shook his head, "just when I was really little and after I left the Garrison."

"Hey- that reminds me... how come you were never at any of our parties when you were still in school? They were epic- pretty much everyone in the dorms made it to at least one."

"I didn't live in the dorms," Keith replied, rolling his shoulder, "and sneaking out wasn't really an option in the M/FPQs. I mean, it COULD be done but it was a hassle... I didn't think it was worth the hassle for the sake of a party."

"You lived in the Married/Family Personnel Quarters?" Hunk asked, surprised.

"Mmmhmm," Keith answered, taking a drink. "The whole time I was enrolled."

"Like me," Pidge chirped, "and he's right- sneaking out of there is a pain in the ass."

"But WHY were you there and not in the dorms?" Lance asked, clearly confused by this information. "You're not married."

"That's where Shiro lived," Keith laughed, "so that's where I lived."

"Oh!" Pidge yelped, "oh my god! I remember him getting a bunch of hand me down stuff of Matt's for his place. That was for your room! Cool! You got some nice shit."

"Yeah, that room was pretty sweet. They let me pick out the wall color. Still smelled like paint when I moved in" His smile faltered, "it was nice while it lasted."

Everyone went quiet for a moment, understanding that this was a subject too serious to poke at in the midst of a light-hearted game.

"So, sushi," Hunk said, earning himself a look of deep gratitude from Keith, "you guys gotta drink."

"Hey- you too!" Lance squawked, "you didn't get it right either!"

"Fine, whatever, twist my rubber arm," chuckled Hunk.

"We threw the best parties," Lance sighed wistfully.

Chapter Text

Message from anon: [I can juggle]

Message from anon: [My first pet was a gerbil]

"Last two," Pidge exclaimed, "SitV always gives the last two at the same time."

"Oh! I know this one- Hunk's first pet was a gerbil- his name was Chibi Chuckers!"

"Of COURSE that was its name!" Keith cracked up. "That's too perfect."

"Awww, gerbils- no wonder you like Allura's mice so much," Pidge added.

"They aren't Allura's," protested Hunk, "they belong to the Castle."

"Okay- next game... before we get distracted!" Pidge tried to hop onto her feet, but messed up, landing hard on her ass on the card table, "owwww... new rule- everyone onto pillows! Stat." She slid off the table into Keith's lap and then stood, dragging him along with her.

"I can walk!" Keith protested, an instant before he tripped on his own boots and fell into one of the huge fluffy cushions. "Fine. Pillows it is."

"What's the game?" Hunk asked, setting the vodka and the mix up on the floor between them all.

"Three Vetoes!" she announced grandly.

"Never heard of it," Keith said.

"It's easy," assured Hunk.

"Everyone gets three vetoes, we all ask questions, and if you don't want to answer you use a veto. Run out of vetoes and you HAVE to answer... and guys, let's not be gross or mean with the questions. I don't want hear your nasty ass stories."

"When does it end?" asked Lance.

"When everyone uses all their vetoes," Hunk replied easily.

"So, when do we drink?" asked Keith.

"Whenever you want- it's not a game to GET you drunk, it's a game for WHEN you are already drunk," Pidge explained, "or like, after lights out at camp."

"Okay, you start Pidge," Lance suggested, "I'm an open book."

"Alright, let's get a couple of toughies out of the way while everyone has vetoes," Pidge said, "and start with..."

"No! Wait," Hunk rose to his feet, "this game is better when the lights are low. It's easier to tell secrets in low light!" He tinkered with the lighting panel by the door, finally settling on a soft, hazy glow that was reminiscent of a dying campfire. "Perfect! Okay- go..."

"Alright, let's start with... ummm... what is your biggest fear?" Pidge asked.

"Veto," Keith said almost instantly.

"Veto," echoed Lance, "if I don't get to know his, he's not knowing mine."

"Guyssss!" griped Pidge, "come off it! We're supposed to TRUST each other."

"I'm afraid that I won't make it back to Earth," Hunk said softly, "I mean, you all know that... but worse. I am afraid that I will be the reason one of you guys don't."

"Awww Hunk," cooed Pidge, "I think we all are afraid of that... of both those things. My biggest fear is that I will lose my brain... like... going senile terrifies me."

"Well, this game got off to a depressing start," Lance sighed, "let's try... what was your most embarrassing moment?"

"Veto," said Keith immediately

"Seriously? You suck mullet. I'll start- maybe then you'll change your mind. My most embarrassing moment was my very first REAL date. I got food poisoning and threw up all over her pretty dress."

"Ouch!" cringed Hunk, "I remember that- you tried to make your family move away so you didn't have to go to school the next day."

"Dude, she HATED me after that- I got like, zero sympathy."

"The curse goes THAT far back, huh?" laughed Pidge.

"Shove it, Pidge! I am not cursed!"

"Did you ever stop bleeding?" Keith asked, genuine concern in his voice.

"Yes! I stopped bleeding... See Pidge? THAT'S a friend- actually concerned, not going on about some kind of ridiculous curse joke."

"Fine! Geez! No more cracks about the curse, I get it," Pidge relented.

"So, MY most embarrassing moment," Hunk interjected, "was when I was 10 and I insisted on making the cake for my grandparent's big anniversary party... and I somehow mixed up the sugar and the salt- it was AWFUL, but what made it worse was everyone trying to choke it down instead of hurt my feelings, so I didn't know how bad it was until I got my own piece."

"Awww, Hunk," Lance giggled, "that's the cutest embarrassing moment ever. Pidge?"

"Veto," Pidge said quickly, "not spilling. Ummm... how about... what do you miss most about Earth? And Lance you are not allowed to say rain!"

"Psssh, as if," Lance snorted, "I miss my family the most. Hands down."

"Same," said Hunk with a sigh.

"I miss my family... but I think I miss that feeling of being HOME the most. You know?" Pidge said.

"Veto," muttered Keith.

"Really, man?" Hunk asked, "that's your last veto."

"Yeah. Really. I am not answering any of those questions."

"Alright then, your call," Hunk replied, "sooo next question... Oooh! I know! Who was your first real, cannot get this person out of my head, crush?"

"Veto!" Keith said immediately, panic lacing his voice as he bolted upright.

Chapter Text

"Are you kidding me?" Lance griped, "like you JUST had the whole thing with Hunk about using up your vetoes too soon."

"You guys seriously don't want me answering this one! I'll answer one of the other ones- you can pick. But not this question."

"Okay, hang on- Keith? Did something really awful happen with the crush? Did they like hurt you, or did it cause problems with school, or living arrangements or something?" Hunk intervened, "like we don't want to be bringing up trauma."

"Keith sighed, "no- nothing like that. Just... I REALLY don't want to answer this."

"Is it someone in this room?" Lance wheedled.

"What? No. I was eighteen years old when we found Blue- I didn't just blink into being at 18. You really think I didn't ever have a crush before I was a legal adult?" he asked, incredulous.

"How would I know? Maybe you just don't like people, " Lance said.

"If I didn't like people, why would I suddenly develop a crush on one of you guys- no offence, just... you are all definitely PEOPLE."

"It's Shiro," Lance said with certainty. "It's gotta be. Why else would he not want us to know? It's Shiro right? Definitely Shiro. Is it Shiro? Is it? C'mon, Shiro? I mean, we'd totally GET it if it was- he IS Shiro, after all. It's Shiro, right?"

"Oh my god, no. Gross! It's not Shiro!" Keith sounded truly disgusted.

"Woah- ok Lance, knock it off... and Keith- we'll come back to the rest of it... but are you sure your vision is okay?Like- good eyesight is pretty important for pilots, and now I'm starting to wonder if you've actually SEEN Shiro- like, in focus. Because... he's like... textbook heart throb material."

"Hunk? SERIOUSLY?! Ugh! Gross... just gross." Keith fell back into the pillow dramatically.

"Okay, so it's not someone in the room, it's not Shiro, and it isn't tied to some kind of trauma," Pidge confirmed, "sorry dude, you are gonna have fess up on this one. No extra vetoes for you."

"Pidge- I swear, you do NOT want to hear this!" he pleaded.

"Oh my god," Hunk breathed, "I know who it is!"

"It's Shiro," supplied Lance.

"No... oh you guys, it's so not Shiro. I know who it is and it is sooo not Shiro!"

"Hunk. No." Keith tried putting his foot down. "You can't."

"It is SO obvious you guys... it's no one in this room, it's not Shiro. It was before we found Voltron, so it's no one we have met in space... but he doesn't want to answer so that means it is someone we all know."

"Is it that asshole Griffon?" Pidge asked, "because I can see not wanting to admit to that."

"But none of us would CARE if he had a crush on Griffon- we'd maybe tease him about it, but otherwise, no big deal. Because Griffon isn't IMPORTANT to any of us."

"Hunk, please!" Keith tried.

"Quiznak! I know who it is!" Lance crowed, "oh. my. god. Hunk, if you are thinking what I am thinking you are a freaking brilliant brilliant man!"

"Kill me," muttered Keith.

"What am I missing?" demanded Pidge.

Hunk turned his attention to Keith, quirking an eyebrow in silent question.

"Fine," Keith muttered, turning beet red.

"It's Matt."

"What? That's ridiculous! How would he have even known Matt before-"

"I know him through Shiro," Keith muttered. "He used to come over all the time- with your dad, or to get help with his science theory work, or just to hang out, or to help me get caught up my school work, I know Matt through Shiro. It's Matt."

"So- is no one going to mention the full on drama llama moment we just had here? Because if I had acted like that, you guys would never let me live it down."

"So help me, Lance," Keith muttered in warning.

"It's TRUE- you FLOPPED onto your pillow all 'eeeee I'm gonna DIE!' and you 'ew grossed' Shiro!" He boggled, "it's just... so... not KEITH."

"Maybe it's DRUNK Keith," Pidge suggested. "Maybe Keith gets... girly... when he's drunk?"

"Really Pidge?" Keith said dryly, "you want me to start going on about how hot and sexy your brother is?"

"Eww gross! No!" Pidge said, flinching away from the very thought. "Don't even... Ugh... Now I have that thought in my head forever! Bleach! I need brain bleach!"

"See? Totally normal response," Keith argued, "and for the record, that crush was years ago. I'm not still pining for Matt."

"Awww... you pined?" Lance cooed, "were you all emo and angsty about it? Was there poetry? Staring out the window at the rain? Journaling?"

"I swear to all that is holy, Lance..." Keith rumbled. "Can someone ELSE just answer the question so we can move on from me already?"

"Mine seems so boring now," Hunk admitted, "I was totally gaga over my preschool teacher. I thought she was an angel sent from heaven. Talked about her all the time. I had it bad."

"You were five, tops," Pidge pointed out.

Hunk looked affronted, "so? It was still a crush. Still broke my little heart."

Chapter Text

"My first crush was Carmelita Cortez," Lance sighed, "I was so smitten. She was a student in one of my dance classes, and it was all very scandalous."

"How old were you when you started teaching dance classes?" Pidge laughed.

"I started co-teaching at 9, and I was leading children's classes alone at 11, adult classes at 13," he answered, "why?"

"Isn't that a little young?" asked Pidge.

"Hold on- you TAUGHT dance classes?" Keith blurted at the same time.

"My abuela owns a dance school," Lance explained, "my siblings and cousins all helped out. I liked it better than most."

"Was this the girl from the first real date?" Pidge asked.

"Oh, no... Carmelita was a couple of years before that. She was only in Cuba for the summer, I was devastated when she went home. Completely heartbroken!"

"Who was your first crush, Pidge?" Hunk asked, wanting to shift gears before Lance got maudlin.

"Oh! I know this one," Keith piped up, pouring himself another drink.

"I don't think I like that you knew my brother," Pidge narrowed her eyes and glared at him.

"I said I KNEW, I didn't say I was going to SPILL," Keith pointed out, "and I like it. I don't feel as... peripheral anymore."

"Keith, you're the Black Paladin," Lance pointed out, "you are our LEADER- how does that make you peripheral?"

Keith shrugged, "I don't know- you and Hunk have been friends for years, you and Pidge are pranksters, Pidge and Hunk are tech-heads, you were all training together at the Garrison. You guys are tight, and that's awesome... but..."

"It can be hard to find a way in," Hunk finished for him.

"Yeah! Zactly," Keith nodded. "But now, it's not like that as much."

"You really think you know?" Pidge asked him.

"I KNOW I know- because I remember Matt looking for this book for your birthday and that was why."

"You had a crush on a book?" Lance asked, incredulous.

"No, I had a crush on the person the book was ABOUT," Pidge replied with an eye roll. "Nikola Tesla."

"Nikola Tesla? The inventor?" Hunk asked.

"Makes sense," Lance decided.

"Right?" chimed in Keith, "it's kind of perfect."

"Didn't he go mad and fall in love with a squirrel?" asked Hunk.

"It was a pigeon," she muttered, "and I never claimed he was perfect... but he WAS brilliant."

"A pigeon?" Lance echoed, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my god- is THAT where your nickname came from?!"

"I don't know- Matt gave me the nickname. Moving on!" she barked, "who was your first kiss?"

"Veto!" Lance and Hunk squawked, looking at each other and then quickly looking away.

"What? Wait!" Pidge narrowed her eyes, "does that mean? Were you EACH OTHER'S first kiss?"

"Sure looks that way," cackled Keith, "and it looks like it did not go well, at all!"

"No!" Hunk held up his hands. "I have never, ever, ever, EVER kissed Lance. And that's all the details you are getting."

"Yeah- what he said," Lance agreed, nodding for emphasis.

"Alright.. be weird about it, that's not going to stir up my need to know, at all," Pidge replied, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

"I don't know who mine was," Keith said conversationally, like that wasn't the slightest bit out of the ordinary.

"How is that even possible?" Lance asked.

"I was... thirteen, I guess... anyway, I was at a coffee shop and there was a guy I knew from the home hassling this girl. She looked really scared and she kept saying she had a boyfriend, trying to get this guy to leave her alone. She was a TERRIBLE liar though and he didn't believe her. So, I just kind of jogged up all 'hey hun, sorry I am late' and I gave her a hug and then she kissed me." He shrugged, "the jackass left, and I walked her to the bus stop. Never got her name."

"Awww... you were her hero," Pidge cooed, "I bet she tells that story all the time."

"Dude- you missed a prime opportunity to get her number! How did you let that pass by?" Lance was astounded.

Keith rolled his eyes, "I didn't WANT her number, I just wanted to help her out. Besides, even if I did- that would feel wrong to me... like I wasn't any better than the guy that was hassling her."

"You are a rock solid guy, Keith," Hunk said, reaching across the gap between their pillows to give Keith a fist bump, "rock solid."

"Thanks, Hunk," he answered, "that means a lot coming from you."

"It's just the truth," Hunk demurred, finishing off his drink and pouring himself another, "see guys? I told you Keith was one of us."

"What?" Keith asked, surprised, and a little hurt. Pidge and Lance hadn't thought he was one of them?

"Gay, right?" Hunk said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "My mother always used to tell me that the queer kids will find each other."

"Ummmm," Keith sat up, glancing from face to face.

"I'm pan," Hunk gave him a warm smile.

"Ace," said Pidge with a little wave.

"Bi," supplied Lance.

"Uhh... wow... yeah. I didn't think it was that obvious," Keith said softly. Ohhhhhhh, THAT'S what Hunk had meant by the 'one of us' comment.

"Hunk has a knack," Pidge laughed.

"I just know people," Hunk protested, "I pay attention to more than what they say. It's not that hard! So, yeah... that's the four of us. I'm not sure yet about Shiro and Allura."

"Shiro's gay," Keith supplied, "it's not a secret."

"I figured," said Pidge, "I mean, I knew about HIM... but wasn't sure if maybe he was bi or pan."

"No, Shiro's gay," Keith answered, "he's just... he compartmentalizes really well. So, it doesn't really come up much."

"Allura's pansexual," Lance supplied.

"Are you sure that's not just wishful thinking, Lance?" Pidge teased, "because if we are ALL queer, then there's a decent chance she's a lesbian."

"I am sure- we had a whole conversation about it," Lance answered, "Alteans can shape shift a bit, so that changes how they see things. She was pretty fascinated by the whole idea of sexual orientations as humans see them. Then she decided that pansexual was the closest fit to how Alteans see things. Am I, like, the ONLY one of us that actually TALKS to her?!"

"I talk to her," Keith replied, "I mean, not often, but it has happened. We've had a few moments."

"You and your bonding moments," Lance teased rolling his eyes.

"Yup, that makes all of us, then," Hunk said. "Mom was right, the queer kids find each other."

Chapter Text

"Pidge?" Lance said suddenly, "you never told us about your first kiss."

"Oh, yeah. That," Pidge answered easily, "my friend Jenny's sleepover party for her twelfth birthday, a bunch of the other girls decided we all had to 'practice' kissing... on each other. First one to kiss me was Alison Berkawitz. Girls are weird sometimes. Seriously."

"I have one," Hunk said, "you guys ever want to get married? Maybe have kids? Not SOON, obviously, but like, someday?"

"Not me," Pidge answered, "I am pretty happy with the family I have now. I don't really have any interest in pairing off with anyone... and I do NOT want to raise kids. I MIGHT, maybe, possibly, grow a baby for Matt if he needs me to, but even that's a stretch. Not the life for me."

"I want kids someday," Lance said, "I love kids. My niece and nephew are the cutest things ever! I love being part of a big family. I want like four kids at least, and I definitely want to get married some day. I'm not sure what that would look like for me, but I definitely want the whole commitment and kids deal."

"Me, too," Hunk sighed, "I want two kids, a boy and a girl. I even have names picked out. Manaia for a boy, and Arihi for a girl."

"Those are pretty names," Pidge said, "you guys will be adorable Dads someday. What about you, Keith?"

"I am definitely going to have kids," he answered with a certainty that surprised them. "At least three, maybe more- depends on how old they are when I get them."

"They are generally zero days old when you get them, Keith," Lance laughed.

"Not always," Keith countered, "not if you adopt orphans."

"Yeah, that makes sense," Pidge answered.

"You don't want kids of your own?" Lance asked.

"If I adopt them, they're my own kids, Lance, that's how that works."

"Well, OBVIOUSLY," Lance responded, indignant, "you know what I meant!"

"I don't think I'll have genetic kids, no," Keith answered, "it's not something I NEED and it's not like I am going to accidentally get my girlfriend pregnant or something."

"Dude- we are in space. Trust me when I tell you things are nowhere near as simple as sex ed class at the Garrison made it seem!"

"He would know," chuckled Hunk, "he just keeps finding new things to 'complicate' matters."

"You are so cursed," giggled Pidge.

"Quiznak- here we go again," groaned Lance. "Screw this, I'm getting another drink. Who wants a top up?"

"I'm good," answered Hunk.

"Same," replied Pidge.

"I could use another," answered Keith, peering into his empty glass. "I have one! What is your BEST memory?"

Lance rolled off his pillow and crawled over to the vodka and juice, collecting Keith's glass along the way. He caught his tongue between his teeth as he eyeballed the drinks in the dim light

"Veto," said Hunk. "No offense guys, but I am keeping that one to myself."

"Fair enough," answered Pidge, "mine is probably... the last Christmas before the Kerberos mission. It was just such a nice Christmas. I think about it all the time."

Holding the two glasses aloft, Lance scooted over to Keith on his knees, handing over a glass, "mine is... umm..." He dropped down onto the big pillow with Keith, "oh! I know! When I became an uncle. The very first time I held my niece. She was so tiny, and sweet... I didn't even care that she was still all gunky. She was like, mayyybe an hour old. Chica preciosa."

"Drunnnnnk, Lance,"sing-songed Pidge, "leaking Spanish again."

"I think it is sweet," Hunk defended his friend, "being an uncle is the best."

"What about you?" Lance asked Keith, leaning against him a bit, "what's your best memory?"

"My fifth birthday," he answered easily. "My dad took me on a road trip to this big fair. We stayed in a hotel with a pool, and he went on the rollercoaster with me over and over and over. Then we went to this outdoor movie and ate popcorn and candy apples. It was awesome."

"Sounds it," Lance said, clinking glasses with him, "and I think you are going to be a great Dad someday. Lil'bit intense, but that's not bad. Don'wanna be a pushover, after all."

"Man," Pidge said, "I would've loved a day like that when I was a kid."

"I love everything about that except the rollercoasters," Hunk laughed.

"I think it is cute," Lance giggled, "just picture it- tiny little Keith, with his tiny little mullet and fingerless gloves, eating candy apples and screaming his head off on a rollercoaster. "

"Thanks?" Keith said, eyeing Lance dubiously.

"You're welcome, buddy," Lance replied, patting him on the knee affectionately. "I have one! Who is your biggest role model?"

"Ugh- I have so many," Pidge groaned, "I can't pick just one! There's Turing, and Edison, and Tesla, and my brother and my dad, and Shiro, and Allura... just so many."

"Mine is my great-grandfather," answered Hunk. "His family lost everything when he was a kid, but he worked his butt off and rebuilt a good life, not just for him- but for all his siblings, and his parents, too."

"Shiro, and my abuela," Lance answered, "Shiro's like my professional hero, but my abuela? If I can be half as happy and kind and loved as she is, it will be a good life."

"My dad," Keith said softly, "he dedicated his life to keeping people safe. He was a good man. I want to be someone he would be proud of."

"You keep the universe safe," Hunk said through a yawn, "I think you've got that down."

Chapter Text

"YrafrkineeroKef," mumbled Pidge.

"What?" Lance cracked up, "Hunk- is Pidge even awake?"

"ImWake!" Pidge barked, punching the air for emphasis. "Lance! Play us a song!"

"Yeah- I wanna hear how the not-guitar sounds," Hunk agreed.

"Fine," he hooked the instrument with his foot and dragged it over to him, getting it situated in his lap. "Just remember- I was never very good at this... AND this isn't a guitar... AND even if it was, I am rusty."

"Fine, fine, whatever- just play already!" Pidge muttered.

He strummed and tweaked the strings a bit, trying to get a feel for the instrument. It had nine strings, which was already hard to wrap his head around, and the neck was an odd length. Even after all his fiddling with it earlier, it still felt very foreign to him. After a few minutes, he settled on an old campfire song he'd learned as a kid. It was simple strumming, with only a couple of chord changes. Most of the melody came from the vocals, the music just added rhythm and depth. He hummed a bit, trying to remember the words, then began to sing.

He was far from polished, but his voice was pleasant enough, and once he began, the Cubano lyrics that told the story of the ghost of a young girl who ran away to join her lover only to drown before they were reunited fell from his lips with scarcely a thought. It was a sad song, full of longing and love, the ghost searching endlessly for a lover that she would never find. It had been one of his favorites as a child- he'd loved the romance of it, and the slight trill of fear that he got from the idea of a ghost. His eyes drifted shut, and he surrendered himself to the simple pleasure of the language of his home, his oldest and most precious memories.

"S'pretty," Pidge murmured part way through the song, humming along haphazardly.

"Man," Hunk sighed, sounding drowsy, "I've missed this."

When Keith had agreed to let Lance talk at him in his native tongue, he'd had no idea how it would transform the younger guy. Gone was the smartass attitude, replaced by something earnest and honest and completely mesmerizing. Lance would never make a living off his voice, but he COULD sing, the words filled with a swell of emotion so raw and relatable that it made his chest ache. He shifted on their shared pillow, curling onto his side and propping himself up on one elbow to watch Lance play.

The chorus was simple enough, the melody soft and lilting. Before he even realized he was doing it, Keith joined in with a basic harmony, his voice pitched a little lower than Lance's and holding the last notes of each line just a little longer, adding to the melancholy of the sad story.

"Quiznak," mumbled Pidge, smacking weakly at Hunk, "d'jooo know Keith could sing?"

"Maybe?" Hunk sounded confused, "shhhh... s'pretty..."

Lance looked over to Keith when he realized the source of the harmony, a tender smile playing at his lips. He hadn't known Keith could sing! Their eyes met and held, each watching the other for indications of how the song was going to shift. They seemed to have a knack for harmonizing. Keith was enjoying himself enough that he continued his harmonizing through the verses, although he was less confident on those lyrics and switched to simply echoing some of the words on longer notes. A few times, they missed each other's cues and faltered, but recovered quickly and each did so with encouraging smiles for the other. As the song ended, they kept smiling at each other.

"Wanna try another?" Lance asked, his voice almost shy.

"Sure." Keith glanced at the other two and gave a little snort of laughter, "looks like we sing lullabies well. They're both out like lights."

"Doesn't surprise me," Lance chuckled, his voice soft, "Hunk has a habit of doing that. Any requests? I don't know many songs, but I might know something you like."

He thought for a moment, racking his brain for something that Lance might be able to play AND he'd be able to sing along with. Finally, he snagged on a song from his childhood, some old folk song he felt like he'd always known. He remembered it being sung at school when he was really little, so he thought it was likely Lance might know it.

"Yeah- I remember that song," Lance answered, "it's one of the old protest songs from WW3. Good choice."

Keith sipped his drink as Lance fiddled around with the unfamiliar instrument, his lips quirking up slightly at the way Lance sticks his tongue out like a kid when he's concentrating. He'd never noticed him doing that before tonight, but this was the third or fourth time he'd spotted it.

"What?" he said softly, blue eyes searching Keith's face.

"Nothing," Keith laughed, "you just look like you are concentrating really hard. It's cute."

"Cute?" he echoed, shock clear on his face.

"Yeah," he flushed, "cute... like I could see you as a little guy, coloring or something. Cute."

Lance's cheeks burned, the only thing that made it bearable was that he could see that Keith was blushing like a fiend too. The moment stretched out for what felt like forever... which made Lance realize that they were just... staring at each other.

Keith couldn't help it. He didn't even realize he was speaking until the words were out of his mouth, "does THIS count as a bonding moment, then?"

Lance blinked at him for a second, then laughed, the tension between them falling away like broken glass. "Nothing like a night of drinking for bonding, that's for sure," he strummed the not-guitar. "Alright, I think I got this."

"This has been fun," Keith says softly, "tonight, all of it... even the weird bits. I'm glad I came. You remember when you were all 'I'm the cool ninja sharpshooter- that's my thing'? You were wrong. I mean... yeah, you are one hell of a sharpshooter... but THIS, this is your thing. You... you GET people. I don't. Never have, probably never will. I know tonight was your idea... man, I haven't seen Shiro that happy and relaxed in forever. And Allura? When has she EVER laughed that much- when have I? You did all that, and you act like its nothing. It's not nothing. It matters. So, thanks."

He peeked up at Lance through his lashes, violet eyes flashing with... something Lance had never seen in them before. His breath froze in his chest, a million possible retorts clogging up behind it like logs caught in an ice jamb. Icy fear of saying the wrong thing and wrecking this pulsed, making his hands go clammy and his throat go dry. Finally, something unclogged somewhere inside him and words returned to him. "Anytime, buddy. This has been a blast." He flashed a warm, genuine smile, "ready to sing some more?"

Chapter Text

The first thing he registered was PAIN. His head was killing him, there was a line of FIRE wrapped across his chest and around his neck, and there was something stabbing him in the tender part of his side. He groaned, his hands automatically moving to push away whatever was trying to bore through his kidney. His fingers wrapped around something hard and unevenly shaped (maybe something wooden?) and he reflexively wrenched it away. Whatever it was made one HELL of a noise when it landed and he whimpered as pain exploded, bright and immediate in his poor aching head. Hand shielding his eyes, he tried to burrow away from the light and noise only to discover his pillow seemed to be... a person. Vaguely, he remembered hooking up at the bar, but he also was pretty sure that had led to running away. He'd passed out on Hunk enough times to know that this was not his old dormie. Pidge, maybe? Wouldn't be the first time they'd conked out together.

That's when he registered the heat. That baked in the sun warmth that only Keith seemed to exude, and the scent of his skin, that somehow always managed to have hints of wood smoke and leather and just the tiniest touch of really good cigars. Dammit- he'd passed out on Keith. Now what? He didn't particularly WANT to move- for a whole host of reasons that ranged from simply avoiding the pain he knew would come if he tried to move his head or cracked his eyes open even a hair's breadth, to actually really MISSING the feeling of waking up beside someone, to just really liking the toastiness he was feeling at the moment. Shockingly, Keith was super comfy to sleep on. This was the first time he hadn't woken up at least a little bit chilly since he left Earth... and he didn't even have a proper blanket. He was just so... warm... and tired... and miserable. Without making any kind of decision about it, his poor, hungover body retreated into the relative comfort of sleep.

That racket hadn't gone unnoticed though. Hunk stirred, his stomach rolling at even the slight movement. Oh god... it tasted like something DIED in his mouth. He gagged, a wave of cold sweat rolling over him.

"Do NOT puke," Pidge warned, her voice quiet and strained. "If you puke, I'll puke... and nobody needs that right now."

"I feel like death," he whimpered.

"Shhhhh... I think my skull is broken."

"Quiznak- how much did we DRINK? I don't remember feeling that drunk..."

"Ugh- don't remind me of-" this time she was the one who gagged.

He cracked an eyelid and immediately regretted it. Pain lanced through his head, but he got a glimpse of their location before his body snapped his eyes shut of its own accord. "Are we still in the Paladin Pad?"

"The Paladi- ohhh yeah! I remember that." Weakly she lifted her hand, Hunk somehow STILL instinctively knowing to meet her fist bump with one of his own. "Sweet surprise... but I kinda hate you for it now."

"We didn't even make it to bed," he marveled.

"Whhhy are you two yelling so loud?" Keith groaned, "trying to sleep over here..." He tried to roll over, and discovered that was impossible. He was thoroughly pinned in place by a tangle of limbs. Lance. One long leg was sprawled over him, crossing his body at mid-thigh and then hooking under his ankle, the other had somehow tucked up under his knee. He could feel a warm hand under his back, flattened against his ribs. Lance's shoulder was tucked up tight in the fold of his arm, his head pillowed on his chest- right over his heart and right next to a hand that had fully fisted around his shirt, which he knew, because his own hand was resting directly over it.. His other arm was curled around his teammate, fingers resting against Lance's lower back. He froze in place, suddenly terrified of waking him, or of drawing the attention of the others to the very... intimate way they'd gotten entwined.

Too late, he realized as he heard the sound of Pidge giggling and her phone's camera going off. "Sitting up is hell, but you two make it worth it," she teased, "how drunk were YOU GUYS? You're all wrapped up like kittens."

"I... have no idea how this happened," he answered honestly, fighting the urge to panic. He felt so exposed and... raw... and weirdly content- which was downright terrifying.

"You passed out within arm's reach of Lance McClain," she answered, "he glomps in his sleep."

"Glomps?"

"You know," mumbled Hunk, "coils around you and hangs on like a baby spider monkey. He's surprisingly nice to cuddle with for such a skinny dude."

"Says the guy who doesn't sleep on his stomach," Pidge pointed out, "first time he crashed with me he nearly smothered me. Oh quiznak... I need water... and like five bottles of something... morphine maybe?"

"I am never. drinking. again," Hunk commiserated, dragging himself to his feet, "heading to the bathroom. If I am not back in an hour, just find a new Paladin for the Yellow Lion. Been nice knowing you."

"Yeah," Pidge groaned, from the sounds of her movements, she was crawling. "What he said... quiznaking weird alien booze..."

Keith just... lay there. He really had no idea what to do next. The others had seemed to think this was no big deal, and if he was honest, it really did feel... so nice. But it was just so far outside his normal life that it was making his brain short circuit. Well, to be fair, the hangover wasn't helping with the whole thinking and decision making thing. How long could he stay there, awake, wrapped in Lance's arms... and legs... before it got seriously weird? He didn't know shit about this kind of situation!

Chapter Text

"Paladins!" Allura's voice boomed over the PA speaker. If it hadn't been so excruciating, Keith might have actually laughed at the terror-stricken look on Lance's face as the guy bolted upright- somehow managing not to do Keith any damage in the process. "The briefing was scheduled to begin half a Varga ago! Where ARE you?"

"Briefing? Alabao, I'm gonna die," moaned Lance dramatically.

"S'just a hangover," Keith grumbled, "not gonna kill you." He believed that, too... right up until the second he tried to sit up. "Oh god my head... I'm gonna die."

"How is she not just as bad off?" Lance griped, "she was trashed! Shiro had to carry her back here!"

"Maybe Alteans don't get hangovers? Orrrrr..." he glared at the pitchers still sitting in the middle of the pillows, "Hunk's vodka! How much of that did we drink?"

"Uggggh... too much... Did we really play 3 vetoes like a bunch of little girls at camp?"

"Yeah," Keith groaned, valiantly trying to get to his feet, "I definitely remember something about that."

"Oh. My. God." Lance said suddenly, "you're gay! I just remembered that... and you had a crush on Matt!"

Keith's face flushed. Quiznak. He'd forgotten about that part of the night. "Yeah... the queer kids find each other or something," he muttered.

"What's with the blush? Unless... do you STILL have a crush on Matt?"

"I cannot believe I am hungover, late for a briefing and somehow having this conversation right now. No. I was 14 when I had a crush on Matt. It lasted, like, a few months- while I was figuring things out." He rolled his eyes, "it was just a crush. I wasn't in love with the guy."

"So, why the blush?" Lance repeated, hangover seemingly forgotten. "Where the heck is my comm- aha!" He hit the button on the communicators they carried when not in armor, "Allura, sorry... we're all a little under the weather. Be there shortly."

"I guess... I'm not used to talking about this stuff," Keith said with a shrug, turning to face Lance, hoping that some eye contact will put the subject to rest. He'd noticed that that tended to work with Lance. "Ummm... Lance? Your nose is orange. Like ORANGE orange! Safety vest orange."

"What?!" he squawked, flinching from the pain his own voice caused him,"orange? No! How?"

"Augh," reflexively, Keith clamped his hands over his ears to avoid the blistering noise. "Best bet for information is Allura and Coran- who are already waiting for us. We should go."

"My beautiful skin," Lance whimpered, struggling to his feet. A wave of nausea rolled over him and he teetered for a moment before sheer outrage spurred him forward. "We're getting to the bottom of this!"

"We?" echoed Keith, trailing half-heartedly behind Lance. "Do you think this could be related to your bleeding hickeys last night?"

"Hickeys? What hickeys?" he asked, faltering in his pace.

"The ones you are COVERED in, Lance," Keith laughed, "you have dozens of them. Remember? They were bleeding? Look at your shirt."

Lance looked down and blinked at the speckles of blood decorating his shirt. "What the quiznak?! I know I was drunk, but I would DEFINITELY remember somebody giving me THAT many hickeys- and hickeys don't bleed! What the- ohhhh... yeah, I remember now. They aren't hickeys."

"I saw them, Lance," Keith scoffed, "you came flying out of that bar with your shirt off- those were hickeys."

"Nooooo, those are suction bruises, not hickeys," he argued.

"I am not sure what the heck YOU'VE been during in your make-out sessions, but hickeys ARE suction bruises, genius." Well, that had been the wrong thing to say. Suddenly Keith's brain was oh-so-helpfully supplying him with a wide and vivid assortment of images of alll the various things that Lance could have been doing during his make-out sessions.

"Damn, your head must be vicious- I've never heard you whimper like that before, and I've seen you get pretty banged up. As for the bleeding thing... it's a 'all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares' situation," Lance muttered, "hickeys are A kind of suction bruise, these are a DIFFERENT kind of suction bruise."

"What the hell DIFFERENT kind of suction bruise?" Keith demanded, floored by the implications of Lance's answer.

"No DETAILS," Lance snarled.

"That's not the kind of thing you can call 'no details' on, Lance," he hissed as they passed through the door to the bridge.

"Do you two EVER stop bickering?" Shiro asked, not even looking up from the screen he was reading.

"Hey- don't blame me for this," Keith yelped, "he's the one-"

"I said NO details, Keith," Lance interrupted, "why are you so interested in details of my s-" His eyes drifted to Allura, who was standing not ten feet from him, her expression anything but pleased. "My... night..." he finished feebly.

"You are impossible!" Keith growled in frustration, actually stuffing BOTH his hands into his hair to try to quell the urge to PUNCH something.

"Keith!" Allura gasped, "your EARS!"

"What?" His face snapped up, hands moving to touch the offending body part, "what's wrong with my ears?"

"They are ORANGE!" she insisted, moving closer and finally getting a good look at Lance's face, "and your NOSE, oh Lance! Didn't either of you spend ANY time in the healing pods?"

"The healing pods?" Keith echoed, "why would we have gone to the healing pods?"

"Wait- you know WHY we are turning orange?"

"Oh, you are not turning orange," Coran chuckled, far too loudly, "it is temporary discoloration as the body breaks down some of the compounds in the fermented drink I recommended to you. Perfectly harmless I assure you."

"You didn't think to TELL anyone that those drinks would turn us ORANGE?!" Lance demanded, incredulous.

"Well, I didn't expect any of you to experience it," Coran countered. "The healing pods accelerate the process of flushing the compounds from the system. Even an hour in the pods would have prevented it from causing any discoloration."

"Again- why would we have gone to the healing pods?" asked Keith, trying to keep his tone civil, despite his irritation with and worry about Lance, and his raging headache.

"You spent hours ingesting a potent toxin that can damage the brain and all the filter organs in your body," Allura answered, her tone suggesting that this should be obvious. "One that has a rather intense backlash as its temporary euphoric effects wear off. Did you really believe that you were expected to suffer through that backlash without medical help?"

"You mean a hangover? She's talking about a hangover, right?" Lance asked.

"Yes, Lance," sighed Shiro, sounding resigned, "she's talking about a hangover... and I have to say- you two look like you are dealing with a couple of SPECTACULAR hangovers... and Pidge and Hunk haven't even made it this far yet. How much MORE did you drink after Allura and I left?"

"Ummmm..." they looked at each other, a vague memory of promising Hunk not to talk about the Paladin Pad or the still flickering into their awareness.

"A lot?" Lance said, sheepish.

"I didn't really COUNT?" added Keith, equally chagrined.

Shiro just shook his head at them. Allura looked like she was about to say something, but suddenly Coran was there, being way too loud and... BRIGHT, somehow.

"Right- well then none of our young Paladins seem to be in any state to operate their Lions if a situation arose now," he said cheerfully, bustling them back towards the door, "and without the healing pods, that will continue for an unacceptable length of time. So, the briefing will have to wait until after they have had some time to heal. We'll get you fixed up faster than an angry klanmüirl."

Chapter Text

The next several days had been a whirlwind. The intel check had come through and Voltron had been sent out to deal with a Galra listening outpost at a key, if somewhat remote, moon. They hadn't even returned when there had been a distress call in an entirely different sector and they'd had to deal with that. It was busy, but rewarding, and it was good to be flying with Keith in Black again. Shiro had seemed almost relieved to stay behind with Coran and deal with the political and diplomatic ends of things. He'd never admit it, but he preferred having Keith lead the team in the field. Shiro was his hero and more than capable- a gifted leader, by any measure- but when Keith was in Black, Lance just felt more sure of himself. He wasn't trying to impress his childhood hero, he wasn't trying to prove his worth to be on the team, he wasn't second guessing his own thoughts and input. He and Keith might bicker and spat. Outside of the Lions, their dynamic was contradictory and confusing, but in the field? They worked together very well, even with the digs and arguments. He felt like his input was valuable. He felt like Keith actually listened to him and put some weight in his assessment of the situation beyond whether or not he could make a tricky shot. It was a good feeling. One he'd missed.

It was even busy back at the Castle when they'd returned, triumphant but exhausted. Several different delegations from the Coalition were arriving and there seemed to be endless meeting and briefings, discussing strategy, aid dispersment, and all the usual topics PLUS sorting through the intel they were receiving. He barely had enough time to work-out, eat, and sleep. Before he knew it, Keith was off on another mission with Kolivan, and Shiro was helming Black again. Which was... fine... It's not like there was anything to COMPLAIN about with Shiro's leadership it was just... something... off? He couldn't really make sense of the difference really, other than that it just wasn't the same without hearing Keith's voice over the comms in a fight.

He'd been in his quarters, listening to his music and trying to decide between going for a swim, or playing some Killbot Phantasm when Allura had showed up at his door wanting to talk to him. Which was how he found himself sitting on his bed (HIS BED) with Allura (the PRINCESS WAS SITTING ON HIS BED!).

"Lance," she said, oddly fidgety and nervous, and even blushing a little, "that night that we all went out into the city. Do you remember when we danced?"

His heart sank a little. He knew he was reading too much into whatever it was that had happened. She was here to give him the 'just friends' speech. No wonder she seemed so awkward. "Yeah," he answered dully, "I remember... well, I remember MOST of it- there are some fuzzy bits toward the end." Like just how the heck he'd ended up sleeping on Keith, but that was beside the point.

She laughed softly, the soft sounds undoing some of the signs that she was uncomfortable, making her seem more relaxed. She tucked one of the little locks of silvery-white hair that framed her face behind her ear and smiled shyly. (Damn, that was seriously adorable.) "I was wondering," she said slowly, "you see, I really enjoyed learning your Earth dances."

"You were good at them," he cut in, "you picked them up pretty fast, and you are very graceful."

Her eyes lit up, "thank-you, Lance, that means a lot coming from you."

"From me?" he asked, confused. Why would it mean more coming from him?

"Yes, Hunk told me that you are an expert dancer. So much so that people seek you out and reward you handsomely for your tutelage."

"My tutelage? Oh!" He chuckled a little, "Hunk told you that I taught dance classes back home. That doesn't make me an expert. My mother's mother owns a dance school, I learned dance from her and when I got big enough I helped her with her classes, and then I led some of my own. I'm nothing special. It is really common for dance students to teach beginner classes. It's not like people took the class BECAUSE I was teaching it. They just wanted to learn samba, or salsa or whatever and ended up staring at my skinny self while they did it."

"Oh," she looked crestfallen, "I see."

"Hey," he caught her hand in his, she looked so sad all of a sudden that he could feel the ache in his chest, "Allura? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she answered, shaking her head, "I do not wish to be a burden on your time."

"What? Of course you aren't! I'm your friend- you're never a burden to me."

Immediately, she relaxed, "thank-you. I guess, I was just hoping... you had said that you would be willing..."

He clicked in, his face breaking into a broad smile, "I said I would teach you. Is that what this is about? You want dance lessons?"

"I am prepared to offer recompense," she said in a rush, "Hunk said-"

"Psssh, forget that. I do NOT need 'recompense'," he mimicked her accent on that last word, because it was too cute to resist, "to teach you to dance. It would be my pleasure, Princess, really."

"Are you certain?"

He laughed, "Allura, I LOVE dancing. Having an excuse to do more of it is a good thing. And being able to do that while spending time with my friend? Even better."

It seemed his happiness at the idea was contagious, because she launched herself into his arms, all trace of awkwardness gone. "Oh, thank-you! When can we start?"

He hugged her close, "well... are you busy NOW?"

Chapter Text

He'd expected her to bring him to the training area, for some reason, but she'd surprised him by bringing him to a part of the Castle he'd never really seen before, to a chamber very similar to the one that she had once used to interact with the AI of her father, before it had been corrupted.

"We can change this room to anything you need it to be," she'd explained, pulling up a holopanel, "like we do for the area that houses Kaltenecker." She tapped a few symbols on the holopanel and their surroundings shifted. The drab, utilitarian room suddenly morphed into a meadow filled with pink flowers, then to a stark desertscape with sand as dark as pitch, then to the cockpit of an unfamiliar ship. "I just need to know what parameters to set."

"This is amazing," he breathed in awe. "Umm... parameters. Alright, let's start out with a very basic practice room. we'll need smooth, varnished wooden floors, good acoustics, a bank of full length mirrors... there, and there." As he spoke, she typed and they cycled through different combinations until they found one they both liked. "Wow," he sighed, "I didn't realize just how much I'd missed being in a space like this until right this moment."

She smiled at him, her hand fluttering to her chest, fingertips resting over her heart. "I can see that," she said, her voice tender, "it is hard, isn't it? Being away from things that are so familiar and so filled with memories."

"Yeah," he answered, "it can be. But it helps to know I'm not the only one feeling this way. Everyone of us is missing different things, for different reasons, but we all understand that... absence." Shaking himself out of the sinking mood, he flashed her a smile. "Looks like we are just about set. We just need to choose the music and the dance."

After that, it had been shockingly easy to fall into a pattern. Everyday, if there was no pressing mission, when everyone broke after their morning briefing, Allura and Lance had headed down to their little dance studio. They spent anywhere from an hour to three hours dancing. If there was a pressing mission, then they would dance when they got back. Those sessions were shorter, because they tended to be wrung out and exhausted from work, but they showed up and they danced. Every day.

They'd started with a very basic waltz, which Allura had picked up immediately. After a few lessons and trying to move on to more physically demanding steps, they'd decided that they needed to find better dancewear, which led to an afternoon of digging through boxes upon boxes of Altean clothing that was in storage from a time when the castle was filled to the brim with Alteans and their allies. It had been hours of silliness and joking around, with much goofy posing- some of the old Altean fashion trends were downright comical and he'd taken dozens of selfies of the two of them with his phone to document it- but eventually they'd each found a selection of garments that worked as leotards and tights and even some lengths of thin, floaty fabric Allura could use as a skirt. Shoes had been much more challenging. He wasn't THRILLED with any of their options, but at least they found some things that fit and were serviceable. He'd kind of forgotten what a footwear snob he had been when it came to dance.

He'd kind of forgotten a LOT about himself when it came to dance, he was discovering. Like- how much he valued dance as a way to communicate, to tell stories, to connect with others through a shared language of movement. Like- how much he loved the HISTORY of dance, where the steps came from, what they were meant to honor or remember, the way they changed- or didn't- over time. Like- how very, very, very TOUCH-starved he had become. It had been hard, adjusting to life at the Garrison. His family was big, gregarious, and very physically affectionate. He'd grown up surrounded by people who hugged as a greeting and farewell- sometimes multiple times in one day-, who were crammed tightly into small living quarters and so piled up on couches and chairs without a thought, and who didn't waste precious time reading into or analyzing every little brush of skin against skin. He'd been raised in a family where touch was constant, and love and affection were steeped into every contact.

When he wasn't at home, a good chunk of the time, he'd been at the dance school- and dancers were, by and large, a tactile, physical group of people who were not body shy at all. His summer and after school job involved a lot of touch- adjusting the postures and positioning of students, dancing with them, dancing with other teachers. To go from that, to the life of a Cadet had been more than jarring.

Thank the heavens he'd been paired up with Hunk. He would have gone completely off the rails during those first few months without his dormie's easy affection and cuddly nature. Other than that, his only real source of contact had been dating. So, he'd done a LOT of that. As often as not, it had blown up in his face, but for the most part, it had been worth it. Looking back, he felt pretty crappy about a lot of the things he had done in his dating life. He'd hurt people, without really meaning to, and he hated knowing that he'd caused anyone pain.

Since coming to space. Since Voltron. He'd tried to focus on the job, on the good they were doing, as much as possible. He'd tried using his old coping techniques from earth, but it was a LOT harder. In part because there simply wasn't time. In part because there were so many different factors at play whenever he ventured out into the 'dating pool' and he seemed to have a knack for finding all the bad combos. But also, in a large part, because he refused to continue the bad habits he'd picked up at the Garrison. He was holding himself to a higher standard for honesty, and for what he could realistically offer someone he was dating. All of that added up to a LOT less touch and connection than he needed, and that showed up in weird ways that weren't always obvious. It had been a little over a week of this daily dancing, and he could feel something changing in him. Dancing was helping.

Not in the way it had helped at the Garrison. This wasn't the 'find a party, flash some moves, find a bedmate' kind of help he'd used as a crutch the first time he had been away from his family for an extended period. This was different, deeper. This was a kind of intimacy. He was getting to show Allura something he LOVED, and to share with her all the reasons he loved it, all the joy it brought him... and she didn't mock or tease him about it. She accepted it as just one part of him. She heard him wax poetic about the romance of dance, as an art form- and didn't make a crack about sex or his sappiness. She understood it... and she responded in kind- telling him about her love of her long lost planet, her culture, her family- all the aspects of her life that she pushed out of her mind so she could do the things she needed to do. That brought them closer. It connected them... and THAT made him realize just how important she was to him. This was NOT a crush. This was something... new. This was... shockingly easy, and comfortable, and relaxed, and soothing, and fulfilling.

Chapter Text

The mission had gone well. So well. He was pumped! It had been dicey for a split second, some kind of new security protocol that Pidge hadn't yet encountered had slowed them down a few ticks, and that had led to sentries starting to pile up at a bottleneck in the corridors that they NEEDED to get past. With Pidge and Hunk occupied trying to override the new protocol, it had fallen to him, Allura, and Shiro to take out the oncomers. They were getting bogged down when he'd looked over at Allura and somehow he'd just KNOWN what she was going to do. She went low, and he popped up, laying down cover fire as she went all out with that whip of hers. It was a sight to see, to say the least. She ripped through sentry after sentry and every time, every movement, he somehow knew exactly where she would be exposed and was already aiming before the Galra could even get close to her. By the time Pidge had worked her wizardry, they had taken out almost all of the enemy. Even Shiro had been impressed- they'd earned themselves a low whistle and a 'nicely done' from their leader, which was actually pretty high praise from Shiro in the heat of a mission.

The entire trip back to the Castle they'd all engaged in excited crosstalk and singing each other's praises. They should have been tired. He should have been wrung out. He was proud of his ability as a sharpshooter, but sometimes it weighed on him to be so good at what boiled down to 'killing from a safe distance', even if he KNEW that without him doing exactly that, the odds of one of them not coming home from a mission were very different.

"Celebratory milkshakes?" Hunk had cheerfully suggested to the group as they met up again after disembarking from their lions. Pidge and Shiro had immediately agreed. Lance's eyes had slid to Allura's. She'd given a tiny shake of her head, and he'd declined the group hang, as had she. Hunk had given him a bit of an odd look, but otherwise no one seemed to think there was anything odd going on.

He'd gotten to the little studio before her, just finishing his warm-up when she arrived. "Ready?" he'd asked as soon as she came through the door.

"Yes," she laughed, "I was doing stretches in Blue on the way back here."

"A-ha! I KNEW you sounded distracted on the comms!" he crowed. "Excited to come dance with me?"

"I was on such a rush, and I KNEW that once we got back, I was going to NAIL that spin. So, in Blue I was just too wound up to sit still. Stretching helped. That was such an exhilarating mission!"

"You," he said, catching her hand and pulling her into a impromptu quickstep, spinning her out and back, "were AMAZING back there! I wish you could have seen yourself. Melee magic. Whip-wielding wizardry. Fighting finesse! Razzle. Dazzle."

"Lance, stop," she giggled, "you flatterer."

He pressed a hand to his chest, staggering backwards as if he'd been shot. "Allura," he gasped, reaching out to her, his face one of abject betrayal, his entire being full of playful dramatics, "you wound me!"

She shook her head at him, good-natured amusement radiating from her. "Alright, you silly man, get back here and see if can't I figure that step out THIS time."

He gave her a deep, highly flourished bow, "as you wish, my darling Allura." Still smiling, still bouncing with excitement, he pulled up their music and stepped back, holding his hand out to her and giving her an eyebrow waggle of invitation.

Shaking her head and laughing softly at him, she stepped into place, taking a moment to triple check the placement of her hands, arms and feet. He loved that she did that. So many beginners ignored the importance of a good frame, but Allura seemed to understand how that was the foundation to everything that came after it. Plus, the way her brow furrowed while she did it was just precious. He felt a smile bloom on his face.

"What?" she asked, looking up to meet his eyes, "what did I just do that you found so... charming?"

"Just watching my favorite student get ready" he answered, "plus, you make this really cute little face when you are thinking. All serious."

"Well then... as long as it is.. cute, I guess," she laughed, falling into the perfect posture.

"Oh, it is," he assured her, "downright endearing. Ready?"

Chapter Text

She nodded and on the proper beat they started moving. Keeping his eyes on hers, he counted out the steps. "Alright, give it a try on four," he coaxed, gently leading her into position and... "nope! Allura, you HAVE to stop grabbing my hand like that," his voice was a mix of patience and laughter. It really wasn't that difficult a step, but it involved a level of trust that she just didn't have in him yet and so, when she SHOULD be spinning, secure in the fact that he HAD her, she panicked and clamped on his hand- locking her whole body up.

"I KNOW!" she barked, angry with herself.

"You have to trust me," he coaxed.

"I DO!" she insisted.

"Not in that moment, you don't. You think I'm going to let you fall."

"No," Allura argued, "I think I am going to mess it up and fall."

"I'm not going to let you fall, even if you mess it up." He sighed, shaking his limbs to get rid of the building tension. "Okay. We are getting past this. Tonight. We were 100% in sync on the mission. We KNOW we can do this. This is nothing compared to a battle field. Right?"

"Right." Determination laced her tone and she set her jaw.

"There we go," he purred, "that's my Princess. Alright. Trust falls."

"What are trust falls?" she asked, eyeing him.

"You, stand here. You cross your arms, over your chest, like this. I stand behind you, you close your eyes, and you fall. I catch you."

"That seems... silly and pointless."

"It's not silly and pointless. It builds trust in me. So that you KNOW I am not going to let you fall. We'll do 10 of them... and then we'll try that step again."

She took a deep breath and nodded- closing her eyes and crossing her arms and... nothing. He waited. She didn't budge. Tension and fear rippled off of her like waves from a skipping rock.

"Allura?" he asked.

"This is silly," she insisted.

"Okay, it's silly. Nothing wrong with silly. Do it anyway."

Another nod. But still no movement. "I trust you," she said feebly, "I do. I just can't..."

"Okay, okay," he soothed, putting his hand on her shoulder and stepping in close. He held her against him, her back flush against his chest, his chin resting on her shoulder. "It's okay," he breathed, his voice soft, running his hands over her arms lightly. "I got you. Okay? Relax. Just relax against me. No trust falls. I promise."

She nodded, still stiff and tense against him. "I don't understand..."

"I do- it is really hard to let yourself be vulnerable. Especially when you feel like you need to be strong all the time."

"But it is just dancing," she murmured.

"Doesn't matter. Still hard to do," he swayed with her gently. She caught both his hands in hers.

"I really do trust you," she insisted, relaxing in tiny increments.

"I know you do. You never would have jumped out and engaged those sentries the way you did if you didn't trust me to keep you safe. This is just a new context, so it's tripping you up."

"That... kind of makes sense," she said shyly.

"It makes total sense," he countered, his voice light and teasing. "Okay, you've got a good grip on my hands, so why don't you try just sagging back against me? It's not like I can go anywhere. I'm strong enough to hold your weight."

"I... think I can do that," she agreed.

He could feel her slowly, cautiously transfer her weight to him. He held her steady. He was solid, steady, unshakable, and he held her easily. "See? I got you. You're fine. Feel that?"

She nodded again, even though he could tell she was still feeling unsure and frightened.

"I'm just going to hold you here," he promised, "until you are ready to let go of one of my hands. Just one. You can still hang on to the other one. I'm not going to let you fall. I promise, Allura, you are completely safe."

After a moment, she took another deep breath, letting it out slowly. He felt her head give a little nod- a movement he recognized from her time piloting the castle as an indication that she'd made some sort of decision. He was already smiling before she relaxed her grip on his hand.

"There we go," he cooed, "perfect. See? I still have you. I'm not going anywhere. I would never let anything happen to you."

"Lance, I really do trust you," she breathed, relaxing her grip on his other hand slightly.

"Shhh, Allura," he breathed, nuzzling her face slightly, "you don't have to keep saying that. I believe you. I do. Whenever you feel safe to do it, let go of my other hand. Okay?"

It took a few minutes, and Lance was becoming increasingly grateful for the level of training Shiro insisted they all do- because without it, being as out of condition as he would have been from going so long without dancing, it would have been very hard to stay so steady and he KNEW that even the slightest muscle tremor would make Allura bolt at the moment, but eventually, Allura let go of his hand. He was completely supporting her weight, and she was no longer clinging to make sure he didn't let go.

"I knew you could do it," he whispered, his mouth right next to her ear. "So, next... when you TELL me to, and not a second before, I am going to take a step back- just a little one- and YOU are going to keep those pretty little feet of yours exactly where they are. I will hold your weight, just like I am now. Deal?"

"Um," she wet her lips and swallowed, "okay. Deal. Just... don't drop me."

"I'm not going to drop you," he promised. "I would never drop you. I catch you. That's my job. Since the day we met. I. Catch. You."

The reminder of how they'd met, and his cheesy pick-up line, made her laugh and chased away any lingering nerves. "Alright then, Lance, since I am already here in your arms. You can take that step."

"That's my badass," he answered, smiling hugely as he stepped back and she didn't so much as twitch. "Another one?"

"Yes," she laughed, "take another step."

He shifted his hold on her and stepped back. She'd tipped enough now that her head was resting lower on his chest and they were no longer pressed together from toe to shoulder. "See? I'm not going to drop you," he smiled at her, his face upside down to her. "Ready to try that spin again?"

"Absolutely," she grinned. "We've got this."

Chapter Text

They returned to their starting position, their music starting over from the beginning. She once again triple checked her positioning, and his smile returned. Her eyes darted to his and she blushed, "quit it. You're going to make me self-conscious."

"I can't help it- it is sooo cute," he cooed playfully. "You're getting ready to dance and your face just goes all 'grr'. I love it. It's adorable."

She rolled her eyes, "fine... I am glad it bring you so much joy. Are you ready?"

"Ready," he assured her, sweeping her up in the beginning steps. They moved around the room, Lance giving her gentle feedback on her posture and steps as they went. It was mostly minor things. Allura had an innate grace that made dance something that came easily to her. He hadn't been joking when he'd called her his favorite student. He readily admitted that he could be biased because it was her, or because she was the only student he currently had, but he could not remember ever enjoying teaching someone as much as he enjoyed teaching her.

"On four?" she asked after a few moments, smiling expectantly at him. She was going to pull it off this time, he could just tell.

"Yup, on four," he confirmed. He transitioned to the lead-in, counting the numbers out for her, their eyes locked. "You got this," he mouthed as he led her into the spin. He felt her weight shift, her hand slip under his, just as it should. His hand hovered at her waist, the thin fabric of her makeshift leotard skimming along his fingers. One. Two. Two rotations and then her hand snapped closed on his, her body tightened like she was being electrocuted and she pitched into him. He caught her easily, but stumbled back from the force of the impact. "That was GREAT!"

"No," she snarled, "it was NOT. I ruined it!"

"Allura- you did two complete rotations before you panicked. That's AWESOME!" he tipped her chin up so she was looking him in the eyes. "Does this look like a proud teacher or a disappointed one?"

Her brow furrowed, (in a totally different way than when she was getting ready to dance that somehow was also adorable) clearly not happy with herself. "Proud, I guess," she muttered.

"You guess," he scoffed. "You KNOW. Come on, you know that was a major breakthrough. You trusted and it worked. Next time, you'll trust longer. You've got this. Now it is just a matter of practice."

"Really?" she asked, her voice starting to sound optimistic.

"100%" Lance assured her, picking her up to twirl with her. She laughed then, the sound joyful and triumphant and it made something in his heart skitter.

"Can we try it again?" she asked.

"I will try it as many times as you want, Alllura," he pledged.

By the tenth attempt she had nailed the spin. She whipped around under his hands with a speed that surprised him, her balance flawless. She'd even picked up the spotting technique to prevent dizziness- and that was a HARD trick to master.

"Alright," he said finally, "are you ready to try it in the context of the whole dance?"

"Yes. Absolutely!" She gushed. "But can we use different music? This is starting to be a little maddening.

"New music is definitely possible," he chuckled, already changing up the song. When they'd first started dancing together, Lance had taught Allura a waltz. He'd always found the waltz to be a great first dance, because at its core, it was quite simple, and it held a kind of timeless romance. It was hard to feel anything but magical grace when you were waltzing. In fact, the Viennese Waltz was one of his favorite dances of all time, specifically because of the romance and beauty of it. But Allura had quickly mastered the basic box step and the standard turns and rounds and within only a few days had wanted to move on to something completely different. They'd spent a couple of hours talking about different dance styles, with the aid of some crappy videos he still had on his phone of various family and friends dancing in various settings. He'd initially been floored when Allura had fallen in love with swing dancing- he'd kind of expected her to gravitate to the classic ballroom dances- but now, it made perfect sense to him. Allura was a lot more than the political leader and warrior they usually saw. She had a quick smile and an adventurous streak, an impish side she rarely let out. She'd taken to swing like a duck to water and he had a blast teaching her the high impact, high energy dance style. Honestly, someday he would LOVE to see her tackle a Paso Doble, but the specific choreography he had in mind took a dancing pair that was significantly more comfortable with each other than he and Allura currently were.

He pulled her into his arms and let himself get swept up in the dancing. Her laughter bounced off the walls. She was a focused and hard working student, but once she had the steps? Once she knew what to do next without thinking about it? She was an absolute delight to dance with- graceful, happy, engaged. They bounced and kicked and twisted and twirled across the floor as if gravity was something they could choose to ignore for the entire length of the song, ending with that showstopper spin. The notes died out and Allura's face lit up when she realized they'd gone through the entire routine without a single misstep. "I did it!" she squealed, jumping to hug him tightly. "We did it!"

Chapter Text

He swung her from side to side playfully before 'falling' onto his back with her. "You," he said, panting slightly from the exertion of the dance, "are a natural. Seriously. I love dancing with you."

"I love dancing with you, too, Lance," she answered,slipping off on him and stretching out on the floor beside him, "thank-you for doing this. When I asked, I didn't anticipate that we would be spending so much time in here. This is far more work than I thought I was asking you to do."

He tapped her nose, "this is NOT work. This is the best part of my day. I could have been drinking milkshakes that Hunk made right now, but I decided this was more fun. I have a lot of fun with you."

"Good," she answered, "I would never want my lessons to be something you dreaded."

He rolled onto his side to face her, "Allura. Stop it. I am where I want to be, doing what I want to be doing. You have to stop acting like this is some kind of hardship. You have to stop thinking like that- it's just. Not. True."

"We never used to spend so much time together," she said quietly, "I am not used to anyone wanting to be in my company so much. I am accustomed to much more solitude."

"If YOU want to scale back how much time we spend here, I am fine with that," he answered, "but please don't think that I want that. I like that we have this in common. I like that I'm getting to know you better. My opinion of you just keeps going up."

She peeked up at him through her lashes, her expression shy and it occurred to him that even before her father had put her in that pod, she'd probably had a pretty lonely life. That was the cliche from earth, right? The lonely, isolated little princess in the gilded cage. He smiled sweetly at her, reaching out to brush her hair back from her face.

After a moment, she spoke again. "Earlier, when you were holding me and getting me to relax and trust you not to drop me... I... thought... I almost... expected..."

"That I would drop you?" He flinched, "I know I am a joker, but I would never do that to you! If I make a promise, I KEEP it, and I promised you I would never drop you."

"No! Oh, Lance- no! I didn't for one INSTANT think you were going to drop me as some kind of prank! I know you better than that! I do!"

"Oh... okay... good. Good." He studied her face trying to make sense of her expression. He was weirdly nervous and bashful... almost jittery.

"I thought you might," her forehead did that cute little furrow thing again and he smiled, "take the opportunity... to... kiss me."

"Kiss you? Allura-" Hurt blossomed in his chest and he jerked back. She thought he was teaching her dancing as a way to seduce her?

"Lance?" her hand was pressed tight to her chest, in the exact same spot that felt like cold, crackling ice, in his. "Oh- I'm so sorry! Please! Forgive me. I meant no insult! I made a mess of all of this. I meant simply.. it was such a nice moment. It felt like the kind of moment that would lead to.. a kiss... if there was... interest..."

"If there was interest?" This was bad. He wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. "Allura... I'm not such an idiot that I think you don't know how I-"

Whatever else he had been about to say was wiped clean out of his mind when her lips crashed into his, knocking him back onto his back. It was awkward and clumsy and oddly chaste, but AMAZING. His arms wrapped around her and held her close. Her elegant hands clutched at his shoulders. After a moment, she lifted her head, her cheeks bright with a blush so intense he suspected it hurt. "Was that awful of me?" she asked in a tiny voice.

"No, Allura," he purred, "that was wonderful."

"So, again?"

The same phrasing she used when she wanted to improve on a dance move. It made him chuckle, low in his throat. "Oh yes, definitely again." This time, he was the one to close the distance between them, his lips brushing against hers softly once, twice, and a third time before fitting their lips together. She sighed and he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, just a little, not wanting to rush her in any way. His whole body was tingling, it felt like he could burst into laughter at any second and never, ever stop.

Eventually, though, of course they had to stop. Allura pulled away from him to sit on the floor, clearly unsure of where to look. "Hey," he said softly, sitting up himself. "Are you okay? I'm getting... I don't know... a weirdness..."

"A... weirdness?" she echoed, laughing softly.

"Yeah- I can't quite put my finger on the mood I'm picking up from you. ARE you okay?"

"Me? Yes... yes, I am fine," she answered, "just.. a little confused and overwhelmed."

"Alright," he grinned at her, "overwhelmed is pretty good, right? Good sign for the kissing?" That earned him a genuine laugh and she visibly relaxed.

"I just don't know what this will mean," she explained.

"I HOPE that it will mean that you and I will spend more time together... Aside from the dancing- which is not changing. Maybe go on an actual date?"

"I think I would like that, Lance... but I was thinking more about, in terms of the team and the coalition and all that... outside stuff."

"Ahh... yeah, it kind of feels like we've made our own little pocket reality down here sometimes, doesn't it?"

"Yes! Exactly," she smiled, "I have such fun with you... and you are so much more than you usually let people see. I just don't know how... this," she gestured to the room and the two of them, "will... translate... out there."

"Right. Alright- first of all, you and I are the exact same people down here as we are out there. We don't CHANGE, we just focus on different parts of ourselves because those are the parts that are needed in that situation. You're still Princess Allura of Altea, Blue Paladin of Volton, Head of the Voltron Coalition no matter where you go or what you do. You are still me teammate, and my friend, and at times, my leader. I'm still Lancey Lance, and a goof ball and a flirt, and the dumbest on the team, and the Red Paladin."

"You are not dumb!" she argued.

"I never said I was. I said I was the dumbest on the team. Someone has to be. It's me. I have known this for a while. We're a smart bunch. The poorest millionaire in the millionaire club is still a millionaire, after all."

"I... don't know what that means," she looked confused.

"Doesn't matter. What matters is that we aren't different people just because we are showing different sides of ourselves. You are smart and determined and strong and kind and compassionate whether you are dancing, or piloting the Castle, or fighting in Blue. Still you."

"Alright," she conceded, starting to relax again.

"Second of all- While we are figuring this out, we can be as discreet, or as open as you want," he assured her, "I don't want to do ANYTHING you are uncomfortable with, ever. I am happy with however much of your life you choose to share with me... whether that is as a teammate, or a friend, or more... and I don't expect you to know the answer to that right now. So, we'll figure this out, okay?"

"See? Stuff like that is why I don't think you are the dumbest one on the team," she said sweetly, "I think you are wiser than you give yourself credit for."

He smirked, "well, my wisdom is telling me that we had a pretty intense mission earlier and have been dancing for ages and we should probably head back to our own quarters for the night." He stood, extending a hand to her to help her up and grabbed his phone. "Selfie," he insisted, "to commemorate your victories over the Galra and that quiznacking spin today!"

"Let me take it," she suggested, snuggling up to his side and holding his phone out the way she'd seen him do. "I just tap here, right? Okay, SMILE and..." She kissed him, not tapping the button until she felt the surprise leave his face and he started kissing her back. When they broke apart again, she smiled, "the Galra, the spin, and our first kiss."

Chapter Text

They were curled up on the couch in the common room, Lance sprawled in his usual way, with one leg up over the back of the seating area, Allura nestled between his legs, leaning back against his chest, holding his phone and they were talking about his family.

"So, then he was like 'she was just a tourist- it's not like it meant anything. I don't get why you're even mad!'," Lance shook his head.

"Ohhhh NO!" she laughed, "what did she DO?"

"Well, it's Veronica! What do you THINK she did?" he chuckled.

"I think she kicked his ass to the curb- did I say that right?" She tipped her head back to look at him, smiling.

"You did, and she did," he agreed. "I don't know why he thought that would work- it's like he'd never met her before or something. Like she'd forgive him cheating just because it was with a tourist. Pffft, come ON!"

"It's VERONICA," they said in unison, dissolving into laughter.

He tapped the screen, bringing up the next picture.

"That is... ummm... Marco? No! Luis! That's Luis!" she guessed.

"Princess?" Shiro asked from the doorway, where he was watching them with open curiosity. "You said you wanted to speak with me about the prisoner in the briefing room? Ten minutes ago?"

"Oh! Oh no! I am so sorry Shiro- I must have lost track of time. Lance was telling me about his family." She handed Lance back his phone with a sheepish expression. "We'll have to continue this later."

"Absolutely," Lance agreed with a smile, "the pictures and stories aren't going anywhere."

Allura stood, "yes. Well, I really enjoyed hearing about your sister. She seems like someone I would enjoy being around."

"Yeah, Veronica is great- just don't tell her I said that," he laughed.

She was still smiling when she met up with Shiro at the door. "So, I was looking over the latest information that we got from..." her voice trailed off as they moved into the hallway.

"Dude," Hunk said from his perch on the other end of the couch. "What was THAT?"

"What was what?" Lance asked, shifting to a more upright position.

"Seriously?" Pidge gaped, "I think it is pretty obvious what Hunk is talking about. Allura. You. You and Allura."

"Oh- she wanted to see pictures of my family," he answered.

"She was LYING ON YOU," Hunk pointed out.

"Oh. Yeah. I've been giving her dance lessons. She's pretty cuddly when she gets comfortable with someone."

"Cuddly?" Pidge echoed.

"So that was... just cuddling?" Hunk was clearly suspicious. "Because THAT definitely had a 'girlfriend' vibe to it."

"Allura is not my girlfriend," he answered honestly. "If she was my girlfriend, I would have already told you. She's just got a lot on her mind. She's been stressing out, and I wanted to distract her. That's all."

"If you say so," Pidge's eyes narrowed, assessing him.

"I say so," he answered. "Come on you guys- maybe if you two made more of an effort to TALK to her about stuff that isn't work, you'd see more of that side of her, too. She's pretty cool."

"Uh-huh. Whatever," Pidge shook her head and turned her attention back to her own screen.

"Hunk- honestly, if she was my girlfriend, I would be BURSTING to tell someone, and the first person I'd tell would be you. You know that, right?"

"Yeah. Okay. Right," Hunk relented, "but, man... for the first time, like ever, I am starting to think that you might actually have a SHOT with her!"

Dance lessons had continued, although they had morphed a little, now, at the end of each 'class' Allura and Lance spent some time just hanging out and talking while music played. Somehow, they'd gotten into the habit of lying on the floor, on their backs facing away from each other, each resting their head on the other's shoulder.

That was how they were when he told her about Hunk's girlfriend comment. To his surprise, that led to a huge discussion of relationships in the abstract- comparing and contrasting human social norms with Altean ones. She'd been surprised at how early and often new romantic relationships on Earth were expected to become 'official' and monogamous, and horrified at the existence of sexually transmitted infections that couldn't be easily cured with medical help. He'd been somewhat shocked at how prevalent sexual friendships and polyamorous families were on Altea, especially since Allura's own view on relationships seemed pretty conservative in contrast with what was generally practiced on her native planet. The abstract discussion led to a more personal one, they talked about what they wanted from a relationship in general, how they imagined their lives would look as kids versus the reality, what love meant to them and how they thought it did or didn't fit in their current lives. By the time they'd talked themselves out, they'd pretty much come to a consensus on what was going on with the two of them. Lance returned to his room that night happier than he'd been in a long time. She wasn't his girlfriend, as Hunk had suggested, but there was definitely potential there.

Chapter Text

He'd screwed up. Everyone was trying to make it seem like he hadn't but he knew he had. Pidge was hurt and it was his fault. He was supposed to be laying down cover fire for ALL of them, but he'd gotten too focused on Shiro and Allura fighting that swarm of Galra and had missed the sentry droid that had gotten in range of the Green Paladin. Pidge had been focused on downloading the intel they needed from this mission and she'd been counting on him to watch her back while she dealt with the systems and he'd dropped the ball. Now Pidge was in a healing pod with a hole through her gut, all because of him.

He refused to leave the pods until she was out, despite Coran telling him that it would likely take hours. How could he have been so dumb?! Allura and Shiro were two of their strongest fighters, Pidge was vulnerable. She should have been his focus.

"You didn't do anything wrong, you know."

Shiro's voice startled him and he made an undignified squawk. "Quiznak- you are even quieter than Keith! But, no..." he shook his head, "that's not true. Pidge got hurt because I wasn't dividing my attention properly."

"Lance, I was there. We were completely bogged down- if you had been covering Pidge, Allura or I would be in that pod. SOMEONE was getting hurt on that mission. We were the ones in the biggest immediate threat, you made the right call."

"But Pidge-"

"Will be fine," Shiro insisted. "You need to get some air. I will stay with Pidge. You've been in here for over an hour, and you aren't the only one kicking yourself right now, either."

"I'm not?" he asked, surprised.

"No, of course you aren't! I'm the one that promised I would get you ALL back to Earth safe and sound, and I was the one who assigned everyone their jobs on that mission. It took me an hour to come talk to you, because I spent that hour going over every minute of that mission until I was SURE that I didn't screw up, that there was no blame to be placed. Hunk is dragging himself over the coals because he took that hit in Yellow and was stuck doing an emergency patch while we got the intel. Allura is a wreck. "

"She is?" Lance's voice grew worried, and as soon as he stopped focusing on his own guilt, he just knew. Allura was a mess. She put too much on herself. Whenever one of them got hurt, she shouldered the blame, because she was the one that put them in the Lions in the first place. Because her father had failed to stop Zarkon all those years ago. Because she was the newest Paladin, with the least experience. He knew how she felt as if he was feeling it himself. "Of course she is. She's with Coran, right?"

"Yes," Shiro's voice lilted up on the end turning what should have been an answer into a question, because Lance was already moving, headed for the door.

"Shiro- if there is ANYONE in the universe that can get us all home safe and sound, it is you. If that doesn't happen, then there is no one who could have done it. We aren't children you are babysitting. It might have seemed that way in the beginning, but now? We are soldiers in this war- just like you. We know the risks. You need to give yourself a break." He ducked through the door and headed to Coran's quarters in search of Allura.

They weren't there, but he found Hunk in the kitchen on his pass from Coran's room to Allura's. "Hey, bud," he said gently. Hunk lifted tear-filled eyes to him. "You okay, Hunk?"

"No- I am not okay! I should have been there, Lance!"

He knew his friend well enough to know that Hunk didn't need to hear empty comfort. He needed truth. "Yeah, you should've... and if there was ANY way that you could've, then you would have been right in the thick of that fight. But Yellow was damaged. That's not on you. You were exactly where you were needed most- fixing Yellow. As fast as humanly possible. And thank god you were! Because we needed Yellow at 100% to hold off those fighters while we got Pidge back here. Anybody else's Lion got damaged..." he trailed off, because Hunk knew what he was saying. None of the other's could have fixed their Lion so quickly and that would have slowed them down. A lot. Even with the miracles Altean tech could work, a gut wound was a time sensitive one, every second counted. "Pidge is going to be fine, and when she wakes up, she's going to be hungry, and she deserves better options than space goo."

"I can make her some pizza rolls! No, that's too spicy so soon after the healing pod... maybe... cookies? I think I have everything I need for cookies." Hunk busied himself in the kitchen, poking through cupboards. He did best when he had a task, something to keep him occupied when he was upset. He'd always been that way. "Hey, Lance?"

"Yeah, bud," he stopped in the doorway and turned back to his friend.

"Thanks, man. That helped."

"Good, that's what friends are for."

Chapter Text

"It's Lance," he rapped on Allura's door, "I want to make sure you are okay."

The panel slid open, revealing a visibly worried Coran. "She's... upset."

"I know, let me talk to her for a bit. Go get yourself some nunvill or something. Take a breather. I got this."

"Are you certain?" Coran asked, glancing back at Allura.

"Yes," he replied at the same time that Allura told Coran to go.

"Well, then, I think I will. Nunvill sounds really good right now," he gripped Lance's shoulder as he passed, whispering, "thank-you, my boy."

"Anytime, Coran," he answered, ducking into the room. The guilt and sorrow and regret in the room was palpable. "Awww, Princess," he cooed, crawling onto her bed with her. She fell into his arms, clinging to him.

"Don't do that," she muttered, her voice muffled by his chest, "don't call me that."

"Allura, then," he agreed easily, stroking his hand down her back, "none of this is your fault."

"But it IS," she countered, "if my father-"

"Stop it. YOU are not Alfor, you are not to blame for his decisions or failures. Just like you never take credit for any of the good things he did. You are YOU, and you would have put yourself in front of that shot in a second to protect Pidge if you could have. I should have been paying more attention to her."

"You had your hands full!," she argued, "you are just one person, with one gun and there were just so many..."

"Exactly... we were swamped. That's not your fault, or mine. It's no one's fault." He smiled at her, "it doesn't have to be someone's fault to suck."

She sniffled, "Coran has been saying that for a varga, but I couldn't believe it until you said it."

"Yeah, Shiro said the same stuff to me, but I didn't really believe it until I heard it from you."

"I feel better... just you walking in the door made me feel better."

"I'm glad I could help," he gave her a soft smile and shifted on the bed, curling up on his side with her. They were both still in full armor, so cuddling was a bit strange, but it still helped calm his rattled nerves.

"That happens with us a lot," she sighed, "probably because we are both empaths."

"Yeah, that's prob- wait. What?" He blinked at her, confused, "we're both what?"

"Empaths," she answered, "we can sense what others are feeling and to some extent, project what we are feeling to others."

"I'm not an empath," he said with a shake of his head, "that's not something humans can do."

"No, you are definitely an empath, Lance. That's why Blue chose you. Blue is the guardian of water- all about the ebb and flow. Blue's Paladin will be an empath, just as Black's will be a leader, and Red's will be impulsive and fueled by emotion, and Green's will be curious, and Yellow's will be steady and big-hearted. Blue and Yellow work together to create and protect the bond between the Paladins and the Lions. It's why you always seem to know when people need a break, or a hug, or to talk. You can feel it. I can, too... but you were with Blue longer than me, so yours is more finely honed."

"You aren't hearing me, Allura- humans cannot do that. We don't have psychic abilities like that. I just have good people skills. I read body language well. It's observation."

She rolled over in his arms, "Lance, almost all social species have some level of empathy. Maybe yours was latent, but once you became Blue's Paladin, that latent potential was tapped."

"Huh," he was at a loss for words. Everything she was saying made sense on some level, but it was in conflict with everything he knew about humans.

"It is a rare gift," she offered, smiling up at him, "and an important one- especially when dealing with private, guarded people like, say, Shiro, or Coran."

"Coran? Coran's not guarded or private," he scoffed.

"Is he not? What do you know of him that isn't from some silly story about his grandfather?"

"Umm... let's see. He and your father were close, he talks about doing stuff with him all the time- hunting, and trading, and going on adventures. He... ummm... had a singing cape... he..."

"What was his mother's name? His father's? Why did he spend so much time with his Pop-Pop? His hobbies? Fears? You don't know any of that stuff, because he is private, he chooses carefully what he will share with others." Her smile turned impish, "now- since you know how little he has actually TOLD you about himself- you tell me... based on what you FEEL... something about Coran that he has never said outright, but you just know."

He stopped for a minute, reflecting on what she said, "you are more than just his Princess. He's very protective of you, but not just because your Altean, and Royal. He loves you. Very much. You are... family to him... and that feeling is old, not new. He felt that way your whole life."

She nodded, "he is very much a second father to me. Moreso even than Shiro is to you all, despite that awful nickname."

"That's not an awful nickname!" he laughed, "its perfect."

Her face brightened and she smiled at him, "see how quickly we can cheer each other up? We pick up on the other's improving mood and it helps, which does the same thing all over again... like tossing a ball of emotion back and forth."

"Ok- mayyyyybe that's some kind of empath thing... or maybe we just... make each other happy," he suggested, leaning down to kiss her softly.

"Not sure I really care which it is," she confessed, pressing kisses along his jaw, "I don't want to overthink this. Us. I just want to let it be whatever it is. I like whatever it is."

"Me, too," he murmured in reply, nuzzling at her throat. "I like getting lost in you."

When they returned to the pod room, after being notified over comms that Pidge was beginning to stir they had shed most of the outer layer of their armor, leaving them in the snug body suit, and they were holding hands. Lance was the first to catch the woozy young Green Paladin as the pod opened, immensely relieved to see her awake and lucid for himself. Hunk was right behind him, fussing over Pidge in his trademark way. Then it was Allura's turn and Hunk sidled up to Lance, who was leaning against one of the healing pods. "Soooo?" Hunk asked, nodding at Allura significantly.

"She's not my girlfriend," Lance said softly, "but yeah, there's something going on."

"Niiiice," Hunk chuckled softly as Allura's head lifted to meet Lance's eyes from across the room and she blushed. "Congrats, man."

Chapter Text

He was home.

Keith let out a sigh of relief as he exited the shuttle that had returned him to the Castle of Lions. It had only been a couple of weeks, but somehow it felt like forever since the last time he'd been back with the team. Something had happened the last time he was here. Something that made him feel more like he FIT with them. He couldn't wait to check in with all of them. Starting with Shiro- who he found on the bridge with Coran.

"Keith! Good to see you," the older man said, pulling Keith into one of his trademark single-armed hugs. "Been keeping busy?"

"I have, and good to see you, too." He held out a data crystal to Coran, "updated information from Kolivan. Where is everyone?"

"Thank-you Keith," Coran said, taking the crystal, "I think you will find Hunk and Pidge in the engineering workshop."

"Oh, okay- yeah that makes sense. They love that spot." He waited for Coran, or Shiro to finish filling him in on where everyone was. The silence was deafening.

Finally, Shiro cleared his throat, "I'll be right back Coran. Keith? Walk with me."

Now he was starting to worry. Did something happen? Were Lance or Allura hurt? Were they both hurt? Captured? Stranded somewhere? Every step more and more dread filled him. "Shiro?"

"Hang on. Just... give me a minute, Keith. Trust me, alright?" Shiro implored.

"Not until you tell me if everyone is safe," he snapped.

"Safe and sound, I promise," Shiro pledged, ducking into a small conference room and waving him to follow. "Sit."

Keith sat.

"It's about Lance- he's fine! Before you panic, he's not hurt or captured, or anything like that. It's just," Shiro fidgeted, which worried Keith, because it was rare to see.

"Where is he, then?" Keith asked.

"He's on the ship," Shiro assured him, "I am actually surprised he wasn't there to meet you when you got in. I had the impression he planned to be. But, he and Allura... they're together."

He didn't grasp what Shiro meant at first. He just stupidly assumed that Shiro meant that they were in the same place, like Pidge and Hunk. Then all the other factors started to fall into place- Shiro's odd tone and mood, pulling him away from the bridge, into a private area, the over the top concern on his face. Quiznak. This couldn't be real. It had to be some kind of... "Oh, please! Lance and Allura? In his dreams." Keith snorted, "Is this some kind of prank? What is he using for leverage to get you to go along with this? Because, this is pretty shitty, Shiro."

Shiro sighed and shook his head, "look- I wanted to give you a heads up. I didn't want you getting blindsided. I know how-"

"You don't KNOW anything," Keith interjected, feeling something deep inside fracture and doing his best to ignore it, "you THINK. I'm fine. Why would I care if he was... dating... with... whatever?"

"Keith," he said softly, "I've known you for a long time... I can see-"

"Save it, Shiro. I'm not some little kid, and you're not my father."

Shiro flinched, hurt plain on his face, "Keith!"

"Quiznak," he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, "sorry. I'm sorry. I'm trying not to lash out as much. I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry. I know you are just watching my back."

"It's okay, Keith... I've survived worse," he offered a weak smile, "I know you didn't mean it."

They sat there in silence for several minutes, just letting the information sink in.

"They are really together?" Keith asked softly.

"Yeah, they are."

"I wasn't gone THAT long," he sighed.

"Sometimes it doesn't take long for everything to change," Shiro offered.

"Are they really sickening?" he asked, "I feel like Lance would be all... up in your face about it."

"They... uh... it's new. That shows."

"Ugh- that means they are really sickening."

"I'm sorry, Keith. I know this is hard to hear."

"I'm fine."

"You're clearly not... and it's just me here, so you don't have to pretend to be."

"I said I'm fine. It's not like I didn't know how gaga he was... is... over her. He has been since day one."

"I'm not worried about LANCE'S emotional state right now," Shiro pointed out, "I'm worried about YOU."

"Don't. I'm fine. Nothing's changed." He stood, "so- Pidge and Hunk in the engineering workshop. Where am I likely to find the other two?"

"Ummm... they've been pretty scarce lately. Maybe in one of their quarters, or the common room?"

"Fine, thanks. I'm going to go say hi to the team now." Keith spun on his heel and headed for the door.

"Sure- hey Keith? If you need it, you can pop by my quarters later to talk. I have a bottle of... something green, but it tastes a bit like brandy. You can tell me what you've been up to since you were here last."

Keith sighed, he knew Shiro was just trying to be a good friend, a good guardian, a good big brother. It wasn't HIS fault that things had gotten so screwed up. "Yeah. Okay. That sounds fun. We can play cards or something."

"Sounds like a plan. I've missed having you around, kid."

Keith managed a half-hearted smile, "I've missed you, too. Everyone, really."

"Good- they've missed you, too. The whole team has. Really."

He just nodded, needing to get away from Shiro's knowing, pitying eyes. He could do this. Like he'd said to Shiro, on his end, nothing had changed. So, it was just a matter of acting normal. He'd go, say hi to the techies, hang with them, and then see if he could find the other two. Totally normal. Totally casual. Same old, same old.

Chapter Text

He heard them before he saw them. He was so unprepared. He hadn't even gotten to say hi to Hunk and Pidge yet, and it wasn't until he heard them that he realized just how much he'd been relying on that slice of normalcy to prepare him to see... them. He heard laughter- Allura's, light and charming and flirtatious. He'd never heard that laugh from her before, but it was obviously her voice. That alone felt like he'd stepped into lava without suspecting it.

Then he heard it.

Singing.

A flash of hazy drunken memory hit him like one of the visions from when he was trying to get answers from the Blade of Marmora, replacing reality for a split second. Warm, dim lighting. Shared secrets. Giddy, fuzzy drunken mood. Soft fluffy pillow. Cuban folk song. Alien instrument. Close enough to feel the heat rising from his skin. Lance's voice, filled with emotion. His own, rising in harmony. Ocean blue eyes. The smell of HOME. Small, tender smile. Tiny little world of just the two of them. Flickers of something dangerously close to hope. He shook his head, trying not to burn to a crisp from the memory.

This wasn't that song. This was different.

Upbeat.

Playful.

So. Fucking. Happy.

Half lyrics, some humming, some doo-wop stuff. More of Allura's laughter, this time wrapped around the ridiculous way she said Lance's name.

He should have been expecting it. If he'd been thinking instead of slowly burning into ash, he would have expected it. Instead, he was blindsided as he rounded the corner. They were dressed in... tights? Some sort of skin tight clothing, Lance's in that Altean blue that showed up everywhere, with accents of a deep, deep purple, all long legs and sleek lines and looking way, way too good against his copper skin and deep blue eyes. Allura's in butter yellow and soft cream, some kind of gauzy pink scarf tied around her waist, all curves and softness- femininity personified.

They were dancing. Practically floating down the corridor in boneless, weightless grace. Lance was providing the music with his half-hearted, distracted singing. He spun her away from him and back, catching her in his arms like she was something precious and rocking from side to side with her, his face in her hair, her hand in his- fingers tangled together, his hand at her back. Then they faltered in their step and they were kissing and laughing and still somehow dancing all at once. Bright, shining radiance of young love.

It was like looking at the sun. He wanted to close his eyes to protect them from the glare, but he knew the image was burned into him. Its ghost was all that was waiting on the inside of his eyelids, glowing in negative relief.

Cinders. His soul was nothing but char and cinders.

Embers swirling in smoke and wind filled him, choking out everything but the couple in front of him. The last traces of the lies he had been so insistently telling himself for so long incinerating. All the carefully constructed protections he'd built around his scarred and burnt heart scorched away.

She saw him first, her eyes flying wide. "Keith! You're back!" she blushed, stepping back, but smiling at him, genuinely welcoming. Why did that make it worse? "We were just coming to meet you."

"You were?" If anyone had asked him to guess what they had been on their way to do, 'meet him' would have come up at about the fiftieth guess.

"Yes, of course. Lance-" God, he had never realized how much he hated the way she said his name. "Wanted to be there in the hangar when your shuttle arrived! Were you early?"

"No," he answered, trying to force his voice to sound something, anything other than devastated. "I was a little late, actually."

"We must have lost track of time," Lance said, finally stepping out from behind the Princess. "Hey buddy. Good to have you home."

He wanted to laugh, but he knew it would come out blackened and burnt and wrong. Home. It felt so wrong to hear HER Castle called that right now. "Glad to be back," he answered. Too harsh. Too flat. Why hadn't he gotten Shiro to come with him? Mustering a smile, he tried to force some kind of cheerfulness into his voice. "Shiro told me... congrats. You seem... happy."

Allura looked from him to Lance and back again. "Oh? Ohhh," she slipped her hand back into Lance's giving it a squeeze. "Thank-you, Keith."

Lance blushed, his eyes darting away, "yeah... thanks bud."

"I should..." he cleared his throat, "I was on my way to say hi to the gremlins."

"Oh," Lance relaxed, "Pidge and Hunk are working on some kind of secret project. Allura and I are going get cleaned up, then we can meet you guys in the common room to get caught up. Sound good?"

"Sure," he answered. "See you soon." It would be soon, too soon. Soon and torturous. But, he was used to torturous. He just needed time to put his walls back into place. He stood there just long enough to start to go into a panic that it had been too long and was getting weird. So, he bolted, plowing past them without another word.

Chapter Text

Keith didn't know how to do this.

He'd been working so hard on being more open with the team, letting them in, not being so isolated. He thought he'd been doing better- especially the last time he'd been here. He'd actually felt like one of them for a while- not someone apart. But he didn't know how to keep doing THAT and not fall apart right now. He felt like he'd been flayed open and was trying desperately to hold the pieces of himself together. The only way he knew to protect himself was to keep his distance... but he was trying so hard to not be distant. Trying so hard not to be angry all the time, but hurting made him rage... and he hadn't hurt like this in forever. Seeing Lance and Allura in the corridor had ripped off blinders he'd carefully built and even more carefully ignored for months... longer.

Ever since he'd practically RUN from them, his brain just kept repeating the same desperate taunt.

He loved him.

He LOVED him.

He LOVED Lance.

LANCE.

Stupid, sweet, crude, romantic, cheesy, talented, smartass, kind, showboaty, clever, reckless, protective Lance- the living contradiction. Who was currently just gazing at a literal Princess, both of them laughing. At. Nothing. Just, so freaking happy that they... Laughed. A lot. How does that even happen? How does one person make another so happy that they just laugh, spontaneously?

His food goo tasted like ash. His eyes burned like acid, tears held back by nothing more than long practice. He needed some kind of distraction. Anything. Forcing his eyes off the new couple, he tried to focus on Pidge and Hunk. "What have you guys been up to?"

"We've been trying to come up with a smaller, portable version of Green Lion's cloaking to use for stealthier missions," Pidge said cheerfully, although the tone and the smile didn't QUITE match up with her brown eyes.

"Yeah, ever since Pidge got hit while hacking, we've been thinking that it might be helpful- especially when one of us has to stay put in one location for any amount of time. "

"Wait- Pidge got hit?" He sat up straighter, "Pidge are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine now. A sentry droid got me while everyone was dealing with this glut of Galra. It was nothing, I'm fine now."

"It was NOT nothing!" Hunk gasped, visibly horrified, "that shot went in your right side and out your left. We barely got you back here in time! You were in that healing pod for AGES!"

"Pidge!" he yelped, "quiznak, that's BAD. When did this happen?"

They looked at each other, then back at Keith. "Five quintants ago?" Pidge answered, not looking completely sure, "maybe four?"

"I am going to KILL Shiro," he muttered, "I have been talking to him since then and he didn't mention anything. Throttle him."

"Aww, that's sweet," Hunk cooed, "look how worried he is about you Pidge!"

"Awww, Keefy," Pidge preened, leaning in close and clutching at Keith's arm, "you CARE! Can I watch you try to throttle Shiro?"

He rolled his eyes, "of course I CARE." He actually managed to crack a genuine, if teasing, smile, "we need you to form Voltron."

"Ouch!" Hunk laughed, "that's cold, man. Cold."

He let himself get pulled into some good-natured ribbing and shit-talking with Pidge and Hunk that killed a varga. He could always count on those two to lighten the mood and get him out of his own head, even if it was just for a little while. "Okay guys, I promised Shiro some card games. I gotta cut out. Lance. Allura. I'm headed out."

They turned to him in unison, which was a bit jarring, but they were both smiling and the second of... weirdness, passed. "We'll see you at breakfast? Or the morning briefing?" Allura asked, turning to face him more fully. She still seemed genuinely happy to have him around... and that was still somehow upsetting to him. It was really hard to hate someone who seemed to be so happy you were around.

"Oh yeah, I'll be around. I'm back for a few quintants, at least. Lots of time to get caught up." That had... been pretty normal, right? He didn't sound like a charred husk of a person or anything?

"You should definitely have time to let Lance yammer at you for an hour then," Hunk commented, oh so fucking helpfully.

He nearly choked. The memory of Lance singing in his native language took over his brain. He could hear the music. He could feel the weirdly fuzzy texture of that pillow under his hands. He could taste the vodka and juice. For the space between heartbeats, he was right back in that moment, like he'd never left.

Nope.

No way.

He could NOT handle having Lance speaking Cubano at him. "Uhhh... yeah... sure," he heard himself say, with absolutely NO permission from his brain to do so!

"Oh awesome," Lance said. He sounded excited. Quiznak. He had a sinking feeling he wasn't getting out of this. "I've been looking forward to that!"

"That's very kind of you Keith," Allura said, smiling gently at him like he was doing something exceptional.

"Yeah, sure. Anytime," Keith said, mustering up a ghost of a smile, "I'm literally just going to be sitting there- what kind of asshole would say no to that?" Stop. Talking. Leave. Before it is too late. "But... like I said... Shiro's waiting on me. I should get moving."

"Say hi to Space Dad for us," Lance called as Keith was headed to the door.

"Oh Lance," Allura tsked. WHY couldn't she say his name like a normal person? Lance. Not LAHnce. It wasn't hard. "Such a dreadful nickname."

"It's perfect," he could hear Lance argue, then there was a squeal of laughter that made it pretty obvious that Lance was like tickling her or something equally sickening.

He took slow, measured steps until the turn in the corridor that put him out of sight of anyone who might have stepped out of the room. As soon as he broke line of sight, though, he practically ran to Shiro's quarters, eyes burning like fire, chest packed with hot coals. He didn't even knock, just triggered the door and barreled right into the chest of the one person in the entire universe he actually trusted enough to fall apart with. Shiro's arms snapped tight around him like they had so many times over the years and just held him together. Hot, painful, silent tears spilled from his eyes, soaking Shiro's shirt, but neither of them said anything. Not for the longest time. Finally, Shiro half scooped Keith up and sat them both on one of the two chairs he had in his room, still holding him against his chest and almost petting his hair. Keith felt Shiro give a heaving, sympathetic sigh. "Fucking idiot straight boys," he muttered.

"He's bi," he managed to hiccup.

"Close enough, right now," Shiro answered without missing a beat, "still clueless enough to break your heart like an idiot straight boy."

Chapter Text

"LAHnnce," he cooed in a ridiculous falsetto, batting his eyelashes at her, "you are sooo handsome and brave. You are my favorite paladin!"

Allura laughed so hard she was grabbing at her sides and gasping for breath, "I do NOT sound like that!"

"Yup," he answered, flopping back onto her bed, a smug smile on his lips, "that is a spot on impression. Ask anyone."

When she finally got her breathing back to normal, she smacked at him playfully, "you are not my favorite paladin- for the record."

He looked stricken, "what? Allura- no! How is that even possible?"

Now it was her turn to look smug, "it's true. Of all the Paladins, you are not my favorite."

"Awww, my Princess, how could you betray me like that?"

She smiled, leaning down to kiss him softly, "I like when you call me that. 'My Princess'... I don't like it when you leave the 'my' out. Isn't that odd?"

"I don't think so," he answered, "changes it from a title to a pet name. I can see how that would make a difference. You want me to see YOU, not your... umm... pedigree? I don't know what the proper term is."

"Is that because English isn't your first language?" she asked gently, moving to lie beside him, her face pillowed on his chest.

"Ummm.. maybe?" he answered, "but I'm very fluent. I don't think I know the right term in any language. I'm not used to thinking much about Royalty and how it works."

"I didn't know that Cubano was your first language until tonight when Hunk mentioned it," she traced her finger along the line of his jaw.

"Well, I didn't know anyone who spoke it at the Garrison except Hunk, so it wasn't really something that came up much. I just got used to living in English." He turned his head and caught her finger, playfully nibbling at it, which made her laugh and pull her hand away.

"I am so often surprised at how little I really know about you," she said. "I am enjoying learning you."

"I am, too," he replied easily, playing with her hair, "I like opening up to you, and I like learning more about you. You are so amazing."

"Don't be silly, I am not amazing," she giggled.

"Not true- you amaze me all the time... but to be fair, so do the mice."

Smiling, she cupped his face and drew it down to hers so she could kiss him, sweet and slow and tender. When the kiss broke, his expression was dewy and he looked so young it made her sigh.

"What was that for?" he asked, rolling onto his side so they were pressed together from shoulder to toe, and he nuzzled her throat affectionately.

"Just for being you," she answered softly. She'd noticed he did that often, nuzzle into her like he couldn't get close enough. Her fingers slid through the soft hair at base of his neck, nails skimming lightly over his skin, making him sigh. "I never knew about Keith."

"What about him?" he asked, not even lifting his head.

"How you feel about him," she breathed, no change in her closeness, or the way she was touching him.

He stilled, going quiet.

"We are empaths, remember," she coaxed. "I could feel it. Still can. Did you not realize? It is very... powerful."

He lifted his head then, meeting her eyes. The deep blue of his gaze was troubled, turbulent, vulnerable, just like the shift in his emotions. "What are you feeling from me about Keith, Allura?"

She let her eyes drift shut, sinking into the feeling. He was thinking about Keith now, so it was easily accessible, right at the surface of the layers of emotions she'd learned to recognize as Lance just as easily as she recognized the features of his face or the sound of his voice. "Attraction," she breathed, "the kind that likes to push into your awareness at all the worst moments. Mmmm... that little thrill when he smiles, because it is rare and exciting." She smiled, "concern- you worry about him a lot. Envy. Jealousy... of... someone... Shiro, maybe? Someone close to Keith, so it must be Shiro... but now that doesn't feel right... oh... I know. The Blades." Her eyes fluttered, and she felt herself sink deeper into this new pool of emotion that was 'Keith' in the ocean that was 'Lance', "oh, Lance... the longing. So much longing. It aches... and that irritates you. So does the rejection... and the confusion... There's a lot of pain here... but, fear? Why fear?" Her hand reached out, catching his, her thumb rubbing at the back of his hand, wanting him to feel their connection in a physical way. "Lance, oh darling, darling Lance... These are not new emotions... they are well established... deep roots, strong patterns. They are part of your being." Her eyes opened, filled with compassion, "how long have you been in love with Keith?"

"I'm not," he said, ready to argue... which was pretty stupid, because she'd just demonstrated that she could feel everything he was feeling. "You think I am in love with Keith?"

"Well, that's how I would describe something this rich and deep. But I am not you," she said gently.

"You don't seem angry..."

"I don't seem? Lance, you can read me just as easily as I can read you. Am I angry?"

"No, not angry," he answered with a smile, pressing his forehead to hers, "not hurt, either... or jealous. You feel... warm... and kind... and happy... but concerned."

"Mmmhmm... not angry, or hurt, or jealous... so... tell me about it. How long?"

"Since... I don't know... maybe a few weeks after we met. I didn't really understand why I was so... fixated. It really bugged me, so I started... pitting myself against him."

"Ohhhh," she smiled, "he was the first boy you fell for! Oh, that's so sweet and scary. How long did it take to figure out that you liked boys, too?"

"Longer than it would have if I'd known you back then, I'm guessing," he laughed, "look at you, putting all my pieces together."

"I like the pieces of you, and how they fit together," she answered him, "and he IS very pretty... those eyes of his."

He made a face at her, "do YOU think that, or are you picking that up from me?"

"Hmmmm..." her brows furrowed, making that cute little crease in her forehead that looked so different when she wasn't wearing her crown. "I'm not really sure... does it matter right now?"

"No, I guess not," he conceded, dropping a little kiss on her shoulder. "I didn't really understand it until after we were here. It was a whole angsty process that I dragged poor Hunk through with me. Actually, it was that talk with you that really made everything sort of fall into place."

"I'm glad I helped- even though I had no idea I was doing so at the time," she giggled.

"You're really not upset at all, are you?" he marveled, running his hand through that impossibly soft cloud of silvery white hair.

"Why would I be upset?" she asked, confusion plain on her face. "Your feelings for Keith have nothing to do with me."

"A lot of people would feel like one negated the other," he answered, "I grew up hearing that you could only care for one person at a time, and if you found your thoughts drifting to someone new, it meant you didn't care about the person you were with anymore. I was such a jerk to people because I believed that."

"Ooof, so much regret... You were LEARNING," she purred, "of course you made mistakes. That's how learning happens."

"¡Dios!" he breathed, gazing at her face, "how are you even real? Mi preciosa princesa."

"Was that your native tongue?" she asked, "oh, it sounds so pretty, Lance... but I have no idea what it means."

"Mmm," he kissed her cheek, skimming his lips along her skin to whisper in her elf-like ear, "I said, god, how are you even real? My precious princess."

His breath skittering over her ear made her gasp and clutch at his shoulders, a swell of affection blossoming in her chest. He chuckled softly, "felt that."

"Good," she answered, "kiss me."

He did as she asked, taking his time to really enjoy the little intimacies of being with her like this. When they were alone, everything took on a strange, dream-like feel that his romantic soul just loved. It was almost like dancing.

"I could kiss you forever," he breathed between embraces.

"Stay," she whispered some time later, punctuating her words with small, heated kisses, "I don't want to be alone tonight. Sleep here with me."

Chapter Text

Keith walked into the briefing room fully prepared for a hellish varga of teammates talking over each other, and making smart ass comments while Shiro and Allura tried to keep them on track, only to be derailed by some convoluted story from Coran about the culture of a new planet, or the origins of some kind of tech. He felt like he'd spent the last week rolling down a hill made of glass shards and breathing nothing but exhaust fumes. His eyes stung. His chest ached and burned. Even his back hurt. Stiff, tender muscles from a night spent crying out months' worth of bottled up emotions. Every so often, he would hit a breaking point and he'd crack and split along all his emotional fault lines and then everything he'd refused to FEEL would come spewing and pouring out of him like a volcano. He was helpless against the release of so much acrid, toxic pressure. It always took a day or two to start feeling anything like himself again. Normally, he felt hollow and numb after a night like last night. This time though, the blessed numbness was nowhere to be found. Instead, he felt like one huge, blistered sunburn- every thought, every emotion scorching a path across raw, inflamed nerves. He dreaded the buoyant, chaotic energy and noise that the briefings brought. He was NOT prepared to engage with teasing and taunting and unpredictable sparks of friendship and competition.

Instead, the morning briefing was a subdued affair. Shiro drank mug after mug of the hot stimulant beverage that served as a stop gap for the lack of coffee in space. He looked exhausted and kept repeating himself as he went over the information on his tablet- like he was losing his place. Which he probably was, because Keith knew for a fact that the poor guy had gotten absolutely no sleep because he'd been trying to help him put himself back together. Seeing him now, Keith felt like crap. He hated needing people, hated being a burden on them... and Shiro already had so much to deal with.

Allura kept interrupting herself with little squeaking yawns, and then 'stealing' glances at Lance (which couldn't even count as 'stealing' anything because they were all looking right at her and could CLEARLY see that she kept eye-fucking her new boyfriend). At some point during the meeting, Lance just gave up on trying to stay upright and draped himself over the table, his head pillowed on his crossed arms. Periodically, Shiro would start to say his name and Lance would quickly state that he was awake, and that he didn't need his eyes to listen.

Keith was very glad that he was normally quiet during these meetings unless he was directly asked a question or had mission-relevant information to share, because he knew that his voice was wrecked. He sounded like he'd been gargling gravel and it felt even worse. Shiro had actually flinched in sympathy when he'd tried to speak on the way to the briefing room.

The whole thing was a mess. Even Pidge and Hunk were exhausted, probably having spent the entire night working on that cloaking project they'd been telling him about. Finally, Coran hit some kind of tolerance limit. "Right!" he'd said with so much energy and so little warning that it made everyone jump, Lance so much so that he nearly toppled out of his chair. "I do not know what, in the name of King Groggery, the infirm, has happened to you lot, but you are all obviously exhausted and in no shape to work today. I am declaring this a free day- on the condition that each and every one of you find some time to sleep for several vargas before the evening meal! And I do mean EVERY one of you- that includes you Princess, and you, Shiro."

He looked so darn stern and parental that Allura's tired brain apparently couldn't process it, because she dissolved into giggles, as did Lance at the exact same instant. Hunk quickly joined them, followed by Pidge, and then Shiro's deep belly laugh was added to the chorus. Keith did not want to laugh. He knew how much it would hurt his throat and chest and back. But, he couldn't help it. He was just as overtired as the rest of them, and something deep in him needed the healing balm of innocent laughter. Still he resisted... until Shiro gasped helplessly, trying to form words through his laughter, "and... you guys... call... ME... Space... Dad... He... just... ordered... us.. to... NAP!"

That did him in, his shoulders shook and he folded over onto the table, laughing soundlessly for a few seconds before he was forced to drag a breath into his burning chest. The laugh that followed that was a hoarse seal bark, heartbreakingly different from the delighted, child-like peals of laughter coming from his team-mates. Hunk shot him a worried expression, despite still laughing, but it was lost as the heavy weight of Shiro's Galra arm flopped over his back, dragging Keith into a brotherly side-hug.

Chapter Text

After the meeting, Keith headed down to the pool. He felt too hot, scorched and parched, and thought the cool water would be soothing. Plus, of all the times he'd headed down for a swim he'd only ever encountered someone else that one time. Thinking of Lance hurt, but here, in the Castle of Lions, nearly every line of wall, every piece of furniture, every square inch of space was steeped in SOME kind of memory of Lance, so he knew it was pretty pointless to try to avoid it. Only Shiro's quarters provided relief from the snapshots of Lance memories that were plaguing him. Even his own quarters didn't give him a reprieve, he'd discovered, when he went to change into his swim gear. He'd turned to leave the room, saw the door and got hit with the recollection of Lance, standing in front of him, his face full of a million emotions, offering to step back from Voltron for the sake of the team. He'd come so close to kissing him that day. So close to closing the small distance between them to pull him into his arms. So close to opening his mouth and letting every jumbled, conflicting thing he'd ever thought or felt about his teammate come tumbling out. But he hadn't. He'd been a friend and a leader- two roles he was still uncomfortable in, but that still felt so much more familiar than the mess of confusion that Lance had always caused.

Even floating in the pool his brain wouldn't give him a break. How long had he been in love with Lance? How long had he been repressing and ignoring and walling himself off from his own emotions? When had all this started? What could he have done to avoid it? How had the tall, lean Cuban managed to get past all his walls and hurdles? He wasn't an idiot- he knew why he kept people at a distance, knew it was damage and scarring from his childhood. He held no illusions that his standoffishness was anything other than fear. Fear of letting himself care and being left behind. Again. Fear of never being enough to be a reason for someone to stay.

It was easier to just stick with being alone than to get used to NOT being alone and then have that ripped from you. How many times could one person survive having that sense of family ripped apart? He'd lost count of how many times he'd been through it... some hurt more than others. His mother leaving wasn't something he could consciously remember, but he knew enough about psychology to know that it was the first fracture in the foundation of him. His father. He hadn't CHOSEN to leave him, but it was still his choices that had left to Keith being orphaned. His first foster family, who had been so warm and compassionate for the first several months, but didn't know how to handle his sudden violent bursts of rage and started to resent that he wasn't healing fast enough. Just when he'd begun to trust them to be there, his social worker had come and bustled him off to the first of many group homes for 'troubled' foster kids. Adam. Shiro. Five. Those were the biggies. The ones that hurt. The ones that left scars, and tripped him up.

But his stupid, traitorous heart just kept making him care. He loved Shiro- even after he chose to go to Kerberos over staying with him and Adam. Even after he vanished on him- which wasn't his fault, but still hurt. He loved Adam, even after the shitstorm that their life turned into after Shiro left, and then was lost. He loved his mother... the abstract, nebulous sense of her that lingered long after any concrete memory of her presence faded. He loved his father, who decided it was better to sacrifice himself for strangers than to stay safe for his son who had no one else in the world. Now... he cared about the team.

He cared about Pidge and her stupid-big brain and fiery temper and random bursts of playfulness. He cared about Hunk- it was kind of impossible not to- his big heart and unerring moral compass and tender fussing and quietly determined courage. He cared about Coran, with his limitless supply of stories and random knowledge, his clever brain, his uniquely lovable campiness. He cared about Allura, even if at the moment it was hard to remember why through the haze of pain and ugly jealousy that flared like a poorly banked fire whenever he thought about her.

And he loved Lance. Stupid, wonderful, annoying Lance. With his heart on his sleeve and his expressive face... and those smiles- not the cheesy one he flashed when he was being a jackass. The other ones. The quiet moment smile that seemed to punctuate and cement emotional moments. The huge, proud one he got when someone ELSE accomplished something. The shy one that showed up when he revealed something new about himself. The little half-smile he got when he was able to make one of the others feel better about something. The other one. The one he didn't let himself think about much. The one he'd seen a handful of times directed at him... the one that suggested that maybe, just maybe, he was thinking of kissing him, or touching him. The one that was way too much like the one he'd seen Lance flash at Allura in the corridor the day before. He fucking loved him, and he couldn't even remember when he HADN'T loved him... and Shiro had known. He'd known and he'd tried to get him to open up about it, so many times, but Keith had been too scared to admit to himself what was going on and had just kept pushing Shiro away.

So, now, here he was, alone, in a fucking pool of all places trying to piece together the little obsidian shards that used to form his heart so that he could go find the guy he was head over heels in love with and invite him to talk at him in one of the most romantic languages in the world... probably about his brand new quiznacking girlfriend.

Chapter Text

'Sleep here with me' she'd said, all sweet and breathy and tempting.

Who could say no to that?

So, he'd stayed... and sleep had NOT happened. Not really... and the reason it hadn't was not what some tiny hopeful part of him had been rooting for either. They'd talked. They'd kissed and cuddled and explored each other and got lost in their new relationship. Which was all great and awesome and he was thrilled with that... but mostly, they'd played around with the whole empath thing. Seeing how well they could read each other.

It felt like surfing, finding his balance, reading the wave, soaring, crashing, suddenly engulfed in water and salt, desperately surging to the surface and starting all over. It was exciting and new and incredible... but it was exhausting. And engrossing. Before they knew it, they only had 3 vargas before they had to be at the meeting- and, it turns out 'exhaustion' was as much an emotion as it was a physical feeling. Once it became the strongest thing one of them felt, it snowballed the same way that their ability to cheer each other up did. Sleep crashed into them like a wave and bowled them over.

He was comfortable sharing a bed with someone. He'd grown up crawling in and out of his older siblings' and parents' beds, having younger siblings crawl into his, having sleepovers on the pullout couch in the basement with his friends, passing out watching movies at the Garrison with Hunk in one or the other's bunk. He was cuddly, he knew that, but he'd also developed a well-honed sense of how to sleep beside another body in comfort. Allura, Princess of Altea, on the other hand, had not. He suspected she hadn't shared a bed with anyone since she'd been told she was too old to sneak into her parents' bed after a nightmare.

She kicked.

She hogged the blankets.

She hogged the mattress.

She flung her arms out randomly.

She mumbled in her sleep, and she tossed and turned. He had never spent such a restless night in such an otherwise comfortable bed.

He'd barely managed to drag himself to the briefing. Barely managed to stay awake- but he had, so he had no idea why Shiro was SO ANGRY with him. It's not like he was the only one who was tired! But for some reason, he was the one catching the rage from Shiro. He could feel it rolling off of him like a bitterly cold wind every time he'd started to bark his name, and just whispering over his skin in between the gusts. No one else had seemed to notice, except Allura, and when they'd discussed it after the briefing she was just as much at a loss about it as he was. The best either of them could figure was that Shiro's own tiredness had made him irritable and rather than blast everyone, he'd focused the crankiness on the first person that bugged him. Figures. Shiro was allllll about the focus thing.

Unlike their usual habit, he and Allura had not gone to dance after the morning briefing. They were both too bone tired to do that. They'd agreed to postpone it to late that evening, so they had something to look forward to during what was shaping up to be a difficult day. They'd gotten breakfast together and then gone their separate ways- her to read and nap, him to train.

It was hard to replicate the specific challenges of a sniper's nest in a training situation. One of the biggest problems was the monotony of staying in one spot, staying still, and staying on task for an extended period. So far, most of the missions that had seen him acting as a sharp shooting cover for the others had been brief in duration, but he couldn't count on that always being the case.

So, in contrast with dancing, where this logy exhaustion would work against him, for sniper training this gave him a rare chance to hone a needed skill. If he could do well on a sniper sim in this condition, he was more likely to be able to handle a long stretch in a nest without impairing his abilities. Pidge's injury still weighed on his conscience, even though he knew that it had been unavoidable. It still served as a cold jolt of reality, reminding him of the REAL cost of him messing up in the field. It was a grueling two hours, but he'd gotten through it. He hadn't gotten a perfect score, but he hadn't expected to. This was one of the most difficult aspects of sharpshooting to master, and he didn't have all that many opportunities to develop the skill. He was pleased with his results, even though they weren't perfect.

Being this tired though? It almost felt like being sick. It stirred up his homesickness something awful. He wanted to hear his brother's laugh, feel his mother's arms wrap around him and breathe in the scent of beach and home cooking and the lemon cleaner that always seemed to linger on her skin. He was sitting in the kitchen, indulging in some self-pity, flipping through the pictures and videos of his family on his phone. It wasn't really HELPING him feel any less homesick, but the familiar and well-loved faces of his family and the random snippets of their voices in the background of the videos soothed SOMETHING in him. So, he kept fiddling with his phone, barely even registering when someone else joined him in the room.

He'd noticed lately, since Allura had brought it to his attention, that he could FEEL someone coming close as much as he could hear them. Everyone seemed to spill over a bit of an emotional imprint. It didn't give him a whole lot of emotions, most people in a common setting had a similar combination of the same surface emotions. In the Castle it seemed to be determination, hope, fear, loss, curiosity, and courage- which made sense given that they were trying to free the universe from an oppressive military force. Some people were emotionally 'louder' than others- Hunk being the easiest to 'hear' and Coran being one of the toughest. Keith, though? Keith was almost like wearing noise cancelling headphones. Rather than picking up spillover, he could tell when Keith was around because of the QUIET that he carried with him. No wonder the guy always managed to seem like some kind of ninja- it wasn't that he MOVED more quietly (although Keith was a stealthy mofo) it was that there was almost no emotional footprint for the guy. His empath abilities were almost completely blind to him.

"Hey Keith," he said softly, not really looking up from the pictures on his phone.

Chapter Text

"Hey," he croaked, wincing.

"¡Ayyy!" Lance set his phone down, hopping off his chair to fuss over Keith, "your voice! What's wrong with your throat?"

"Nothing," Keith rasped, "just raw... M'fine!"

"What the hell kind of card games were you playing with Shiro? Geez! You sound like me the first time I tried to smoke a cigar! Sit! Sit! I'm making you something soothing to drink."

Keith sat, watching Lance, his barely patched up heart slowing disintegrating all over again. He was being so... sweet... and caring... and it would be SO MUCH easier if he'd been acting like a jackass. But, oh no, his stupid raw throat had to trigger Lance's mother hen streak. So, he got to watch Lance bustle around the kitchen, digging through cupboards and muttering to himself in some kind of weird hodge podge of words from a few different languages, tutts, tsks, and... clucks. Actual clucks. He couldn't help the smile that bloomed on his face. Lance in mother hen mode clucked like a chicken. How fucking lovable and perfect was that? The little bubble of happiness burst, splattering lava all over his heart.

Finally, he turned back to Keith, proffering a steaming mug of... something he didn't recognize. Keith crooked an eyebrow, not wanting to talk and trigger more fussing.

"It's tea... more or less," Lance said sheepishly, "with... this blue honey Hunk found, and some of that stuff we used for mix with Hunk's vodka. Closest thing I could find to lemon. Try it. " He made a little shooing gesture with his hand that Keith associated with the Spanish foster mother he'd had in one of the group homes and it was such a clear indication of worry that he had to smile.

"Leaking Spanish," he said as softly as he could, his voice crackling harshly on the words before he made an exaggerated show of sipping the tea concoction and then nodding. It was good.

Lance relaxed, sighing as he dropped into the seat beside Keith, "was thinking about home. Watching videos."

Keith took another sip and tapped the edge of Lance's phone, a questioning look on his face. He was helpless. He should have left as soon as he had the tea in hand, but Lance just seemed... like he needed company and Keith literally couldn't force his feet to move him away, no matter how much it hurt to stay.

"You want me to show you one?" Lance confirmed, his voice so hopeful that it felt like standing too close to a flame. Keith nodded. "Okay," his smile was... everything. It was the sun. Keith couldn't look away from the sudden brilliance of it. Lance tapped the screen of his phone and Keith caught a flash of an image of Lance and Allura making silly faces in big floppy hats before a video was loading on the screen. "This is from my cousin's wedding," Lance explained, scootching his chair close to Keith's so they could both watch.

He was reminded of how they had all piled onto him to watch Pidge's video of Allura. He could remember the way Lance had felt pressed back against his chest, remembered the way his brown hair had brushed against his jaw, tickling him like soft feathers or a kitten's fur. Fighting a pang, resisting the urge to sigh, or moan, or burst into tears again... or just... kiss him or something equally catastrophic... he pulled his attention back to the video. Lance was giving him a role call of everyone in the video in that rapid-fire way of talking he had when he was excited. His accent was seeping in around the edges of his voice as he spoke- especially on the names. It was beyond endearing. God, he loved this guy so damn much. How had he ever managed to deny that to himself?

"Drink," Lance reminded him, nudging him with his elbow. Keith stuck his face in Lance's and made a huge show of rolling his eyes. Lance laughed, "are you seriously picking a fight with me when you can't even talk?! You have a problem, dude."

Keith grinned, feeling the smile reach all the way to his eyes. He took a large sip of the warm drink, feeling it soothe his raw throat. He pulled out his own phone, opening a notepad app. He tapped out a message and held the screen up to Lance -Let's go to the Paladin Pad. You can show me vids on the big screen and tell me about them in Spanish.-

"Yeah, I like that plan," Lance said, smiling at him. "Thanks, Keith. I know this is a weird thing to ask, but I really appreciate it."

"S'not a problem," he whispered hoarsely, not trusting his voice more than that.

Lance eyed him, then took his mug, "refill first. Hey- who's that guy with you on your lockscreen?"

Keith froze, looking down at his phone. He'd forgotten about that. He'd had the same lock screen image for so long he didn't even notice it anymore. Shiro had taken it. He and Adam had been washing dishes together and somehow it had turned into a suds fight. It was one of the last truly happy memories he had of his time living at the Garrison.

"Adam," he said quietly, "Garrison Pilot."

"An ex boyfriend?" Lance teased, waggling his eyebrows.

Keith jerked back, his face screwed up reflexively before he shook his head.

"Okay- geez! He's too cute to warrant THAT reaction! Ohhh... you know him through Shiro?"

Keith nodded, pushing the limits of his voice, "you should tell Shiro you think Adam's cute sometime. See how that works out for you."

Lance shot him a skeptical look, and handed him a freshly filled mug, "based on the evil glint in your eye, I think I'm gonna keep that to myself. Shiro's already pissed at me for some reason."

Keith cocked his head to one side, dread clawing at him, "did he say something I missed?"

Lance shook his head, "nah, I can just tell. I figure he's probably just cranky cuz he needs a nappy wappy."

Chapter Text

Lance led Keith to the Paladin Pad- he'd been there a few times since the night they'd all had shore leave, but Keith had been pretty plastered the one time he'd been there. He was trying to act normally, but his mind kept drifting back to Allura's face as she untangled emotions that had been making him run in circles in his own head for ages. She'd made it seem so... simple... and obvious... and... GOOD, somehow. Her face when she asked why she would be upset, the soothing sympathy in her voice when she'd encouraged him to let go of his regrets. He had no idea he'd needed to hear those things. It healed something inside of him that he hadn't realized was hurting. But it made it difficult to know how to act around Keith. The fact that he was so emotionally closed off didn't help. Lance was starting to realize how heavily he relied on empathic input when dealing people- even when he'd had no idea he'd been doing it.

"How's the throat?" he asked, genuinely concerned. He had no idea what the quiznak Keith had done to himself, but he knew from experience that a raw throat like that sucked.

"Getting better," Keith answered, still speaking softly. "Tea's helping."

"Nothing like tea with honey and lemon for a bad throat," he chuckled. This was good. This was better. He didn't have to think too deeply and second guess every little thing he said to Keith. He could just... chat. Stick to subjects that there was no way would turn into an argument. He was too exhausted to get into it with Keith today. "Unless you can toss some rum in there, too."

"Man, I miss rum," Keith sighed.

"You're a rum drinker?" Lance asked, one eyebrow arching. He expected... something else. Tequila, maybe?

"Not that picky," Keith laughed, triggering a round of coughing that clearly made his back ache and his chest burn just from his posture.

"You okay?" Lance asked, worry lacing his voice.

"Yeah, fine... I should maybe avoid laughing for a bit. I drink pretty much anything, but yeah, I like rum."

"What's Shiro drink?" he asked, unable to resist his curiosity any longer. It wasn't until after Keith had already left again the last time that he'd clued in to something Keith had said when they'd been drinking. He'd lived with Shiro back on earth. That meant that Keith was potentially a treasure trove of information about Shiro- provided you could catch Keith in a mood that was receptive to questions, which was rare. They were both weirdly private about totally trivial things.

Keith gave him an odd look, "wine with dinner, whiskey and water, sometimes sake. Why?"

"I dunno, he didn't seem all that impressed with the alien booze when we all went out."

"Too sweet," Keith agreed, "didn't stop him from drinking it though. What's your poison?"

"Rum," Lance answered, "especially rum punch. Or beer. Can't go wrong with beer. Here we go." He triggered the door to the Paladin Pad and headed inside. "If I remember right..." he dug through the snack cabinet, "ah-ha! Here!" He held a silvery bag out to Keith. "Have some of this."

"What is it?" he asked, eyeing it skeptically.

"Ummm... kinda like jello that doesn't melt... or extra squishy gummy candies. After a couple of them your mouth goes numb- I figure it'll help your throat."

Keith took the bag, struck by just how naturally it came to Lance to take care of the people around him. First the tea and now the... candy... things. He felt his stupid face go all dopey and he couldn't do a damn thing about it. The best he could come up with was to drop his focus to the bag in his hand and hope that the angle and his hair provided some kind of cover from Lance seeing him mooning over him. "Thanks... umm... you should hook your phone up to the screen, right? For the videos?"

"Yeah, definitely," he answered, his voice brightening again. "Kill the lights, we'll do this movie theater style."

"Feels like just the other day we were in here playing stupid drinking games," Keith said softly.

"Really?" Lance looked over his shoulder, "must be because you were busy and away... feels like ages ago for me."

Keith pulled one of the flop pillows over to the screen and folded himself into it with his tea and candy. "Your life changed a lot since then," he said, fighting to keep his voice neutral.

"Yeah- I guess. Only three changes really... dance lessons every day... and Allura," he half shrugged.

"You said three," Keith pointed out.

"Third one isn't important," Lance said quietly. It wasn't like he could just come out and say 'oh, and the girl I am seeing thinks it is sweet and adorable that I am in love with you because we are empaths and she can feel it too', was it? He fiddled with his phone until a video caught his attention. "Okay- this is my brother Luis and me busking the summer before I went to the Garrison. He has such a great voice."

Despite the plan being to watch videos and have him explain them to Keith in Cubano, he ended up barely saying anything, just soaking up the images of his family on the big screen. One good thing about Keith was that he didn't push to fill silences. It was rare to find someone that was comfortable with quiet, and while it would surprise most people to hear it, sometimes, quiet was very precious to Lance. It was the fifth or sixth video before Keith said anything that wasn't some kind of response to a question from Lance.

"Your family is like... magic," he said. His voice was still off, so it was hard to sort through his tone and inflection, and Lance was forced to take him at his word. "So many people... that all just... LIKE each other."

"Well, yeah," Lance said, "we all get along pretty well. I mean we fight and argue and stuff, but we're tight. They're the best."

"As long as you know how lucky you are. I mean, I get that it must be hard to be here, with them there... but you have all those people who love you. That's..." He shook his head, "I can't even imagine. There MIGHT be one person on Earth that even remembers I exist."

Lance stilled, turning to Keith, watching his face. Quiznak- just how isolated WAS he before Voltron? He didn't even look upset. He'd said that as mildly as if he was saying he liked bacon on his cheeseburgers. Lance couldn't even imagine what that must feel like, and he certainly wasn't getting any kind of emotional information from Keith. After a moment, he found his voice. "That Adam guy?" he asked softly.

Keith nodded, "yeah... but I hadn't even talked to him for like months when we found Blue. So... who knows..."

"Dude," he tried to keep his voice light, supportive, "you're a pretty memorable guy. I'm sure more people miss you than you think."

Keith snorted, rolling his eyes, "you gonna put another video on? Or do you want to talk to me about Cuba?"

Chapter Text

He thought it would be torture. He'd been so sure that hearing Lance talk to him about Cuba, in his first language would be torture. He'd been wrong. So wrong. Torture didn't even TOUCH on what this was. Lance talked quickly, and the more excited or involved in the story he was telling he got the louder he got... and the louder he got, the faster spoke. Cubano wasn't even pure Spanish. It took heavy influence from French and English, plus a few other things he couldn't identify. It did not take long for him to get completely lost in what Lance was saying and make him stop because he wasn't understanding what Lance was saying. After a few false starts, they figured out the connection between the volume and the speed- which led to Lance very slowly telling his stories in a voice that was barely more than a whisper.

Lance was telling him stories in the sexiest language he had EVER heard...

In the dark...

In a goddamned BEDROOM voice...

He was going to DIE.

There was no way in hell he was surviving this. Why did the universe hate him?

"Keith?" Lance said loud enough that Keith knew he must have repeated himself at least once.

"Mmmhmm?" he whimpered and tried to change the sound into a normal one at the last second.

"Oh ok... I thought you might have fallen asleep."

Not a chance. He'd never be so lucky. Nope, he was going to end up being awake for DAYS because of this, because he knew. He just KNEW that the second his tried to sleep, his brain would start spinning out this memory... and it was so wrong that he found a story about a little girl taking her first steps SEXY, but with Lance telling it, he did. Just like he found the story about decorating the Christmas tree HOT, scorching hot- because Lance was the one telling it. In Cubano. In the dark. In a soft, slow cadence that sounded like incense smoke, if incense could have a sound. He sipped his cold tea, trying to get a grip on himself. "Nope, still awake." Forever. "Keep going..." Because the only thing worse than listening to Lance like this was the thought that he might STOP.

"How are you feeling?" Lance asked instead, surprising him.

"Ummm... fine?" Keith replied, suspicious.

"The candy helped?" Lance confirmed, his voice hopeful.

"Yeah," Keith cleared his throat, waiting for a blaze of pain that didn't come. "It really did."

"Awesome," Keith could hear the smile and a weird kind of pride in his voice. "Now its your turn."

"My turn for what?" he asked, suddenly unsure about where this was heading.

"Tell me a story... anything. I just told you like 4. I want to hear something about you now."

"Is this you fishing for information about Adam... or Shiro?" he asked, turning to give Lance a look.

"No- you choose the story. It could be about why you decided that a mullet was going to be your signature look forever if you want. I don't care."

"I don't like talking about myself, Lance," he said flopping back onto the pillow.

"Yeah, I think I have noticed that," Lance said dryly, "but do it anyway. Tell me anything- a Blade mission, your favorite Halloween, worst birthday gift you ever got... I don't care."

"You aren't going to let this drop, are you?"

"Nope. Spill. Something. Anything."

Keith stared at him for a moment and then sighed, relenting. "Fine." He thought for a moment. It wasn't like his life was jam packed with fond memories like Lance's... and part of him suspected that Lance was angling to get dirt on Shiro, for some reason he didn't grasp., so he didn't want to talk about any of THOSE memories... which cut out a lot of the stuff he could talk about that other people wouldn't find depressing. "Alright... when I was really little I lived out in the desert with my Dad. We were pretty isolated, close enough to go to town whenever we wanted, but for the most part, people left us alone. So, I spent a lot of time tagging along after him. For my sixth birthday, he got me one of those little kid dune buggy ride-on toys. You know the ones? They are battery powered and go about as fast as an adult can run?"

"Yeah, I've seen them." Keith stole a glance and found that Lance was listening, a big smile on his face.

"Right, but I didn't like going so slow... so I... might have... stolen the battery from my father's truck to give my buggy more oomph. Possibly while he was asleep."

"Quiznak! You were six! How did you even..."

"I used to help my dad work on the truck all the time. I'm good at that kind of thing- with simple machines... nothing like Hunk or Pidge. Anyway. I knew how to handle batteries safely and it took forever for me to lug the thing over and get it installed, but I managed it and then I snuck back to bed. So, the next day, we got up and of course I was jumping out of my skin to go play with my buggy... so, Dad lets me rush through my oatmeal so I can get started. I run over to the buggy and start it up... and MAN that thing FLEW... for all of five minutes before the wiring all melted and it burst into flame. I wasn't hurt, but my Dad was PISSED!"

"Yeah! Of course he was! You could have gotten yourself killed!" Lance was floored, "what did he do?"

"Not much, really," Keith laughed, "yelled at me in Korean for a while... kept checking me over for burns and smoke inhalation... we lived alone in the desert so, it's not like he could ground me or take away a favorite activity. All my favorite things to do were stuff he needed me to tag along with him for anyway. He did make me wash all the dishes for like a month, though. Well, except the pots and sharp knives. I did stuff like that a lot... stuff I didn't realize was dangerous. I probably scared the crap out of him most of the time."

"You haven't really outgrown it," Lance pointed out, "you're always scaring the hell out of us with your risk taking. At least now I know it's like... something you were born with and not some kind of crazy death wish."

"I take calculated risks," Keith said with a shrug, "it's not a death wish. But there- I told a story. You can start with yours again."

Chapter Text

"Allura was just waking as Lance slid into the bed beside her, wanting to spend a little time together before he napped and she left her quarters. "Rise and shine, sleeping beauty," he whispered sweetly. She yawned and stretched, and blinked at him drowsily. She woke like a kitten and it was so stinking adorable it made him smile all the way to his toes.

"Mmmm... I am guessing those are earth references?" she whispered, rubbing at her eyes.

"Yeah... I guess they are. Rise and shine I think is about sunrise... like greet the day early and joyfully. Sleeping beauty is a fairy story about a princess who is trapped in a cursed slumber until her true love wakes her with a kiss," he smiled at her, "I thought it was fitting for my napping princess."

"That's sweet," she agreed drowsily, snuggling into him, "so- what have you been up to while I napped?"

"I did that sharp shooter simulation I mentioned," he said, trailing his fingers down the line of her back, "and then I got something to eat and hung out with Keith for a while."

"Ahh... that explains it," she chuckled, tipping her face up to his, her hand reaching up to brush his soft hair back tenderly.

"Explains what?" he asked, playing with her hair in return. They always seemed to be touching, sweet little brushes of skin against skin, always moving.

"The jumble of big emotions you are radiating," her voice was soft, tone curious and kind- no trace of hurt or jealousy. "Lots of worry though- what's going on with Keith?"

"His throat is messed up," he answered, "or at least it was. I think it is pretty much okay now. But also... I don't know... sometimes, he says stuff... I... I just can never get a good read on him."

"He is exceptionally private," Allura agreed, pressing a kiss to his forehead, "he keeps his emotions very locked down... what were you two talking about?"

"Little bit of everything... mostly my family. He told me a story about blowing up one of his toys as a kid- by accident, he wasn't like a kiddie arsonist or something. Oh and he has a picture of some guy named Adam on his phone."

Allura laughed, her eyes flying wide, "well, that was quite the surge of jealousy out of nowhere. Did he explain who this Adam person is?"

Lance opened his mouth to protest, then realized it was pointless. His mouth clapped shut and he pouted, not particularly enjoying being quite SO easily read by her at the moment. "No! Not really... just that he wasn't an ex and he knows him through Shiro."

"You look so very adorable right now," she giggled, then sighed, "but ohhhh Lance... you are making my heart ache." Her fingers traced the line of his brow and trailed down the side of his face to tip his chin up so she could kiss him softly. Warm affection and compassion rolled out of her, covering his frayed nerves and aching heart like a soft blanket. Little trickles of attraction and interest and infatuation followed, calling to his own emotions, pulling like to like, combining and growing and chasing away everything else. The kiss broke and they met each other's eyes. As one, their breath hitched, then released in a shuddering sigh. Her thumb dragged under his lip. His hand slid into her hair, cupping the back of her head, drawing her closer. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth for an instant then gasped and closed the distance between them, kissing him again. He moaned, pressing closer, deepening the kiss when she sighed in response.

Everything but Allura fell away from his awareness.

Everything but Lance fell away from hers.

Being with her was every romantic daydream he had ever had come to life. Her skin was satin. Her hair angora. Her lips velvet ambrosia. Her touch was the soft ocean breeze on a stifling day. Her sighs music. Everything was hazy, dreamy magic that seeped into his every cell and made him drunk on her. There was no self-consciousness or awkwardness anymore, because it was hard to tell, when they were like this, where he ended and she began.

He had never felt so perfectly, completely, unreservedly understood and accepted.

It was the most amazing thing he had ever felt.

Chapter Text

By the end of 'Sexy Story Time Starring Lance' Keith was ready to kill something. Exhaustion forgotten, his body was positively singing in response to all those incense-smoke words, his blood boiling in his veins from the suppressed heat. He needed to fight or fuck, and only one was an option, so he headed to the training room and punched up a program that he knew would keep every shred of his focus. Then he ran the thing three quiznacking times. He'd probably have run it a fourth except he noticed that the gentle beckoning he'd been ignoring since he'd arrived was no longer quite so gentle. There were definite tones of irritation and impatience in the ripple of shadow in his awareness that was the Black Lion. Black was feeling ignored and was DONE with that shit. He closed his eyes and tapped into the bond he felt with his lion, laying bare everything he'd been feeling. That shadow coiled around his hurt like a silk shroud, radiating comfort. His lips quirked, a hint of a smile tugging at the corners. Black was reminding him that he wasn't as alone as he thought. A pulse of distant, affectionate, heat told him that Red was aware of him, too, despite him no longer being her pilot.

He got cleaned up, and grabbed a bowl of space goo and a juice packet and then headed to Black's hangar, intent on spending some time with his giant robot Lion and just basking in their connection... which really summed up just how odd his life had become. He didn't go to Black's cockpit, too many memories tied to it. Instead he climbed up and out, stretching out between Black's massive wings, his snack set to one side for when he was ready to eat. He balled up his jacket and used it as a pillow. It was still odd to think of Black as HIS, some part of him would always see Black as Shiro's Lion... he supposed that a part of that was how much like Shiro, Black FELT sometimes. It was odd. Sometimes, he could almost hear Shiro crack one of the dumb Dad jokes he used to make all the time. Mostly though, it was that way he had of going quiet and just waiting for Keith to open up. Black did that- created that same patient, quiet, safe feeling that made his fear ease off enough to stop choking his thoughts and words in his chest. He appreciated that more sometimes than others. Sometimes it was a real pain in the ass. But now... he was leaking pain all over the place anyway and had hit one of those rare periods were his emotions simply would NOT be silenced, no matter how hard he tried... so that private, quiet place where it was just him and Black felt like a haven, a reprieve. He just let himself feel EVERYTHING, every spark of pain, every crackle of jealousy, every licking flame of unrequited bullshit. Just let it all burn through him to Black, who... frankly, was probably relieved to be dealing with mundane, run of the mill, gay angst instead of all the crap Shiro had been trying to work through, and whatever kind of emotional hellscape Zarkon had been dishing out.

"We've been through the ringer a few times, you and me, haven't we buddy?" he said softly to the lion. Black did something that felt like a purr rolling through his soul. Comfort, understanding, and hope followed in its wake. Black was confident that they were strong enough to handle this. It made him smile and breathe a little easier. He knew a broken heart wouldn't kill him. His heart just kept breaking and it hadn't done him in yet. It just sucked while he cobbled himself back together. "I know... I know... eventually I'll figure out how to not get attached. Then I won't get busted up like this." He felt something very akin to the playful smacks Shiro would sometimes deliver to the back of his head when he did something especially dumb or careless. Black did not like that line of thinking, at all. "Hey- fine! I get it- no getting jaded and detached on your watch. Sure. Whatever. Just remember, you asked for it- because my heart is an absolute idiot, so this is probably not going to be the last time this happens."

He felt a gentle coaxing, followed by a pulse of warmth. Red, no longer distant but just as present and close as Black. "Calling in backup Black? Quiznak, I must be in worse shape than I thought. Red- you tell your current Paladin ANY of this shit and I'm painting you purple." Affection and affronted pride glowed red amid the shadow that was Black. He took that to mean that his emotions would stay out of Red's communications with Lance. "Good Kitty." He was ever grateful for small miracles. His stomach churned at the thought of Lance having any idea of how much he meant to him. He could imagine the crowing and teasing he would get for being so broken up over his teammate. Red's presence turned sharp. Prickly and defensive, crackling like sparklers. "Okay, fine," he admitted, "he probably wouldn't give me shit. He's not malicious like that. He'd just look at me with pity and be WEIRD. Not much better."

Black stiffened, not enjoying the idea of being pitied anymore than Keith did. He was surprised at just how much this was helping. The odd sentience of his current and former Lions felt accepting and... loving. It was nice. It felt good to be understood without having to fight to put his feelings into words. The lions felt endlessly patient, too... like it was okay that it took him so long to let down his guard, to start to trust enough to open up. That was rare for him, and because it was rare, it was precious.

Chapter Text

It was late when Shiro got back to his quarters to discover Keith sitting on his bed, already in pjs, reading. "Hey," Keith said softly, "I'm crashing in here."

"Oh?" Shiro asked neutrally.

"Only place I've found here that doesn't have Lance's face all over it in my head."

"Ah," Shiro dropped into one of the chairs, "so, I should get used to the idea of having company while you are here?"

"Yep," Keith answered, still not looking up from the tablet, "at least for a few days, anyway."

"And I can't ask for a cot without triggering questions... Alright. Whatever you need. How was your day?"

That made Keith look up, his eyes red-rimmed and puffy, his skin pale. "Could have been worse. Spent some time with Black- that helped. A lot actually."

Shiro nodded, "that's good. What else did you do?"

"I swam for a bit, then I ran into Lance. Oh- he might ask about Adam."

"Adam?" Shiro couldn't keep the surprise out of his voice, "why?"

"He saw my phone- I never did change the lock screen image."

"Ah, I see. I always liked that picture. What did you tell him?"

"Just that he was a Garrison Pilot, NOT my ex- which was his guess, and that I knew him through you."

"He thought you had a picture of you and your ex-boyfriend as your lock screen image?" Shiro asked, "that doesn't make much sense."

"It's Lance- his brain doesn't work like a sensible person's," Keith muttered, shaking his head, "I think he might have just been trying to get a reaction out of me. He does that. Anyway- he made me tea for my throat and we watched videos of his family."

Shiro just watched Keith for a moment, his expression quizzical.

"What?" Keith asked, getting frustrated.

"You hung out with Lance. Today. Just the two of you?"

"Yeah," Keith replied.

"WHY?!"

"What do you mean 'why'? I ran into him, like I said."

"I mean- you spent 12 solid hours sobbing because that little shit shattered your heart so WHY would you not come up with some excuse to get away from him and give yourself a chance to get back on even footing?"

"One- it is NOT that easy to 'get away from' Lance. Two- I was too wrecked to think of that. Three- he was homesick and I'd promised I would let him talk about home, because I can understand Spanish."

"Uh-huh," Shiro had that look on his face. The one that he got when he was waiting for Keith to keep talking so whatever he'd said would start to make sense. "So, you guys were speaking Spanish? Because I have HEARD your Spanish, and Keith? It's painful. Your accent is so bad. Just. So. Bad."

"Yeah- I know it is. Basically, I just sat there and he told me stories about his family and stuff. In Cubano... which isn't really Spanish anyway. It's got like French and English and a bunch of other stuff mixed in. I could understand it, if he slowed down... and as long he was like practically whispering, he stayed slow."

He chuckled, shaking his head, "so, Lance was whispering you stories in... what did you call it? Cubano? And you guys were alone?"

"Yup."

"So, how was that?" he asked, "because, I don't have a thing for Lance, but I gotta say, even I think that would be pretty hot."

Keith's head snapped up and he gaped at Shiro, who shrugged as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "It was hell," he admitted, falling over on the bed with a groan. "Worse than when he was dancing. Worse than when he was playing guitar and singing. Worse than when I woke up with him all wrapped around me that time."

"Woah! When did all THAT happen?" Shiro held up his hands, "I am missing some information that seems pretty pertinent to this whole thing."

"Stop being sooo," he made a vague gesture, "you. It's not like that. The night we all went out, Pidge and Hunk got him to sing, and we all passed out in the same room. I was closest to him and according to the other two he does that with whoever is closest. They said he 'glomps' anyone within arm's reach."

"Mmhmm," Shiro didn't look convinced.

"Why would they lie?" Keith said, exasperated, "regardless, that doesn't change the fact that he's with ALLURA now. Ugh... now I'm thinking about THAT again!"

"Okay, okay, let's back up a bit- why didn't you just tell him you weren't feeling up to the whole Spanish thing?"

"I told you, he's homesick, and English isn't his first language. He was so excited when he found out that someone other than Hunk could understand him."

Shiro sighed, shaking his head, "it really is all or nothing with you, isn't it?"

"Huh?"

"All or nothing- you don't care at all, or you care so much that you will put yourself through pretty much anything rather than let someone down."

Keith shrugged, refusing to look at Shiro, "I know I'm not good with people. You don't need to remind me."

"Aww kid." Keith heard him move, felt the mattress shift and then was tugged into a gentle hug, "it wasn't a criticism. You've got a big heart. You don't let people in easily, but when you do... you go all out. As one of the chosen few, I can tell you it is a rare privilege. I just don't want to see you even more hurt than you are now, that's all."

Dammit- the tears were back. Shiro shushed him, like a child, and rubbed his back and if it had been anyone else, he would have pulled away, but because it was Shiro, he just soaked up the comfort he was offering. After awhile, when his crying had died down to the occasional hiccup or stuttering breath, Shiro spoke again. "Alright, enough about him for the night. This isn't doing you any good. But, listen, I know I don't talk about Adam. I need you to know that that doesn't mean you can't. You don't have to hedge or feel like you are keeping secrets for me or anything like that. I know I screwed things up with him. I own that. But he was part of YOUR life, and you have every right to share as much or as little about YOUR life as you want. I know connecting with the others has been hard for you. I don't want you making it worse for yourself out of some kind of loyalty to me. I trust the team. Anything you want to tell them is fine. Really."

"You sure?" Keith asked softly, "they all look up to you so much... I don't want to mess that up."

Shiro shook his head, "I'd rather they look up to me less and have an accurate image of me."

Keith sniffled, scrubbing at his eyes and pushing away from Shiro. There was a hint of a smirk on his face, "if you say so- but you are kind of a disaster, you know that right?"

"A disaster?" he scoffed, "I think that's overstating things a bit, don't you?"

"You screwed up grocery store RAMEN, Shiro! You are JAPANESE!? HOW?!"

"Okay- so, cooking isn't one of my strengths..."

"Remember the time you shrank allll the bed sheets? Or the time you made me go to school on SATURDAY because you thought I was trying to ditch when I said there weren't any classes? Oh! Or the time at Karaoke when that woman was hitting on you the ENTIRE night and you had no idea and then Adam finally had to introduce himself to her as your fiance to get you to clue in?"

"Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, Keith," he said. His voice was neutral, but his expression was exasperated.

"She laughed at your dumb Dad jokes, Shiro," Keith shook his head, "I mean, come on!"

"Okay- enough of THIS conversation. We both need sleep. You want to be squashed against the wall? Or risk getting knocked onto the floor?"

Chapter Text

The next morning's briefing was MUCH more productive. The day off, and a decent amount of rest, seemed to have improved everyone's mood. Shiro was still pissed at him about something, though. Lance could still catch gusts of anger directed at him, and he still had no idea what he could have done... but Shiro wasn't TREATING him any differently, so it wasn't like he could bring it up. He shot Allura a quizzical look and her eyes darted to Shiro, letting him know she knew what he was thinking, and she shrugged. He decided he was just going to have to let it go for now and hope that it either worked itself out or Shiro gave him some reason to bring it up. He was starting to wonder if this was Shiro's usual reaction to him and he'd simply never picked up on it before. He was getting a lot more aware of the emotions of the people around him and it wasn't always reassuring.

Or maybe Shiro was just off... Pidge and Hunk had made some progress on the portable cloak device they were working on and wanted Keith to help them see if it could get past the Blade's tech, since that shared so much with Galra tech and Shiro's reaction to Keith agreeing to that had seemed a bit... intense. Being pleased would make sense. Relief, which was the emotion coming through the strongest, not so much. Lance could feel his mood spiraling downward and fought to rally. Keith and Pidge and Hunk were talking about tech stuff that went way over his head, and even their bubbling happiness wasn't really making much of an impact on him.

He turned his attention to Allura, who was conferring quietly with Coran, and radiating... stress, worry, distrust, and... simmering rage. Must be talking about intel from Lotor. She waved Shiro over to see whatever it was that Coran had on that tablet and the negative crud intensified- which wasn't helping his mood in the slightest.

"Helllloooo? Hunk to Lance?"

He startled, suddenly realizing that Hunk had been speaking to him. "Sorry... what?"

"I was just saying that we should all hang out after we are done with testing the cloak. Pidge and I found a database in the Castle labeled 'entertainment '... we were kinda worried that it was some kind of freaky alien porn, but NOPE- Altean TV shows! I am so pumped! I have missed tv!"

He let Hunk's happy exuberance wash over him like a balm, the emotional footprint of their long friendship acting like a hit of really good espresso and he smiled. "That sounds great, Hunk. Although," he nodded at the three huddled together, "from the looks of that, we might have work to do."

Hunk followed his nod, "they usually take some time to vet the information... but they are looking pretty intense..."

Lance tapped his foot, getting anxious, his gaze focused on Allura and he sort of felt AT her, concentrating on the worry and curiosity he was feeling. He could see her pause, her back stiffening slightly before she glanced over at him. He made a little walking gesture with his fingers, followed by a floating hand, and then a single finger gun trying to convey 'mission' as subtly as possible. She shook her head, a tiny motion, but he caught it, and it was followed by a surge of... patience... and affection. His face softened and he blew her a little kiss, which made her blush adorably, but she turned her attention back to Shiro and Coran. "I think we're good," he whispered to Hunk.

Hunk blinked at him, "what was all that?"

"All what?" he asked, confused.

"All that secret sign language face talking stuff," Hunk replied.

"Face talking? All talking is face talking, Hunk... our mouths are part of our faces. We talk with our faces."

Hunk was unimpressed, "you know what I mean, Lance. Just how serious are you guys?"

Lance sat back in his chair, thinking. "I don't really know?" he answered after a moment, "we're kind of just figuring stuff out... it feels... important, though... special."

"You think she feels the same way?"

He couldn't help the smile that bloomed on his face, "yeah... we are definitely on the same page with the feeling stuff."

Shiro?" Keith said, startling them, "did you want us to come back later so you guys can focus on that?"

Shiro's head snapped up and Lance caught a wave of... worry, love, sympathy. What the quiznak was going on with him? Automatically, Lance looked to Allura, who seemed to be just as lost as he was about it all.

"I'm just saying," Keith said, "if you need to discuss this, we can let you have the room and do other things. The briefing doesn't have to happen right this second, right? No one is going to be leaving the castle or anything."

"He does have a point," Allura said, "our habit has been to start each day with a briefing, but it is just a habit. "

"You're right," Shiro agreed, "alright- you guys go kill some time. When we've gone over this, if we need you back, we'll let you know."

Pidge practically leapt out of her seat, grabbing Keith's hand and talking a mile a minute as she dragged him towards the door. Hunk rose, chuckling softly as he followed, "she really thinks we've made some progress... but there are a few hiccups... bye."

Coran and Shiro took seats as Lance stood to leave. Allura caught his hand as he passed her, her smile lighting up something inside of him that had started to dim from his drifting mood. He felt a pulse of anticipation, affection, and that delicious little fizz of attraction he was coming to associate with her. "I'll find you later," she said gently, leaning in to kiss his cheek, "we can head to our spot. Yes?"

"Counting on it," he answered, kissing her knuckles. "Hasta la later, guys."

Chapter Text

Thank quiznak for Pidge. Her rapid fire questions were starting to feel like he was getting an eye exam, but they were keeping his brain focused on work and making him feel productive.

"Okay, can you see me now? How about now?" she asked, fiddling with some setting.

"Yes, to both... but my sensors were off on the first one- you had almost no thermal signature."

"Really?! Okay, great. Hunk!"

"On it," Hunk aimed some kind of lazer pointer thing at the device. "Try now."

Pidge hit a button, "am I more hidden now? Or now?"

"NO trace of your thermal signature on the second one," he answered, getting caught up in their excitement. "Like, I can SEE you, but my thermal sensors have NOTHING!"

"Yes!" Pidge fist bumped Hunk and leaned over to high five Keith. "One sensor system down... only seven to go!"

"This might take a while," Hunk mock-whispered to him, grinning.

"That's fine- my schedule is pretty open. As long as I have time to eat and train I am good."

"Yeah?" Hunk confirmed, a sly smile teasing at the corners of his mouth. "We found some Altean tv shows we are going to check out later. Want in?"

"Television?" he gaped, "hell yeah! Man, I have missed tv!"

"Awesome- that makes all four of us. Lance said he was game, too," Hunk rubbed his hands together.

"If Lance is coming, that most likely means FIVE of us," Pidge pointed out. "They've been pretty much inseparable during downtime lately."

"True... but they are weirdly cute."

"WEIRD for sure... I'm not so sold on the 'cute' part," Pidge replied, elbowing Hunk, "but I'm not a SAP like some people here. Okay, Keith, give me a full-spectrum scan."

He did so, choosing not to weigh in on the whole Lance and Allura discussion. "Well, this is something... my scanners 'see' you but, you are showing up as a corpse. No heat signature, no lifesigns."

"I'm a ZOMBIE?!" Her whole face lit up in a disturbing kind of glee. "Seriously? Am I still a corpse on your readings if I move?" She jumped up and zipped a few feet to the left.

"Ummm... yes?" he answered, "which would make me really suspicious in the field, just so you know."

"Oh. My. God. Oh. My. GOD! Hunk! HUNK! I'm a ZOMBIE!"

"No way! What about me?" Hunk rushed over to Pidge.

"No, you are normal- WAIT! You just blinked out." He laughed, "looks like if you get close enough to her you benefit from the cloak, too."

"Yes! Zombies!" Hunk and Pidge did an impromptu little dance that reminded him of football games and made him smile. The dance quickly devolved into the two of them shuffling around with their arms outstretched moaning 'Braaaains...' but honestly, it was still kind of a hoot.

"Guys- I get the whole 'celebrate every victory' thing, but I feel like I need to point out that this still needs work."

"You're right, you're right," Pidge said, returning to her perch.

"Yeah... but speaking of bringing back dead things," Hunk said, an evil glint in his eye as he turned to Keith, pinning him with his gaze. "Matt."

Keith blinked, "what about Matt?"

Pidge groaned.

"What HAPPENED with Matt?"

"What? Why are you asking me? Pidge? Did something happen to Matt?!"

"Not TO," Pidge grumbled, "WITH... he's talking about your crush... and for the record, I want NOTHING to do with this subject!"

"My... oh quiznak, I forgot about that stupid drinking game." He shook his head, "nothing happened WITH Matt. I was 14 and he was 18. Eighteen and NOT some kind of creeper that sees 14 year olds as potential dates."

"Yeah, there is a pretty big difference between 14 and 18," Pidge agreed, not even looking up from her computer screen, "and that should close the book on my brother and his dating life. Check it now."

"No way! I have so many more questions," Hunk countered, "unless... Keith you aren't still, like pining are you?"

"Pining?" He SOOO was, but definitely not over Matthew Holt, of all people. He ran a scan, "same Pidge."

"Like still nursing a little bit of a crush on him?" Hunk prodded.

"No," he actually laughed, shaking his head, "I definitely am not still nursing a crush on Pidge's brother."

'Okay, good. So, then, there's no reason not to answer my questions, right?"

"Not wanting to is enough of a reason," Pidge pointed out. "I adjusted the frequency, Hunk, can you make sure the resistor is still handling it?" Hunk waved her off with a dismissive noise but fiddled with the electronic in front of him.

"So," he said, leaning close to Keith, "WHY the crush? Was it his eyes? His brain? His hair?"

"You DO realize you just listed a bunch of traits I share with Matt, right?" Pidge said dryly, "this better not be some kind of screwed up plot to hook the asexual kid up with the gay kid... because in this case, those are SERIOUSLY incompatible orientations."

"What?!" squawked Keith, startling. His eyes whipped to Hunk, he hadn't even THOUGHT of that possibility.

Hunk keeled over with laughter, "ohmigod, his FACE!" He laughed for a solid minute before he could pull himself together enough to talk. "No... no, I promise, I'm not matchmaking! Oh my god. I will cherish this memory forever. Look at him, Pidge! Look at his FACE!"

"I don't need a matchmaker," Keith said, "and Pidge is out of my league."

"You know it," Pidge said easily. "I am so out of ALL of your leagues. Now?"

Chapter Text

"Man, I love that Galra Keith makes jokes."

"Hunk, for the LAST time, nothing changed! I've always been part Galra." He checked his readings, "hey- the sonar scan is reading you as smaller!"

"Yes!" hissed Pidge, "I can work with that!"

"Whatever... so... what WAS it with Matt? I'm serious. It's been bugging me," Hunk pushed.

"Hey!" Pidge was suddenly indignant. "What the hell is wrong with Matt?!"

"What? Nothing! Just... he's not... I mean... he doesn't really make sense with KEITH."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Keith asked.

Hunk sighed, "alright everyone calm down. There are people that seem to fit and people that don't. I'm no expert, or anything, but like... you and Matt don't seem like you'd fit."

"Allura and Lance didn't seem like they'd fit for AGES," Pidge pointed out, "but they're together now."

"Yeah- that's weird," Hunk agreed, "Allura and Shiro make way more sense."

"If you ignore the fact that Shiro is gay," Keith pointed out mildly.

"Well, yeah... there is that," Pidge agreed.

"Are you SURE though? Maybe he's like, bi with a strong preference?"

"Oh no, I am definitely sure. You have obviously never seen him around women who are interested in him," Keith laughed, "he's hilariously oblivious. It's like sitcom levels of cluelessness."

"Yeah?" Hunk still sounded skeptical.

"I can see that," Pidge mused, "like he's just NICE and courteous, so he assumes that other people are just being polite or whatever. That kind of fits." Her eyes lifted to Keith's, "now?"

"Still picking you up, but definitely getting smaller on sonar. Adam and I used to have a game where we'd count the number of women who would flirt with Shiro when we were like running errands with him or whatever. God, he hated that, but it was so funny. He kept accusing us of making shit up." The memory bubbled up like warm cocoa, making him relax and smile, chuckling at the memory of Shiro's exasperated and skeptical face. "He actually had a girlfriend once. Adam told me about it. This girl from their class at the Garrison needed help with one of the engineering classes and asked Shiro for help... and him, being him was happy to help. They started getting coffee before or after the sessions, and he was like 'cool I have a new friend', and like before he knew it, she was introducing him to her family and like kissing him and shit and he had no idea how it happened or what to do about it. Adam had to have a chat with her. He did that a lot... save Shiro from his own niceness."

"That's hilarious!" The yellow paladin nearly toppled over he was laughing so hard.

Pidge surprised him, getting up from her computer and coming over to hug him softly, "that is literally the first time I have EVER heard you tell a story about Adam."

"And that warrants a hug?" he asked, confused.

"It's a thank-you hug," Pidge said, as if that explained everything, returning to her computer.

"Adam?" Hunk finally got around to asking.

"Shiro's GUY," Pidge replied, "they've been together forever."

"Were together. They split right before Kerberos," Keith's mood sank a bit. He hated thinking about that period of his life. So many mistakes and regrets and rifts he didn't know if he could ever repair.

"Oh, sorry," Pidge said, her voice soft, "I didn't know... but that DOES explain why neither of you guys ever mention him."

"Soooooooooo... back to Matt?" Hunk asked hopefully, scattering the melancholy mood that had settled in the room.

Pidge groaned, "seriously?! Once again going on record that I do not want to pursue this subject!"

"You are worse than, Lance," Keith said without thinking. The second the name fell from his lips, the face floated to the forefront of his thoughts and he started to feel like he was incinerating from the inside again. He blinked, desperate for a change of focus. "Fine... what do you want to know?"

"Really?" Hunk was surprised.

"Yeah- its ancient history. Shoot."

"Okay- first of all why Matt?"

"He was smart, and funny, and kind," Keith said easily, "and he never made me feel like I was broken because of the shit I didn't know or wasn't good at."

"That sounds like Matt," Pidge said, smiling, "he was always good at making people feel... better."

"Awww, that's sweet," Hunk cooed.

"He used to tell me stories about his family," Keith said, smiling at Pidge, "he used to say I'd like his little sister. He was right. You kickass, Pidge."

"Yeah, I know," she answered with a smirk, her eyes glinting playfully.

He shrugged, "I dunno, he was a good guy, he was a bit older, he talked to me like a person. I just.. LIKED him... and then I had a crush on him... and then it just, sort of... went away and he went back to being just Matt, who hung out and talked about his family and helped me with physics."

"So, like nothing triggered it ending?" Hunk asked, "you didn't meet someone new, or have a mortifying moment, or get rejected?"

"Not really," he answered, "it just kind of faded. See? Totally boring. Hey! Pidge! You're gone! No sign of you on sonar readings!"

Chapter Text

When Allura arrived at the little safe haven that was their dance studio, she could tell something was wrong. He could see it on her face. Every step she took toward him dimmed her somehow. He fought to dispel the dark cloud that had dogged him ever since the briefing, trying to let her happiness buoy him but it was no use. Instead of her lifting him up, he dragged her down. Her face crumpled, and she rushed into his arms. All his insecurities spun up around him, pulling them both down in a whirlpool of misery. Fear and doubt and sadness closed over them. He knew she was clinging to a drowning man. He knew he was pulling her under with him. He knew, and he wanted to stop it, but he couldn't.

They sobbed in unison, sitting on the floor of their private studio, just clinging to each other, for what felt like hours. "Lance," she would coo through her own tears, stroking his face, his back, smoothing his hair, "oh Lance... where is all this coming from?"

He couldn't answer. Not really. It was too complex and nebulous, and he just didn't have the words. He knew what brought it on- the thought that Shiro, his leader and mentor, WASN'T reacting unusually to him. That his normal reaction to Lance was one of anger and distaste and resentment... but that he'd just... hidden it. Made Lance feel like part of the team, like someone who was valued and appreciated, when that was the furthest thing from the truth.

But that was just a tipping point. Once that thought had lodged itself in his mind, he started worrying that his newly discovered empathic abilities would reveal more and more people who merely tolerated him... or worse. That led to him rehashing all the reasons he had offered to leave the team back when he'd gone to see Keith after Shiro's return... and THAT, brought him right back to the worst moment of his time with the team- when Blue had rejected him. Locked him out. Gone silent to him without warning.

He'd loved his Blue Lion. Honestly, he'd thought they had the strongest bond of all the pairings. It had meant so much to him that he had been the first one chosen. That standing in that cave, alongside people he now knew to be the strongest, bravest, most remarkable in the entire universe, Blue had chosen HIM as her pilot. That knowledge had protected his heart from Allura's repeated rejections, from his screw-ups, from his dawning realization that from now on, he was always going to be the least intelligent person in the room. Blue had given him a sense of home in the vastness of space. Something to cling to when he missed home and felt like he was coming apart at the seams.

Blue had rejected him, and Red chose him to balance out Keith as Black Paladin. That had made some sense- he and Keith tended to act as checks and balances to each other. But now, Keith was gone. He felt that absence like a constant ache- it never really went away, but he'd gotten so used to it that he just kind of functioned AROUND it. He didn't make sense as the Red Paladin to Shiro... and that sense of... not-belonging had only been growing. If Shiro was piloting Black, then Keith should be in Red... and Allura was obviously the better choice for Blue.

He didn't fit in the team anymore. Not really... and now he knew that Shiro saw that as well. Blue hadn't rejected him because he was a better fit for Red. She'd done so because he... just wasn't good enough to be a permanent choice. His Lion had gotten sick of him. Shiro had gotten sick of him. Keith had gotten so sick of him that he'd practically FLED the team. It was inevitable that Hunk and Pidge and Allura would all get sick of him... and now he knew that he'd FEEL it when they did. He wouldn't even have the comfort of pretending that it was complicated or telling himself he was being paranoid. He'd feel the growing dislike. The anger. The disappointment. He'd feel it happen, and he'd watch them lie, and he'd shatter and crack like thin ice.

"Come on," she whimpered, rising to her knees and pulling at his arm, "we need to get you moving."

"Allura," he sobbed, scrubbing at his face, "I don't want to dance right now."

"Not dance..." She took his hand and pressed it over her heart, "feel that?"

He shook his head, all he could feel was the crushing weight of his sodden, heavy emotions dragging him under again. "You should go," he croaked, "stay away from me."

"I CAN'T," she argued, pulling on his arm again, "I can't leave you alone... I can't walk away from this... I need you to come with me... I need you to trust me. Please, Lance, TRUST me?"

Chapter Text

He didn't have the energy to fight her, so he let her pull him to his feet. Then he let her drag him through the castle, barely even noticing that they were moving until he was standing in a very familiar hangar. Blue loomed over them, encased in her particle barrier dome. Quiet and beautiful and regal and looking exactly as she had the first time Lance had ever seen her. He flinched away, "what are we doing here?"

"She wanted me to bring you," Allura said softly, "wouldn't stop pulling at me until I did. Knock."

"What?" his breath shook, he wasn't actively crying anymore, but his breathing wasn't right, and his eyes were still leaking, nose still running. He dug out a handkerchief and dotted at his face.

"Knock," she repeated, "please Lance... knock... the way you used to..."

He eyed her skeptically, but he inched closer to the lion and held his hand up, hovering inches from the barrier. He didn't want to do this. It was too much like the day he'd been shut out, standing beside Allura in this same hangar, heart dissolving into a puddle of pain. Allura made a little gesture of encouragement and he sighed, accepting that he wasn't going to be able to avoid doing this. "Hey gorgeous," he whispered, tapping lightly on the glowing dome.

It dissolved.

The barrier winked out of existence and Blue's eyes lit up, that warm golden glow breathing life into the huge machine. He gasped as a rush of images and emotions crashed over him. So many memories- things he'd forgotten about, things he fondly remembered, things he kind of wished he could forget. They raced through his mind like a movie reel, each one layered with emotion- fear, exuberance, triumph, camaraderie, friendship, loyalty, acceptance, joy, grief... love.

"She didn't reject you, Lance," Allura's voice sounded so far away, "she knew you were needed in Red. So, she gave you up. For the team. For YOU. It HURT her to lose her Lancey Lance. She misses you. Still... and the only reason she gave me a chance was because YOU held me in such esteem, and she trusted you. She trusted your judgement. You had faith in me, so she took a chance... and she and I work really well together. Just like you and Red work really well together."

The warm, rolling purr that was so familiar to him confirmed the truth of Allura's words.

"If I had any idea you felt this way about parting from Blue, I would have brought you down here long ago, Lance. I thought you understood. I thought you could feel what I felt. I am sorry."

He smiled a watery, sappy smile... one he would have been mortified for Allura to see only a few weeks ago... and reached back to catch her hand. They walked closer to Blue together. The massive Lion dropped her head, muzzle closed, her huge jaw settling onto the floor of the hangar. He reached out and stroked his hand over the smooth metal. "We are both where we are supposed to be now," he said softly, tugging Allura in front of him and hooking his chin over her shoulder, "you girls belong together. Thank-you... for this. I didn't know how badly I needed it until today. I am sorry for being such a mess. I don't know what happened."

"Shhh," Allura soothed, leaning back against him, "I'm glad we could get to the bottom of it. Don't apologize for how you feel. There's nothing wrong with hurting sometimes. There's nothing wrong with letting the people that care about you see it... try to help. You do it for everyone else, all the time."

"That's different," he answered softly.

"Why?"

"I don't really know... it just is... and about the Lions... I don't want you- either of you- to think I am unhappy about flying Red. Red's awesome. I just... I don't know. I guess I didn't really feel like Red is MY Lion- quiznak... Keith."

"What?" she twisted, "that kind of came out of nowhere."

"I just realized part of why Keith has been so... resistant to flying Black. Like... it is something he has SAID, but I think it just kind of clicked for me. He still thinks of Black as Shiro's Lion, not his. That's not a secret. I just hadn't really realized I was kind of feeling the same way about Red." He shook his head, "it's stupid. I don't know what I'm talking about. This has nothing to do with anything. Forget it."

She turned in his arms slightly, cradling his face, "there's that concern again. You really DO worry about him often, don't you?"

"I worry about everyone... but with you guys, I see you everyday, pretty much. It's easier to KNOW you are all okay. He's hardly ever around, and the Blade missions always seem so dangerous..."

"And you love him," she added pointedly.

He frowned slightly, still not liking to admit that. "Mmmmf..."

She shook her head, "I don't understand why you are so reticent about him. Why do you try so hard to deny what you are feeling?"

He sighed, "it's hard to explain... I guess I kind of think, if I pretend it isn't true, I won't get more attached or something... or it won't cut so deep if he ever finds out. I really don't want him to find out. You know what he's like..."

She slipped her arms around him, holding him close, "I know he is very private... but he is also very devoted. I can't help but think that his loyalty to Shiro came about because SHIRO put himself out there and showed Keith that he cared."

"I'm not Shiro," he pointed out, "I'm the pain in the ass he barely tolerates. Shiro is... he's SHIRO."

"Shiro is just a man. No better or worse than you, or Hunk, or Keith, for that matter. You are ALL admirable men."

"Not to Keith," he countered. "This isn't self-pity, Allura. Shiro is special to Keith. That's all I meant."

"Like Coran is to me," she agreed.

"Yes, exactly."

Her smile turned impish, "and yet- YOU are also special to me, in your own way. Being close to Coran didn't stop me from caring about you or seeing all that makes you wonderful and unique."

"Allura," he sighed, "can you just let me deal with my unrequited angst on my own and stop poking at it? I don't want to be thinking about Keith when I have you LITERALLY in my arms. I want to enjoy THIS. I still can't quite believe this is actually real life."

"Sometimes," she laughed, "you can be so very charming when you aren't trying to be."

"I like that you think I'm charming when I'm just being myself," he whispered, resting his forehead against hers and smiling at her.

"Well, I do... and your mood seems to be lifting," she pressed a little kiss to his cheek, "you wanna go dance a bit?"

He smiled, "I would love that. Let's go make something beautiful."

Chapter Text

Pidge hit a wall. They managed to get the cloak to work on three of the eight possible sensor systems that could trip them up and then... nothing. No progress at all. He'd never been up close to witness Pidge go from triumphantly working away, to mildly irritated at a lack of progress, to totally livid at a problem she couldn't SOLVE. It was... kind of scary, actually.

Hunk was seriously a miracle worker. Within moments he had managed to transform a literally hissing and snarling Pidge into something closer to the intense but mostly upbeat person they knew. Keith had no idea how he'd done it. It was like watching sleight of hand. You KNEW there was a trick, but it really just seemed to be magic. He was endlessly fascinated by their friendship and the easy way they interacted. How they trusted each other to see their flaws and accept them. How they stepped in to support and help each other with a few words, or a joke. He didn't think he'd ever be able to do that.

Hunk had led them out of the workshop to the kitchen and loaded them down with snacks and drinks and moved them all into the common room. Once there, he'd sent a message to Lance's phone summoning him for Altean television. A few minutes later, Hunk glanced at his phone. "He says he's with Allura and they are going to quote 'get cleaned up' unquote and then they'll be here."

"Eww," Pidge said, making a face, "that was not information we needed. Geez!"

"Now, now," Hunk said levelly, "don't go making assumptions. They could have been training..."

"Or dancing," Keith said softly.

"Yeah! Or dancing," Hunk pointed out, "you know about the dancing, Keith?"

Keith nodded, "saw them the other day when I was on my way to say hi to you guys."

"Orrrr... they could be acting like two people who have been practically fused at the hips lately," Pidge argued, "this is LANCE we are talking about."

"And Allura-"

"Hunk- Allura's dating Lance and she hasn't exactly been acting like she's NOT into all the..." she made a fluttering motion with her hands, "Lance-ness. Besides, I saw the two of them leave her quarters together the other morning before the briefing."

Keith was suddenly very interested in the selection of snacks on the table, letting his hair fall forward to shield his face.

"Still," Hunk said, "we don't know why they need time to clean up and it is NONE of our business, right?"

Pidge rolled her eyes, "sure. What are we going to watch?"

"I have NO idea," Hunk said brightening up, "I don't even really know what any of the files ARE, and we haven't exactly seen a lot of OTHER Altean entertainments, so... it could be anything."

"Probably best to have Allura suggest something," Keith offered, trying to sound normal and not like the thought of of Lance and Allura doing what Pidge thought they were doing wasn't slowly turning his blood to lava. "You know, since it is her culture."

"Yeah, and she knows US, so she could probably tell what we'd like."

"You're assuming we'd all like the same stuff," Pidge laughed. "One of you might have terrible taste!"

"At this point, I think I would enjoy someone reading a grocery list," Keith muttered, "I have missed tv so bad."

"I miss watching the games with my family," Hunk sighed, "that was always so much fun."

"Not me- I miss those movie marathons with the cheesy old horror and sci fi films! The ones that are sooooo bad they loop right around to awesome again," Pidge sighed, "too much to hope that Alteans loved cheesy effects and bad acting, right?"

"Probably," Hunk laughed, "they seem pretty... posh..."

"I'm not sure 'posh' is a word I would use to describe the people that gave us Coran," Keith pointed out.

"Oh my god," Pidge laughed, "what if Coran is the TYPICAL Altean and Allura is like... their version of Keith!"

"Hey!" Keith protested.

Hunk laughed, "quiznak, that would be epic!"

"I don't think I like this conversation anymore."

"Are we all picking on Keith?" Lance's voice cut through the laughter, all smiles and happy charm. "I have the best timing EVER!" he dropped onto the couch beside Keith. Way too close. Keith could smell the lingering scents of his shampoo and soap, feel that traitorous little flip in his soul that registered that as 'home'. He could feel the seat cushion sink and rise as Lance moved around... and he knew. He just KNEW, that if he sat back, Lance's arm would be sprawled along the back of the couch right where his shoulders were.

"We were actually trying to guess what Altean television will be like."

"Man, as long as it is not some kind of mass for shut-ins situation, I do not care," Lance said easily. "Oooh... maybe it will be some kind of bonkers Reality stuff... or game shows. Game shows are always fun!"

"Mass for shut-ins is the WORST!" Keith agreed emphatically.

"What the heck is mass for shut-ins?" Pidge demanded.

"Church," they said in unison, startling at their reaction.

"You mean like those televangelist people?" Hunk asked.

"Oh, no... those have like discussions and news and stuff. This is different," Lance explained. "Just... literally, somebody filmed a church service and it is on tv."

"Wow," Pidge said, "I really hope its not that. Hey! PRUNESPLISH!"

Allura paused in the door, sighing, "still? Pidge... please just use my name."

"Nope- you are Prunesplish forever. We all have nicknames, that one is yours."

"We don't ALL have nicknames. I don't have a nickname," Keith argued.

"Keef!" cried Hunk.

"Emo-boy!" added Pidge.

"Mullet!" Lance chimed in.

"Moody McAngsty!" the three of them crowed.

"Moody McAngsty?! You have got to be kidding me!" he groaned.

"At least no one is calling you 'Keith' anymore," Lance reminded Allura as she sat beside him.

"Yes... that was... most disconcerting."

"What?" Keith turned to them, "why? When? WHY!?"

"Coran's fault," Lance answered as if that explained everything. Allura curled into his side, tucking her hand under the hem of his shirt, the fingers curling around his hip. He nuzzled the top of her head.

"It was during the Voltron Show," she added, "to prevent confusion about who the Paladins were, Coran decided to call me Keith."

"That's... I don't even know what to say to that," Keith said, clearly floored by this information. He grabbed a beverage pouch and flopped back against the seat, only realizing what a mistake that was when Lance's arm tightened around him, tugging him closer.

"Don't worry, buddy- no one who knows you two would EVER get you and Allura mixed up!"

"The hair alone is a dead giveaway," Pidge agreed, shifting closer to the little cluster of people.

Hunk grabbed a tablet and slid nearer on the couch, "Allura? We have no idea what any of these files actually ARE. Do you recognize any of them?" He reached across Pidge, Keith and Lance to hand the Princess the tablet.

Allura skimmed through the list, "alright, all of these are civilian news briefings on the progress of the war... and these ones are... personal recordings- like the ones you all have on your phones. Ah-ha! This! This is a very popular serialized fiction story for youth. It is set in an educational institution, and it is about navigating social and academic responsibilities and gaining independence."

"Quiznak! It's a high school drama!?" Pidge nearly crawled into Keith's lap to see the files that Allura was pointing out.

"High school?" Allura asked, biting her lip and glancing at Lance.

"Education for humans around our age," he explained.

"Ahh! Yes! Exactly!"

Hunk leaned in, "yes! That! Put that on!"

Slowly, Keith realized that this was about to become one of those puppy piles that the three of them created so often... and he was literally right smack dab in the middle of it, practically fused to Lance.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Altean television was... odd. The language translated automatically for them in that odd way that it had ever since they'd arrived at the Castle. But the images didn't change, so there was an effect similar to poorly dubbed old movies on earth, which was disconcerting. The writing also seemed to be highly stylized, and based on Allura's face, Keith suspected that in the original language, it was written in some kind of poetic construction that didn't translate very well.

He had a really good view of Allura's face, too. He'd been right about the impending puppy pile. Within ten minutes of the holo-program starting Pidge and Hunk had somehow squashed into him in such a way that he was half lying on Lance, his face so close to Allura's that if she moved her head just so, her fluffy white hair tickled his nose and made him want to sneeze. Lance's heartbeat was nearly as loud in his ear as the oddly formal dialogue from the show. Pidge was somehow lying on top of his side, and in Lance's lap all at once, and Hunk was a solid WALL holding him and Pidge in place. All of his limbs were pinned. He could not budge. It was simultaneously ridiculously cozy and pure hell... and his poor brain and battered heart were so conflicted it was like they just gave up trying to decide whether he should panic or enjoy it leaving him, essentially, stuck.

He'd quickly discovered that reaching the snacks was impossible for him without dislodging everyone... and BOY did they get pissed when he risked doing that! The first time he'd tried to worm free to reach for the bowl of slightly pickley-tasting crunchy things that had a texture somewhere between pretzels and popcorn, Pidge had flat out hissed at him! Lance and Hunk had grumbled and even Allura had scowled and swatted his shoulder- in an oddly 'Lance-like' way. So, he'd ended up being forced to let Pidge hold a beverage pouch to his mouth, and Allura, of all people, would occasionally pop a snack into his mouth.

It was like they were all part of some kind of group think that he was just... not. None of this made any sense to him. Not the show- that was odd, but easy enough to follow. The... bundle of bodies. They all seemed to know when to shift, how to stretch, which way to lean, to keep everyone comfortable. Pidge and Hunk would occasionally fist bump or high five when one had accurately predicted a plot point, or made a good joke. Lance and Allura would tip their faces together for little kisses and nose bumps that Keith was far, FAR too close to avoid seeing- each one shredding his heart a little more. Lance would occasionally muss or tug at Pidge's hair... just to annoy her, it seemed... but her complaints didn't have any bite to them. Hunk's big arm would drape and lift and move and drop back into place without so much as a murmur of complaint. Just... HOW? How did they know how to do that?

It didn't help that it often felt like Allura was studying his face. Was she trying to see signs of his Galra blood? Did he have something on his face? Could she tell that he was dying inside? Did she see that he was in love with her boyfriend? Eventually, he couldn't keep pretending he didn't notice it. "Allura, what?" he said softly, not wanting to get told off for interrupting the show, "you keep staring at me."

"I just realized I haven't been this close to you since the time our shuttle blew up," she answered, smiling softly.

"Alright... and?" Sometimes, it really felt like people would NEVER make sense to him.

"And... you really do have very pretty eyes. Such an unusual color."

"Ummmm... thank-you?" he answered, really not sure what he was supposed to say to that. "You have very pretty eyes, too."

Her smile changed a little and she turned her attention back to the program, "thank-you Keith."

"Sorry about that," Pidge said suddenly, "the shuttle going boom, I mean. I should have taken out that fuel line booster. I meant to, but we were so busy and I just never found time..."

Allura ruffled Pidge's hair, "it all worked out."

"But, I guess you could say that when Keith and Allura were alone together, sparks flew," Hunk joked, making the other three groan.

Keith glanced around at the others. Something odd was going on.

Very odd.

This whole thing was just... ODD. He couldn't even think of another word to describe it.

That wasn't the kind of joke Hunk would make... and Allura was just... not herself.

Even Pidge and Lance didn't seem quite... right.

Lance was weirdly quiet... and Pidge was WAY too into the star-crossed lovers subplot for someone who was so grossed out by the text Lance had sent Hunk earlier.

Or... maybe he just didn't know them as well as he'd thought?

Or was so messed up himself right now that everyone else seemed different because his perspective was screwy?

Occam's razor and all that. It made more sense that something was off with HIM than with FOUR other people.

Right?

Chapter Text

"Awww, aren't you all adorable? It's a little pile of Paladins," Shiro laughed from the doorway catching everyone's attention and snapping a picture on his phone as soon as they turned toward him. "What are you doing?"

"We found TV!" Pidge gushed, waggling her hand at the holographic projection. "And send me that pic."

Shiro's face LIT UP. "Really?!"

"Yeah- you'd love this," Keith laughed, "it's exactly the kind of over the top teen schlock you used to watch all the time."

"Hey!" He protested, coming into the room and plunking down on the couch beside Allura- at a NORMAL distance, not like whatever the hell the others had engulfed Keith in. "Television is supposed to distract and entertain- over the top teen schlock is exactly what it is meant to be. It's the pinnacle of television." He rubbed his hands together and looked up at the screen, "okay, catch me up."

There was a solid ten minutes of everyone talking over each other to explain the various characters, plot, subplots, inside jokes, and strange way it was written. By the end of the discussion, somehow, the tangle of bodies had managed to absorb Shiro. His left arm was thrown across the back of the couch, wrapped amiably around Allura, Lance and Hunk, and Allura was practically in his lap. Keith's brow furrowed- was he literally the ONLY person in the universe that didn't instinctively know how to do this?

He glanced up at Shiro and smiled, he looked so at ease and relaxed. So much like the guy he'd first gotten to know. Seeing him like this now was rare... and twice now, Keith had really feared that he'd never see that easy smile and relaxed posture in him again. The team was so good for Shiro. This was where he belonged.

Shiro must have felt his eyes on him because he turned his head, the motion of his eyes and the quirk of lips and brow making it clear that Keith was expected to EXPLAIN how he was wedged up against Lance later. As if there was ANY kind of explanation that made sense! They must have missed some kind of joke or pratfall, because the other four all laughed- sudden and in unison... and feeling Lance's chest shake, hearing his laugh so close, getting squeezed slightly by the arm wrapped around him HURT- sharp and sudden, the pain blazing through him. Shiro's face shifted, sympathy and worry breezing over his features for an instant before he gave a tiny nod and turned his attention back to the show.

Allura turned to look at Shiro, a crease of worry showing up between her white eyebrows and then she turned those impossibly blue eyes to Keith, studying his face with an intensity that worried him. "What?" he asked softly.

"Nothing, Mullet," she answered, the concern evaporating as a cheesy smirk appeared on her face.

What.

The.

Quiznak!?

Nope. He was DONE. Things had just crossed from 'odd' into 'creepy'. No one but Lance had ever called him "Mullet" and for some reason, even though he hated the stupid nickname, hearing it fall from Allura's lips made him feel like he'd just been gutted. He could NOT stay. No matter how good Lance smelled, or how important it was to him to try to get closer to the others. If he stayed even another minute, he was going to fall apart- in front of everyone.

"Okay, guys," he said, keeping his voice level, "this has been fun, but I have been slacking off on my training and I need to get to work. I don't know when Kolivan is going to need me and I can't risk getting rusty."

There was a repeat of the very weird 'Shiro looks at him, then Allura looks at Shiro and STARES at him' thing that was downright unnerving.

"Are you sure?" Lance asked, his voice... soft, almost wistful. Keith didn't dare turn to look at his face, instead, he was already pushing away from the lean strength of his chest, feeling that warm arm drag across his back. Hunk and Pidge squawked at being dislodged but he didn't let that stop him.

"Yeah- this has been fun, but I really gotta make sure I don't lose my edge. I've been doing more solo work, so there's not really a safety net if I screw up."

"Well, yeah, in that case..." Lance's voice trailed off.

"Make sure you train with your Bayard, too," Shiro prodded, "you are much more likely to get rusty with THAT than your other weapons."

"It probably makes sense for us to do some group training before you leave again, too," Hunk added.

"Uhhh.. yeah, those are good ideas," he answered, finally managing to stand, even though it meant actually lifting Pidge with him and then setting her on her feet.

"I'll let you know when I start working on the cloak again," Pidge said, punching his shoulder lightly before sort of melting back into the tangle of limbs.

"Yeah... that was actually kind of fun- until you got all snarly," he joked as he headed out.

The door slid shut behind him and he hurried around the corner, out of line of sight before he sank to the floor, trying to wrap his head around what exactly it was that had been so UNNERVING about that... whole... thing. Was he really SO BAD at interacting with people that he went in to a panic when they were in a weird mood? No one had been nasty, or mean, or anything like that, but the more they talked (or didn't, in Lance's case) the more it made his skin crawl.

Chapter Text

Lance smeared his face with the delicately scented cream he wore to bed. He'd been skipping it lately and today his face had taken enough of a beating from tears and snot that he really didn't want to risk skipping it again, even though it meant wearing it around Allura for the first time. She was seated on his bed, already in her sleepwear, putting her hair in a loose, thick braid- which was apparently her usual habit, although he'd not yet seen her do it.

To be fair, they'd only shared a bed twice before, and the first time had been a decidedly impromptu thing. "I like the braid," he said after a moment. "Little less battle-ready than the bun, but not as... dramatic as your usual style."

She smiled at him, "thanks... you look surprisingly adorable right now."

He laughed, cracking a grin and breaking out the finger guns, "I'm always adorable."

"Tomorrow, we DEFINITELY have to do some proper training," she sighed, "we've been getting lax."

"To be fair- the dancing counts for muscle conditioning and reflex training," he pointed out, which earned him a skeptical look. "I'm not saying we shouldn't train tomorrow, just that it's not like we've been lazing around doing NOTHING."

"I know, but earlier when Keith-"

"About Keith," he interrupted, "what was up with the whole 'you have very pretty eyes' thing?"

She blushed lightly, "I wasn't sure you heard that."

"Allura, you were literally right under my nose when you said it, of course I heard it," he laughed.

"You might have been distracted," she pointed out, "I wasn't the ONLY one curled up on your chest."

"Don't try to distract me, missy," he teased. "Seriously, that came out of nowhere."

"No, it didn't! He DOES have very pretty eyes. Not as pretty as Pidge's but very pretty."

He stopped in his tracks, his head cocking to one side as he tried to read her, but just picked up a mess of too many conflicting things to make much sense of it without actually spending some time and energy. "Okay- we are DEFINITELY coming back to the comment about Pidge, but what on earth... well, that doesn't really work... what in cas-tle? made you decide to TELL Keith, the most skittish man in existence that he had pretty eyes?!"

"I don't know," she laughed, "his face was just so close, and you were like..." she lifted her hands so they were one either side of her face and made tiny little gestures with her fingers, "FIZZING in my head... and making my heart ACHE and my stomach get all flippy and I kept looking at his eyes and then he asked... and... I just SAID it!"

He dropped onto the bed beside her, barely remembering not to literally palm his face and smear the cream. "Oh god, Allura... you CAUGHT my crush!" he laughed, "you were PINING, over KEITH! This empath stuff is sooo weird!"

She gasped, "oh dear... I DID, didn't I? That could have gotten VERY awkward!"

"Ya think?" he laughed, "just to be 100% clear, Keith is GAY, no interest in girls, so you are definitely not gonna be making any progress there."

She swatted his shoulder, "I'm not the one that ACTUALLY has a thing for Keith. You were just working sooo hard not to acknowledge your own emotions that you just shunted them on to me, and I don't know how to do the... what did you call it? Pining? Yeah. That."

He made a face, "wait- I did that? Like... here, hold my feelings for a bit? That's a thing I can do?"

She sighed, shaking her head and pulling her heavy braid over her shoulder, "not really... they are still YOUR feelings, but we were very close, and he was RIGHT there, and I think you might have been concentrating so hard on the stuff you WANTED to do but were afraid to do that, the emotions were just... amplified a bit... and since I am someone who acts on what I feel I reacted differently than you would."

"I act on what I feel," he argued, "just... not... THAT."

"Why not?" she shook her head, "I know I keep coming back to this... but I truly do not understand. Wouldn't it be better to know and be able to move forward?"

"No, Allura, it wouldn't." He took her hand, lacing their fingers together, "I know you don't understand, and that's okay. But you HAVE to respect that this is how *I* feel and *I* get to decide how I am going to handle it. He's already pulling away from the team, from all of us. I am NOT going to be the reason we ALL lose him completely."

Her face turned sad, and he could feel the pulse of emotion radiate out of her, "you are so certain of rejection."

"Yeah. I am. It's KEITH. This is a one sided thing. He can barely tolerate being my friend... on GOOD days. Which reminds me... You gotta be real careful not to spook Keith. We are only JUST getting him to like, be kinda normal."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, confused.

"Okay, so this is going to sound really weird and I need you to understand, this is HUNK'S plan, not mine."

"Oh dear. This does not bode well."

"Ummm... are you familiar with the concept of being touch-starved?"

Her brow furrowed, "not really, but it seems pretty self-explanatory. Humans are a highly tactile species, so I presume there are some kind of negative consequences for not getting enough physical contact?"

"Yes! Exactly! Anyway, Hunk noticed that Keith hardly ever touches anyone, even just casually, but that he also doesn't really pull away if someone touches him AND when someone does, his mood improves. Soooo... for a while now, the three of us have been trying to kind of... be... TOUCHIER when he's around? I guess. I mean, we are already pretty comfortable with each other and stuff so it's not that big of a deal. Like, if I can't sleep or I am especially homesick, I'll go crash with Hunk... sometimes Pidge. We're all from touchy families so it is just normal to us."

"But Keith is not, and Hunk worries," she concluded.

"Yes! And Shiro is great and all... but he's just one person, and he's dealing with his own stuff... and then he was GONE..."

"So, this has been going on since Shiro went missing?"

He nodded, "yeah- but if you push too hard, he bolts, so it is TRICKY..."

"Is that why you all piled on him today?"

"We didn't PILE! We... squished?"

"The poor boy couldn't move," she sighed.

"Right, but he STAYED. When we first got here, he would have stormed off.. and he's laughing more now. Hunk's plan is helping."

"So what did I do wrong?"

"It's hard to explain... it's kind of complicated... you have to act like it is nothing, like no one else even notices that he's part of the..."

"Squish?"

His eyes narrowed, "fine, we piled. Okay? It has to be suuuuuper casual, and everyone has to make a point of ignoring that he's in the middle of the puppy pile, otherwise he suddenly has to talk to Shiro, or needs to grab something to eat or..."

"Or has to train," she finished for him, "ah I understand. I'm sorry."

Chapter Text

"Hush," he cooed, leaning in to kiss her softly, being very careful not to get cream on her face. "You didn't do anything wrong. I was really shocked he stayed put as long as he did. Besides, you didn't know AND you caught my crush..."

She rolled her eyes, "you are really getting a kick out of that, aren't you?"

"Yes!" he laughed, falling back and sprawling across the bed, "it's just so strange... but also, it's kind of nice to know that you GET IT... you know exactly how I feel, and what a pain in the ass it is."

"I do," she answered earnestly, "I know EXACTLY how you feel, and I know that it isn't a crush, Lance. This isn't going to just... go away."

"Allura, stop. It means so, so, so much to me that you accept that I am able to fall for more than one person at a time, it really does. But that doesn't mean that I am going to pursue every person I fall for. I know you want me to be happy. You make me happy. I am happy right now. I am happy with you. I don't want to keep going over this. I'm not saying we won't ever talk about Keith- but I don't want to always be talking about how I feel about him. Please?"

She scowled slightly, clearly thinking. He could feel the way her emotions were bouncing around, and knew that she really, really did not like how he was choosing to handle his feelings for Keith. But he could also feel when the affection, concern, and trust she held for him, outweighed her worry. He was smiling before she was, already knowing that she was ready to accept what he was asking.

"I'm sorry I have been pushing," she said, "I don't mean to. Truly."

"I know, you are a warrior at heart," he smiled, "I love that about you. You fight for the stuff you care about, and that includes me. I get it, I do. But, I am okay. Really. I don't want to be the reason that Voltron loses Keith. I don't want to be the reason that Keith loses all of us. That's more important to me than being WITH him is. Just like being part of your life and being someone you could trust was more important to me than being WITH you was."

"You have such a selfless soul, Lance," she sighed, "that is such an admirable trait. I love that about you."

"See? This is more like it. I have the most beautiful girl in the entire universe in my room, saying sweet things to me, about to crawl into MY bed... what more could I ask for?"

She smiled, "see? So very charming when you are being sincere."

He sat back up, turning to face her and resting his hands on her knees, "sincerity is easy for me when it is just us. It's harder with others around. I just really want to make sure that you KNOW that I am happy with us- just as we are. No pressure on you to do anything you aren't comfortable with. No need to pursue anyone else. Just me and you. Just like this. This is amazing. I don't want to ever ask for more than you are happy to freely offer- and that means commitment, sex, love... any of it. I was happy to be your friend, when that was all you wanted, and I am happy to be your... what was the term you used? Beau? Yeah, beau... I am happy to be your beau, now."

"Oh, Lance," her whole face softened adoringly, "I know all that, but it is still very nice to hear it... and for the record, I am very happy as your..." She stopped, looking puzzled, "we never decided on a term for me."

He chuckled, "well, no, we didn't because you suggested paramour and I pointed out that on Earth that has a certain-"

"Yes, yes... I remember! What is that label that Pidge uses when she teases Hunk about Shay?"

"Girlfriend? That's pretty common, but, Allura, it tends to make people think of an established couple, and you were pretty hesitant..."

"Yes, right. How would YOU describe me?"

"I'd probably say 'girl I am seeing', but that is kind of a mouthful," he waggled his eyebrows playfully, "bedmate? No, I'm joking... that will make people think we are much more serious than we are. Hmmm... ladyfriend? Galpal? Is there an Altean term used for someone in a new relationship?"

"Hmmm... perhaps Amola? It means... cherished companion or beloved friend... Although that might be a bit odd for Coran. Oh! I know! Vultina?! It means, roughly, 'one I seek out' or 'my eyes go to you first'."

"Vultina? I like that," he smiled at her. "So, I am your beau and you are my vultina? That fits for how you see us now?"

"Yes, those fit," her cheeks flushed, "there are other terms for more serious or more established connections, but beau and vultina feel right for now."

"Good. I'm glad that is settled. Now- about Pidge's eyes..."

She groaned, "really?"

"Yes, really! That came out of NOWHERE!"

"No it didn't! Pidge has very pretty eyes. They're BROWN!"

He blinked at her, "brown? MOST Humans have brown eyes, Allura. Shiro and Hunk have brown eyes."

"Really? Brown is an incredibly rare eye color for Alteans... Galra, too, now that I think of it. Pidge's eyes are such a pretty soft brown, and they are so large and expressive. Don't read anything into it- I just think she has pretty eyes."

"Alright," he held his hands up in mock surrender, "curiosity satisfied! How long have I had this cream on?"

"Half a varga, maybe?"

"Ok, that's long enough. You get settled in for the night, okay? I'm going to wash it off and I'll be right back. I want to be able to kiss you and cuddle you properly tonight, without getting this stuff all over everything."

He didn't take long, she was still punching and fluffing her pillow when he kicked off his lion slippers and crawled into the bed beside her. "Hi," he said shyly, "you are the first person I've had sleep in this bed with me."

"Really?" she sounded surprised, slipping into his arms and abandoning the pillow manipulations, "I thought that you had sleepovers with Hunk and Pidge pretty regularly?"

"I do," he assured her, tracing the pink marks on her cheek with his thumb, "it just worked out that it was in their rooms, not mine. So... just you. Just my vultina."

She kissed him, pressing tight against him. Her fingers sank into his short, dark hair, nails scratching lightly against his scalp, making him shiver. He rolled her under him and deepened the kiss, losing himself in the fizzy, giddy rush that being with her always blanketed him in.

Chapter Text

Keith had been training for a couple of hours when Shiro showed up. He'd been pushing himself hard, trying to shut his stupid brain up, trying to forget the skin-crawling wrongness of his friends, trying to ignore the shattered, mangled remains of his heart. Suddenly the little training orbs paused mid air, their small lights flickering and changing color like they were receiving new orders and Shiro was tossing him the Black bayard. "I wasn't joking, Keith," he said sternly, "YOU are the Black Paladin, I am just filling in. You can't afford to get rusty with the bayard. Or how to fight with someone at your back. So- dual training. Me and you, just like old times."

"Took you long enough," Keith dragged a ragged breath into his lungs and pushed sweaty hair back from his face. He'd been expecting Shiro to show up to check on him after 15-20 minutes, an hour, TOPS. It wasn't like him to wait so long when he knew Keith was struggling. Shiro rarely PUSHED, but he always made sure to remind Keith that he was THERE. It hurt that he seemed to have forgotten about him, but he wasn't about to let Shiro see that. "I was just about to wrap up. You couldn't have come up with this plan an hour ago?"

"What can I say? I got sucked into the over the top teen drama schlock," he answered with a grin. "It was a nice break. Now we work."

Keith rolled his eyes, "I've BEEN working. But sure. I can run another couple of sims."

Four.

They ran FOUR sims. Every muscle in his body was screaming in protest, but he had actually managed to successfully complete every single one. Shiro was proud. He could see it in his eyes, and that little quirk of the lip was a dead giveaway. It did a lot to ease the hurt of Shiro's late arrival. He probably just really needed the mental break. The guy sure as hell deserved some down time.

"It's getting late," Shiro pointed out, "go get cleaned up and grab us some food. I need to touch base with Coran, I'll meet you in the kitchen. Think you're going to be able to sleep tonight?"

Keith nodded, struggling to catch his breath, "probably... I'm exhausted."

"Good, that was the idea," Shiro teased as he headed out, skillfully dodging the wadded up t-shirt Keith flung at him.

Everyone else had already eaten, and Keith was way too wiped to even consider trying to make a meal out of alien ingredients. Which meant that the two of them were limited to food goo for dinner. The meal was a quiet, quick one. It reminded Keith of sleepy Monday morning breakfasts back on Earth when their heads would be too full of the week ahead to waste energy on chatting. They cleaned up after themselves in companionable silence and headed to Shiro's room.

As they passed Lance's room, they could hear the murmur of voices and then Allura's laugh. Shiro smiled at the sweetly happy sound until he got a look at Keith's face. Then he was pulling him forward, away from Lance's room. "It's okay," he said gently after passing a few doors, "you'll get through this."

"I know," he sighed, "it just..."

"It SUCKS, I know," Shiro commiserated. "Oblivious little shit."

"He didn't actually do anything WRONG, Shiro," Keith said dejectedly, being steered into Shiro's quarters before he even realized they'd arrived. "He's been into Allura from the moment he laid eyes on her. It's not like I didn't KNOW how he felt."

"But it's hurting you to see it," Shiro answered, "and that pisses me off."

"They don't know that, though," he sighed, dropping into a chair. "And THAT is something I am very grateful for. It would be SOOOOO much worse for them to know and be all weird and pitying around me."

"Speaking of weird..."

"Ugh... I was wondering how long you'd be able to go before mentioning this."

"What the quiznak did I walk into in the lounge earlier?" Shiro pulled out his phone and held it up like evidence, pointing to the pic he had snapped.

"I don't even know," he groaned, scrubbing at his face with his hands. "I was sitting on the couch talking to Hunk and Pidge, and then Lance shows up, and then Allura and Hunk was passing around this tablet and leaning over me to talk to her about it, and the next thing I know..THAT!"

"Why didn't you just move?"

"Do you have any idea how scary Pidge can get?" Keith asked, exasperated, "because I saw a terrifying side of Pidge like an HOUR before the whole tv thing... and I couldn't move without dislodging Pidge. She nearly bit my hand off when I tried to reach for my own damn snacks!"

Shiro chuckled, "she IS pretty fierce. Most of the time, she's so much like Matt... and then something triggers that temper of hers..."

"Yeah, when she snaps she loses any resemblance to her brother. It's even scarier when it is a gradual thing, though. She does NOT cope well when tech doesn't do what she wants it to."

Shiro cringed, "yeah, I can imagine that would be bad."

"It was. Up until that point, things were going well, though. It was actually really good to work with them like that. Even if Hunk was being nosy." Keith ducked into Shiro's bathroom to change his clothes and brush his teeth.

"Nosy?" Shiro asked from the other room.

"Nothing major," Keith replied through the door, "he was just asking about stuff we talked about the night we all got drunk. Stuff from that stupid 3 Vetoes game."

"Ugh! That damn game! Matt was OBSESSED with it when we were travelling to Kerberos. How did you end up playing.. never mind. Pidge and her drinking games."

"Yup," Keith answered, rejoining Shiro. "Did you know she can beatbox?"

"I did NOT," he laughed, "any other revelations from 3 vetoes?"

"Hunk's first crush was on his preschool teacher."

"That sounds like Hunk" Shiro agreed.

"Pidge had to go to summer school because she doesn't understand poetry, and Lance has never failed a class. I would never have guessed that," Keith said, his voice faltering at the reminder of Lance.

Whatever Shiro had been about to say died on his lips, Keith could see him change gears, "if you need me to, I can reach out to Kolivan- see if there is anything he could use your help with. I understand if you need space from them for a bit."

"I don't know," he sighed, "I said I'd be here for longer, I actually ARRANGED with Kolivan to have some time with you guys, so he won't contact us unless he's really stuck for someone. But..." He gestured helplessly, knowing that Shiro would understand that he was talking about how badly it hurt to see the happy young couple. "And... honestly, my head is a fucking mess right now. I'm not sure I'm even fit for a Blade mission at the moment."

"Wow- I don't know if I should be worried because it is so bad that even YOU think it might impact your performance... or proud that you are mature and aware enough to acknowledge that you are going through some emotional shit that might ACTUALLY be impacting you."

"Haha," Keith groused, "you are so fucking funny. I think I liked your terrible Dad jokes better."

"Really?" his eyes took on a mischievous glint, "hey Keith?"

"Oh god, no. NO!"

"What do you call cheese that isn't yours?"

"Quiznak."

"No! Nacho cheese!" His grin lit up the room.

Keith glared at him, "Shiro- please!"

"Another? Sure! What about that joke I know about paper... no, never mind. It's Tearable. TEAR-ABLE!"

"Stahhhhhp!" Keith shook his head.

"What do you call a fake noodle?" He asked, poking Keith in the ribs playfully.

Keith squirmed away, swatting at Shiro's hands, "quit it."

"An im-pasta!" Shiro cackled.

"Oh my god, you are the WORST!"

"I'm not the worst, I'm SHIRO!"

"Geez! Knock it off, I'm dying! DYING!"

"Nice to meet you, Dying. Like I said, I am Shiro!"

"WHY?! Why do you do this to me?! Why do you NEVER make these jokes in front of the others?!"

"Ah-ha! There it is! The ever-elusive Keith Kogane, 100% genuine smile," Shiro crowed, triumphant, tugging Keith into a hug. "Because you are you, kid. That's why."

"You dork!" Keith rolled his eyes, but hugged him back. "They all think you are sooo cool. They are soooooooooooo wrong!"

Chapter Text

The next day's briefing was uneventful and blessedly short. When they broke, Keith had planned on heading to the pool, with a promise to Hunk and Pidge that he would help them with their project again when they were ready for him. On his way to his room to grab his swim gear, though, Lance stopped him.

The guy looked... wrung out. Twitchy almost. He kept rolling his shoulder like he was trying to crack his neck and shifting his weight from foot to foot. He'd seemed fine at the briefing. What the quiznak had happened in the span of half a varga?

"You okay?" Keith asked, concern lacing his voice.

"What? Me? Oh, yeah, I'm fine," Lance answered, his tone dull and almost lifeless.

"Yeah- that was very convincing," he replied, sarcasm dripping from his every word. "Try again."

Lance sighed, "I just... need something to keep my brain occupied while Allura is meeting with Lotor."

That stung. "I'm supposed to entertain you while your girlfriend is busy? Seriously?"

"No! That's not what I meant... shit. I wanted to know if you wanted to run that shielding sim with me. What you were saying yesterday, about getting rusty... and then Shiro talking about the bayard. We've actually gotten to the point where we work well in the field. I don't want us to have to RELEARN that... and my afternoon is pretty busy, so I thought this would be a good time. If you aren't already busy with something, I mean... and she's not my girlfriend."

"Seriously?!" he gaped, "does SHE know that?"

Lance's eyes narrowed, "of course she does. Alteans have different traditions than us. We're taking things slow... like dating... kind of."

"Whatever," Keith replied, really not wanting to continue with this subject. "If you want to train, we can train. Now?"

"That is kind of what I was thinking, yeah."

"Sure. Fine... are you SURE you are okay, though? You seem... off."

"I just need something to focus on," he answered, giving Keith a little half-smile and starting to move toward the training area. "She hates dealing with him and it's messing with my head."

"Allura doesn't need you to protect her from a prisoner, Lance."

"Oh! I know that! She's a badass, through and through. She just keeps getting better with that whip and she and Blue are a force to be reckoned with... This isn't about her not being able to handle herself. It just... upsets her." He rubbed at the center of his chest like it was hurting.

"I've never seen any sign of that," Keith said neutrally, "and if it bothers her, I'm sure Coran and Shiro would be willing-"

"She'd never ask that of them," Lance interjected, "every reason she has to hate Lotor, Coran has, too... and Shiro has his own reasons. She takes her responsibilities seriously and she'd never even think of shirking them. She WILL meet with Lotor, and she'll vet his information, and she'll weigh in on the decisions. I know that. I'd never ask her not to. But... I just don't like it when she's upset."

"And training will take your mind off of that," Keith finished for him, "I am actually pretty familiar with that particular coping technique."

"Well, that's a relief- we were starting to think you had some kind of weird training fetish," Lance joked, earning him a decidedly unamused look from Keith.

"Lance, you GET that I can say no to training with you, right? I'm the one doing you the favor- maybe avoid insulting me? For the two minutes it will take us to get there?"

"Yeah... sorry... it's just so EASY," he shot him a smirk, but Keith couldn't help but feel that there was something... hollow about it.

"Whatever," he said, rolling his eyes. Neither of them really said much else as they headed to training rooms. Keith really had no interest in hearing about Allura, and it was pretty clear that that's where Lance's brain was at the moment.

The shielding sim went well, they didn't beat their best time, but it was a respectable result. Lance still seemed preoccupied and antsy though, so Keith did something he really couldn't explain- even to himself- he suggested a training sim he usually ran with Shiro. Back to back melee fighting against training robots. It wasn't Lance's usual role in missions- he'd been focusing more and more on sniper work and general coverage fire for the others- but none of them could afford to lose their edge for close fighting. As a race, the Galra were faster, stronger, and had better reach than humans did. They needed every advantage they could muster.

They fought well together, not as well as he and Shiro did, but well. They were well on the way to winning the sim when he caught a blow across his back that sent him sprawling. One that SHOULD have been blocked by Lance.

"End simulation!" he yelled to the room before regaining his feet and wheeling on his teammate, "what the FUCK was that, Lance?!"

Keith pulled up short. Lance was pale, his skin looked clammy and his eyes were wide. "Something's wrong," he said softly.

"What? Lance, what is happening? Are you alright? You look... bad..."

"Allura is upset... almost panicking," Lance's hand flew to his chest, rubbing the center the way he had earlier, "she's scared and LIVID. I can feel it. Something happened. something bad."

"You can FEEL it?" Keith echoed, stunned, "is that some kind of weird Altean sex thing?"

Lance blinked, "no.. it's empathy. She's an empath. I'm an empath. We can pick up on people's emotions."

"You can read emotions?" panic of his own started to claw at him, and he fought to keep his voice level, "just hers? Or, like everyone's?"

"Hers strongest. Most other people, too. Not you... you are like... a bubble of silence. I've never felt her from this far away before though. We need to get moving. I know this combo of feelings- she's getting ready to fight. We've got a mission."

"I think you might be losing it, Lance," he said gently, only to be interrupted by Allura's voice over the castle-wide speaker system.

"Paladins! Get to your Lions. We have a mission. Keith- you take Black, Shiro is using your Blade of Marmora shuttle. More details when we are on our way."

"Told ya," Lance said, a ghost of his trademark smirk on his face. "Let's go."

"Are you going to be okay?" Keith asked, following Lance out the door.

"Me? Oh yeah... once we are in the same room, things will level out, and now that she's got a task ahead of her, she's calming down anyway."

Keith eyed him skeptically, Lance still didn't seem... right... but he knew less than nothing about how all this worked so he was forced to accept the Red Paladin's word for it. "Are you SURE?" he asked one last time before their paths forked to get to the hangars.

"Absolutely," Lance said with a grin, jogging backwards down the hall as he spoke, "you should see me and her in a fight now- we'd even impress YOU."

Chapter Text

Lance was worried. Allura and Shiro had filled them in over open comms once they were all in their Lions and on their way. Lotor had identified a potential Galra target- Meractia, a small planet rich in a rare mineral that was in high demand for making heavy artillery for the Galra empire. He had warned that the Meractians didn't have the capability of fending off even a small fleet of Galra and would need the support and protection of the Voltron Coalition.

They'd taken it seriously- they always did- but while they were vetting the information, the Galra attacked the small, helpless planet. That's why Lance had picked up so much turmoil from Allura. She'd pushed for extremely thorough fact-checking of every bit of information supplied by Lotor, and that delay had meant that the Meractians were unprotected when the Galra had acted. She blamed herself for being overly cautious.

Even now that they were en route to help, even though they were in their Lions and not physically close to each other, he could still feel the guilt and self-recriminations roiling through her. Usually, once she made a decision and was acting on it, Allura stopped beating herself up like that. He recognized those feelings. She felt the way he did when Pidge had gotten hurt. Guilt over failure to act was different from guilt over making the wrong decision. It ate at you. He needed to snap her out of it somehow, before they both ended up spiraling into paralyzing 'what ifs'.

"Hey, Lulu?" he asked, his voice teasing.

"Lance! I cannot believe you just called me that over open comms!" she scolded.

"Awww, Lulu? He calls you Lulu?" Cooed Hunk, "that's the cutest!"

"Omg- you two are so saccharine," griped Pidge, "I can't believe you complain about Prunesplish and let him call you Lulu!"

"The question," chimed in Keith after a moment, "is if she calls him something equally cutesy!"

"He's Lala," answered Allura, her voice an equal mix of smugness and irritation, "not that any of you were EVER supposed to know that!"

"LALA!" Pidge actually squealed, "seriously? LA! LA! Quiznak, that is GOLD!"

Keith gagged audibly.

"D'awwww, you GUYS!" exclaimed Hunk.

"Yup, we are stinkin' precious," Lance agreed, "anyway... Lulu- Keith called you my GIRLFRIEND."

"What? No," she chuckled, "I'm not your girlfriend."

"See? That's what I said!"

"I'm not sure this is the right time for this conversation... LALA," Shiro chimed in. There was a noise that might have been a snort, but Lance wasn't sure.

"You sure SEEM like his girlfriend," Hunk pointed out, apparently disagreeing with Shiro on the timing of the conversation.

"Yeah," agreed Pidge, "you guys are inseparable lately. You're obviously an item."

"An item?" Allura sounded confused. It was rare that english colloquialisms tripped her up, but it did happen on occasion.

"Like, a romantic pair, babe," he explained.

"Ahh... well we ARE involved, but we have not yet reached that level," she answered.

"She means that she hasn't locked all this awesomeness down yet," Lance teased. That made her laugh, which was what he was going for.

"Nor has he... locked this down," she countered, "and he may yet not- especially if he keeps doing things like revealing petnames on open comms."

"Ouch! Babe! That's harsh," he played at being offended.

"So- like you are just dating?" Hunk asked, "but not boyfriend and girlfriend? What the heck do you call each other then?"

"The Altean terms are Beau and Vultina," Allura answered.

"Alteans take their time before going exclusive," Lance added.

"Oh great- and here I thought on of the perks of you two hooking up was an end to Lance's terrible flirting," Pidge grumbled.

"Pretty sure he'd still be a flirt even if they were exclusive," pointed out Hunk, "half the time, I don't think he even knows he's doing it."

"Lance flirts with everything," Keith agreed, "he probably flirts with his bayard. We shouldn't complain- he's so bad at it, he needs all the practice he can get."

"Hey!" Lance cried in protest, his face screwing up, "no need to get insulting!"

"Good one, Galra Keith!" cackled Hunk.

Keith groaned, "Hunk, how many times-"

"Less than 2 dobashes until we are in range of the planet," Shiro's voice cut through the banter, which was fine with Lance, his little distraction had worked. Allura wasn't broadcasting that snarl of nasty emotions anymore, which had been the entire point, "look sharp everyone."

Chapter Text

"You should see me and her in a fight now- we'd even impress YOU." Lance had said. He'd been right, too. Keith had been seriously impressed. The Red and Blue Lions had torn through that Galra squadron like they were being controlled by a single mind. Once they'd landed and continued on foot to take out any Galra on the surface, they continued their eerie connection fighting together as if they'd been doing it their entire lives instead of less than a year. It was very impressive... if a tad 'twins in a horror movie' creepy.

They'd been sweeping a mine shaft for stragglers when everything had started to go wrong. The floor had given out under their feet, four of them barely managing to fire their thrusters to counter the fall in time. Shiro and Allura had been left on the upper level and Shiro had immediately hopped down, but Allura's thrusters had been damaged by the shifting rocks. Lance had holstered his bayard and called out to her playfully, holding his arms out and saying, "I catch you, it's my job." So, she'd jumped, and he did catch her... just as a shot from a Galra weapon ripped through her upper torso.

The stragglers had found them, not the other way around... and they had the higher ground.

It had happened so fast. Lance's laugh had morphed into a tortured scream. "Allura!" he'd screeched as she impacted with his waiting arms and then they were both down and Shiro, Hunk, and Pidge were suddenly crying out and clutching at their heads. In the space of a fraction of a second, Keith had gone from one of six capable fighters to standing alone, surrounded by incapacitated teammates with a cluster of Galra bearing down on them.

Just about every person that he gave a shit about in the universe were all vulnerable and had only him to keep them safe. Training and instinct kicked in and he launched into action, dragging them, one by one, behind some makeshift cover and drawing fire himself. Within a minute or so, he heard the familiar sound of Hunk's bayard laying down cover fire and the crackle of voices over his comm.

"-the quiznak was that?"

"Pidge- 3 o'clock!"

"On it! Lance! Take out the guy in the back... Lance! Lance? He's not waking up. Something's wrong with Lance!"

"Quiznak! Pidge, check him over. Hunk, keep laying cover. I'm going to help Keith!"

And then Shiro had been at his back and he'd stopped being able to think, relying entirely on muscle memory as they fought their way out of the mines. Every stuttering hearbeat in his chest pounding out a desperate plea. Thump, thump... wake.. up..

wake.. up..

wake.. up..

wake..

up...

That had been hours ago. It was still his mantra. Both Lance and Allura were encased in healing pods, even though Lance seemed physically fine with the exception of being unconscious. Coran couldn't make sense of it.

"There's no sign of ANY injury to Lance," he was saying, in his over the top way, to Shiro, "Look! No physical damage AT ALL to repair... but his vitals keep fading! And look at these neural readings! I haven't seen anything like this in... decaphebes... longer even. Are you SURE there were no druids involved in the attack?"

"Well, no, not absolutely certain," Shiro replied, "but we didn't see any, and we all went down the same time that Lance did, but we're fine."

"It wasn't the same time," Keith spoke up. "He went down first. Not by much, but it was definitely Allura, then him, then you three."

"And you were not affected at all?" Coran confirmed.

"No, not like that." He was DEFINITELY 'affected' by seeing his entire little makeshift family drop to the ground though. Definitely 'affected' by seeing Lance so still, so pale, so QUIET.

His eyes were flicking between Lance, silent and immobile in a healing pod, and Coran, with his orange tablet filled with readings."I wonder if it has something to do with your Galra blood," Coran mused. "It's so strange, these readings look like some kind of psionic, psychic, or magic attack... but without a driud present, I don't know what could have caused them."

"Psychic attack," Keith's head snapped up, "like telekinetic?"

"Yes, or telepathic, even empaths can cause significant damage in the right circumstances."

"Empaths!" Keith leapt up from his seat, "Lance and Allura are empaths! He told me this morning, right before the mission. He could tell something was wrong, even knew we'd be getting sent out in Voltron, because he could feel Allura make the decision."

"He said that? You are absolutely certain?" Coran's fingers flew over the tablet, doing some kind of calculation.

"Absolutely certain. He said he could feel her strongest, and that I was like a 'bubble of silence' I remember that... bubble of silence..."

"Mmmm, the Galra are immune to empathic abilities... so that makes sense," Coran answered distractedly, "Even so, Allura knows... or she should know... WOULD she know? It's been so long since... and even then it wouldn't explain these readings without some external source linking and amplifying-"

"Coran?" Shiro said gently, "would you like to finish any of the sentences you just started? Possibly for the benefit of the rest of us."

"Empaths are... discouraged from pursuing this kind of relationship with each other," Coran said, "it can... cause problems. But without an outside force linking and amplifying that connection, we should NOT see this type of thing occurring."

"What type of thing?"

"Look," Coran thrust the tablet under Shiro's nose, "he is MIRRORING her readings. When she was hurt... she must have..." He tugged at his mustache, obviously struggling for words, "burnt their connection. A psychic injury."

"And because we were there and Lance had said he could sense us... it hit us, too, but not as strongly?" Shiro guessed.

"Yes, exactly."

"Okay, great so now we know what happened- so how do we fix it?" Keith asked, frantic.

"That's the problem, Keith- that should have been impossible. Their bond would have to be so strong that they were losing their individual identities, the line between her and him blurring."

"You mean like Allura randomly calling Keith 'mullet' when nobody but Lance does that?" asked Pidge.

"Or Lance being able to have some kind of a vague conversation with her without actually SAYING anything?" added Hunk.

"Or Lance being reasonable when I told him to lay off with the insults?" added Keith.

"Yes! Exactly like that," Coran agreed, "they'd still need an externa- of course! Great Groggery, the Infirm!" he gasped, "oh dear... this is bad... we need... well, this is quite the sticky wicket... The Blue Lion! They both have a bond with the Blue Lion!" He flew into motion, poking at the two med pods and frowning. "We need to separate them. Lance isn't physically harmed, so we need to remove him from the ship. Unfortunately, these pods are not portable."

"What does that matter if he's not physically hurt?" asked Hunk, moving to check out the pods for himself.

"This type of connection, it is powerful. It floods the brain with endorphins and can trigger profound shifts in brain chemistry that induce euphoria. Remove the source of that, and there will be backlash. Allura has a serious physical injury, we cannot risk removing her from the pod, but the pod WILL alleviate the symptoms of a forced separation and her brain returning to normal."

"But without a portable pod, once we separate them, Lance will have to go through it on his own," Shiro concluded.

"You're making it sound like some kind of addiction," Pidge tapped her fingers on her knee- nervous energy needing an outlet. "Have they been... getting high off each other?"

"Oh yes, very much so... to both of you. Keeping Lance away will be very difficult, and very hard on him."

"Right," Shiro said immediately, "I'll do it. Just tell me where to take him and how long to stay away."

"That's the thing. YOU can't," Coran said, "his emotions will be extremely strong, and you've demonstrated that you are susceptible to them. Without a pod... you'll start to feel everything he is feeling- including the need to return at all costs."

"Quiznak," muttered Pidge, "that rules us all out."

Chapter Text

"And that doesn't change the fact that we have no way of severing the bond that either of them have with Blue Lion. Until that happens, separating them will only be a stop gap. The bond will just keep reforming."

"Pidge? Remember those weird headband things that we used to help us bond as a team when we first got here?" Hunk asked.

"Yeah, they are similar in construction to the interface that the- ohhhh! I see where you are going with this! We could reverse engineer an interrupt signal- so only one of them could be tapped into the Blue Lion at any given time. Would that stop the whole 'amplifying' thing you were talking about?"

"Yes, but... we still need to keep them apart, especially since we don't know how long it will take to make that work. And there's no one who can safely-"

"I can," Keith said suddenly. "I'm immune, I can take Lance somewhere and stay with him while you guys do your thing here."

"Keith," Shiro said softly, "I'm not sure that is a good idea."

"I don't see any other option," Keith said levelly.

"What can we expect... in terms of behavior, from Lance?" Shiro asked Coran.

"He will be grieving, essentially," Coran said.

"I can handle grieving," Keith insisted, "I've done it before."

"Keith-"

"No, Shiro stop! I had to watch all FIVE of you drop to the ground while we were pinned down by Galra. Do you get that? ALL of you. Down. I got you to cover, but I had no idea if we were all making it out of there. If ANY of us was making it out of there. That happened because of this... thing. We NEED to fix this. I would put myself between any of you and danger, without a second thought. I can handle a mourning teammate. I can do this."

"But we have no idea how long it will take, and you'll be alone with Lance, no one else to take over if you need a break-"

"Shiro! I'm the ONLY ONE who can do this. Literally the only one. There's no debate. There's no discussion. I am taking Lance and I'm not coming back until you guys have a fix for this. Understood?"

"Keith, I really think-"

"SHIRO!" he barked, his voice brooking absolutely no argument. He knew where Shiro was coming from, but he was coming dangerously close to revealing stuff Keith didn't want revealed, and the whole thing was moot anyway. He was the ONLY one who could do this... and there was no way in hell he would put Lance in further danger if he could do something to help. It was probably going to SUCK, but he wasn't in any danger and Lance was, so there wasn't really a decision to be made. "I'm not ASKING you. I am TELLING you. This is what is happening. I am taking Red- because you can pilot Black and we need as many functioning Lions as possible. I know Red will let me pilot her to help Lance. You, contact Kolivan, tell him we need indefinite access to a Blade bolthole as far away as whatever Coran deems necessary. Hunk- I need you to pack up a go bag for Lance. Clothes, toiletries, entertainment.. and bud? I am going to need that secret stash of yours that you broke out the night we all went out. Pidge- pack up some food. Not just goo. Snacks and stuff I can throw together basic meals with... and lots of that oj tasting stuff."

"Uhhhh... Shouldn't I be the one getting the food?" Hunk asked.

"I figured Lance would be more comfortable with you digging through his private belongings than Pidge... and I'm guessing Pidge and I have about equal food prep skills, so if she can make something edible out of what is packed up, I probably can, too. Coran- put together everything you've got on this kind of injury and what can be done to help when a med pod isn't available and send it to the Red Lion. I leave, with Lance, in 30 doboshes. Everyone clear?"

Pidge, Hunk and Coran all made noises of agreement and scattered. Shiro lingered, turning to him as soon as they were alone, "I don't like this."

"Yeah, I know, and if we had any other option, I'd be willing to listen. But, we don't so this is what is happening."

"Are you sure you are going to be able to handle this? All that time? Alone? With him broken-hearted over Allura?"

"Not even a little bit," Keith answered honestly, "but I meant what I said. I'd die for any of you guys... and THIS isn't going to kill me, so I'm doing it. I've done it before."

"This isn't going to be the same as when you were the one in mourning," Shiro said, reaching out to rest his Galra hand on Keith's shoulder, "it's not going to be like your father.."

"THAT's what you think I'm talking about?" Keith demanded, stunned, "no Shiro. I'm not talking about losing my dad. I'm talking about losing YOU. I was the one that had to put Adam back together when they told us you died. It SUCKED, but I did it. By the time I left, he was functioning again, doing well even. Lance has known Allura less than a year. Empath or not, there is NO FUCKING WAY that what he is going through is worse than what Adam did. I'm sorry, I know it sucks to hear it, but it's true."

"Adam," Shiro's hand dropped, his voice hollow. "You... had to take care of Adam."

"Well, yeah," Keith said, eyes on the floor, "he was a mess. He blamed himself... he blamed you... he just... hated the world for a while. I know what that's like. So, yeah... we got each other through it. Just because you guys split up didn't mean he stopped loving you."

"Yeah, I know," Shiro rubbed the back of his neck, "I just... tried not to think about it. What it must have been like, for you guys."

"It was bad- but it was better than what you were going through," Keith said, "and it's not something you had any control over. So, anyway- yes, I know what I am signing up for, and yes, I know it will be hard and awful... but I CAN do it. Just... be prepared to get shitfaced with me when I get back. Deal?"

"Anything you need, Keith," he promised. "Go pack- I have to track down Kolivan and make arrangements for you."

Chapter Text

On the second day, Lance decided that Keith's taste in music wasn't so bad after all. Strangely, this meant that Keith got a break from Lance's bursts of constant chatter... or, more accurately, his ranting. The information from Coran had given him said to expect several days of 'intense emotional deregulation'. Keith had expected... weeping, maybe? Artsy angst? Something other than what he got- which was a Lance that bounced between clinging insecurity and explosive rage for the entire first day. Turned out that Keith wasn't the only hothead on the team. Lance ending up the Red Paladin was making more and more sense all the time.

The anger was easier to cope with than the clinging. He and Lance had a long history of butting heads and arguing, so it was familiar and almost comforting to be fighting about why he had to stay put, and whether Allura was alright, and if this was some kind of twisted prank on Keith's part. That was right in their wheelhouse and Keith could roll with that, even when Lance said things that were harsh enough to border on cruel, or looked like he might escalate the arguing into actual fighting. After a bit, Keith literally shoved him into the small work-out space that the bolthole had and told him to take it out on the equipment. That seemed to help.

The clinging was a different story. He'd been expecting... contact. People who were mourning needed touch- he knew that. He was NOT expecting having Lance plastered to his back, arms flattened over his chest, head turned and pressed down into the crook of his neck as Keith tried and failed to move around the far too tiny space they were sharing. It was like some kind of bizarre upright spooning and it messed with his head. It didn't help that Lance was frighteningly quiet at those times. Even direct questions elicited nothing more than a single syllable or a dejected shrug. It was just so... NOT Lance that it was disturbing.

He hadn't really expected to get any sleep that first night, either, but they had. Lance had curled up in a little ball facing him and burrowed into his chest. It looked like the most uncomfortable position anyone could ever sleep in, but Lance had been asleep within moments. Less than an hour later, Keith had felt him start to shake and realized he was silently sobbing in his sleep. He'd shifted them around until he was lying on his back with Lance's knees tucked against his hipbone and his head resting on Keith's chest. He'd smoothed his hair and patted his back for what felt like hours before he drifted off himself.

He'd woken with Lance's arms locked tight around him and their legs tangled together. But Lance had stopped crying at some point during the night and seemed reasonably peaceful. So, Keith just lay there waiting for him to wake, occasionally making soothing murmur or stroking his back or face when he made distressed sounds in his sleep until he woke at roughly lunchtime, blinked sleepily at Keith and rolled away from him without a word.

That's when he had discovered the appeal of Keith's music selection, crawling up onto the larger than human average bed and clamping headphones over his ears, humming along to songs he didn't know the words to. Keith mostly let him be, occasionally setting a plate of food, or a beverage in front of Lance- which he pretty much just picked at.

By early evening, he knew that he had to get Lance moving. It didn't take long to stiffen up when you were as physically active as the Voltron team was and the last thing either of them needed was physical pain on top of the emotional upheaval. That had been met with fierce resistance, which escalated to an argument, which ended in Lance stomping off to the only place he could go other than the bathroom- the little work out space. Shortly thereafter, Keith heard the tell tale sounds of someone wailing on a punching bag.

Despite his doubts about him surviving it, deep down, he'd known he could do this. Most of his problems with other people stemmed from confusion. He didn't understand their motivations or reactions and he froze up. This he understood. Pain was something he knew intimately. Loss was a huge part of his life. It wasn't FUN or PLEASANT, but it made sense, even when it was illogical. He was very familiar with the pain and anger that twisted good intentions into barbed weapons- so when Lance lashed out, the little twisted snarls of hurt found no purchase. He knew none of this had anything to do with him. He was being a friend to Lance, just like Shiro had been being a friend to him.

His heart had already been ground into glass, anyway, it's not like Lance could possibly hurt him MORE. And if he had had any remaining doubts about how he felt about the guy, his NEED to be the one to help him when he was suffering would have laid them to rest.

He couldn't NOT help Lance, even if doing it ultimately destroyed him.

Chapter Text

Lance woke slowly, his surroundings registering in bits and pieces. Warm soft bed that smelled like wood smoke, leather and good cigars. Keith. The bed smelled like Keith. The bed was so warm because he was sharing it with Keith. The day before he'd been so out of it that he'd barely registered that fact, but this time, even through the haze of sleep, he was fully aware of the body next to his. They were spooning. He was the little spoon, Keith curled protectively around his back. His head was pillowed on Keith's folded arm, Keith's chin resting softly on the top of his head, their fingers were laced together and their intertwined hands were tucked up tight against his heart. He felt so warm. He didn't really want to move. He felt like all the pain and chaos he'd been going through was just waiting for him outside the frame of Keith's arms. Like he wouldn't have to feel it if he just stayed where he was forever. But, as he was waking, he could feel the heaviness of it settle over him, making his breath hitch. Keith shifted behind him, his jaw rubbing lightly against Lance's head.

"Shhhh, it's okay," Keith murmured, "go ahead and cry, it's alright." He shifted, pulling Lance tighter against his chest, moving his head down. His breath skittered over Lance's ear, ruffling his hair. It was shockingly... intimate... and erotic. Damn. "I got you," Keith mumbled, clearly not awake, "gotch'oo." It was that last, breathy little murmur that did him in, really. That was the one that triggered hazy, sleep muddled memories of hearing that phrase over and over while being held close, hands moving in soothing, comforting strokes. Keith. KEITH had been soothing him through the night. DAMN! Why was that so fucking hot?

The thought barely registered before his eyes flew open. Shit. This was bad. This was so so so so bad. He could NOT stay here with Keith! He needed to get back to normal life. His defenses were NOT equipped to deal with a sleepy, cuddly, KIND Keith! First thing's first- he needed out of this bed. No matter how warm and safe and delicious Keith was at the moment- see? Right there... that little traitorous 'delicious' was EXACTLY why he could not stay put.

"I'll make breakfast," he said a tad too loudly, surging up out of the bed, only to be reminded of their entangled fingers when he managed to wrench them painfully.

"Ow!" Keith's eyes flew open as he sat up, "geez! Let GO of me first! Or were you just planning on dragging me around by the hand today?"

Lance stared at their linked hands, a blush burning it's way up his neck and across his cheeks. He was so mortified. His eyes started to burn and his breathing caught. Unable to stop himself, he glanced at Keith.

"Awww shit," Keith muttered, reaching out and hooking the unentangled arm around Lance's hip, tugging him off balance. Before he knew it, he was flat out sitting in Keith's lap, (his quiznacking LAP!) and somehow his fingers were free and Keith was snuggling him close, rubbing his upper arm and back. "Sorry. I shouldn't have snapped. It's okay. We're fine. I know everything is... too much right now."

What.

The.

Actual.

Fuck?

He seriously had NO IDEA What was going on. Why was Keith being soooo sweet? HOW was Keith being so sweet? Who knew he was even capable of this kind of shit? And... oh hell no- why the fuck was Lance CRYING now? He felt like he did that ONE time when he was a little kid and his beloved meemaw, who always doted on him yelled at him for something he didn't even do.

"I... don't even... understand... why..." he gasped between huge, heaving sobs.

Keith tucked his head against his chest and used the edge of the sheet to wipe his tears away. "It's okay, Lance," he said softly, "this is what is supposed to happen. Your emotions are all fucked up because of the empath thing. They'll level out in another day or two."

That triggered half a memory. He had a feeling Keith had explained this a few times but it wasn't sticking. "A-A-llur-ruh-ah?" he managed.

Keith sighed, hugging him close. "Allura got hurt on a mission. That injured you, and the others because of the emotional connection. She's in a pod, healing. We had to separate you. Pidge is working on fixing it. You're going to be fine. She's going to be fine. Everything is going to be okay."

"M-m-my f-f-f-f-ault-t?" he asked, cursing his shaking jaw and rough breathing.

"Nope," Keith shook his head, smoothing Lance's hair, "not your fault. Nobody's fault. I promise. It's nobody's fault. Got it?"

He nodded, hoping that the tears would start to abate now that he had a better grasp of what was happening. They did not. He cried for ages. He cried for years. He felt like he'd been crying since the dawn of time. Keith just... held him.. and after a while, he kind of rocked him... The whole time he was shushing him softly, or rubbing his back, or blotting at his face with tissues that suddenly appeared. Eventually, though, he managed to cry himself out, and even then, Keith just held him, like it was the most normal thing in the world to have Lance sobbing in his lap 30 seconds after waking up.

"Feeling better?" Keith asked finally.

"Yeah," he answered, his voice rough, "I think so."

"Ok, good... let's get you some tea for your throat," he replied. "I've heard it is the best thing. We don't have any rum... but I have some of Hunk's vodka if you think you need it."

He scooted out of Keith's lap (his LAP!) and smiled at the reminder of the day he'd made Keith tea. That wasn't even a week ago, he realized suddenly! "We, literally JUST woke up and you are offering me booze?" he asked.

Keith gave a half shrug, "how often are you going to have to detox from your addictive not-girlfriend? I don't think standard rules apply."

"Vultina," he supplied, THAT he remembered. Go figure. "Addictive?"

He nodded, his mullet made for some IMPRESSIVE bedhead and the nod made it wobble hilariously. Lance felt a giggle building in his chest and tried desperately to quash it as Keith spoke about something VERY serious. "Mmhmm... apparently all those 'new love' hormones can be pretty dangerous for two empaths... so, now you are going through the nasty crash part."

"I have to stop seeing her, don't I?" he asked, that giggle fizzling out.

Keith busied himself at the little kitchenette directly across from the bed, making tea. "I guess it depends on if Pidge can make that thing to keep everything safe." He chuckled softly, "you guys need an emotional condom. I think your curse is still in effect."

"M'not cursed," he pouted. "Hate that stupid joke. Just because I put myself out there more than the others doesn't make me cursed."

"Yeah, I guess you are right," Keith said softly, handing him the tea. He caught a whiff... the DEFINITELY spiked tea. "I mean, EVERYBODY's love life is a series of fuck-ups and failures when you really think about it. Unless they are like happily involved at that exact moment. Even then, that is ONE happy ending out of... how many?"

"Unless they are polyam," Lance said, blowing lightly on the tea, "then you could be looking at a bunch of happy connections. But, yeah... I get what you are saying."

"With the potential for a whole lot more dumpster fires," Keith countered. "Not that I'm one to talk. My dating history is..." he trailed off, just shaking his head.

"What?" Lance asked, his voice wavering between curious and teasing, but his eyes reflecting a need to connect over something painful, to level the playing field since he was such a mess. "Did someone actually manage to break the heart of Keith Loner Kogane? Was it Matt?"

"You people are obsessed with Pidge's brother," Keith muttered, "but yeah, I've had my heart busted up a couple of times... and no, not by Matt."

"Right- pour yourself one of these. I'm going to need details," Lance insisted, "I mean it- I just cried all over you. You owe me this."

Chapter Text

Keith couldn't really see the logic in how being nice to Lance meant he had to hash out something so personal... but it was the first time Lance had expressed any kind of interest in anything but getting back to Allura, or trying to understand why he wasn't ALREADY with Allura. Besides, given how spotty his memory of the last couple of days was, there was a decent chance that he'd forget all about anything Keith was about to tell him anyway. He sighed, "alright. Let me get the damn tea."

A few moments later, he was sitting on the bed beside Lance, leaning back against the wall with his legs outstretched, chugging back hot, alcoholic tea. "This isn't that bad," he said after three quarters of the mug, "I could get used to getting a buzz at breakfast... like... a tiny buzz. Just enough to chase off the grumps."

"Hard to imagine you NOT being grumpy in the morning," Lance responded.

Keith glared at him, "like you are so freaking pleasant when you don't get enough sleep." Whoops- too harsh! He could see the hurt roll over Lance's face and his eyes start to get glossy. Shit. "Sorry! Lance, I'm sorry. I keep forgetting how raw everything is for you right now. I was just joking around. Alright?"

Lance sniffed, but nodded, scooting back to sit beside Keith, leaning against him and the wall. Keith took that as a sign of forgiveness. "So, I owe you the story of me getting my heart broken, huh?"

Lance smiled softly, "yup. You owe me. Fair's fair."

Still didn't make any sense to Keith, but... whatever. "I was fifteen when he broke my heart, but" he started, "he was a kid I knew from one of the group homes I'd lived in. So, before all the emotional shit, I already knew him and we'd hooked up a few times before I moved into the Garrison... not SEX, but you know... messing around. Making out."

"Hold on- how old were you when you moved in with Shiro?" Lance interrupted.

"I was thirteen," Keith answered.

"So- you hooked up with this kid BEFORE you were thirteen?" Lance was clearly skeptical.

"No, I was thirteen when I hooked up with him. I didn't move in with Shiro the DAY I turned thirteen. My birthday is in October, I moved in with Shiro in June. I'd hooked up with Gavin a few times during the winter. Can I get back to the story now?"

"Damn- you started EARLY," Lance chuckled.

"I was living in a group home, Lance. One for 'challenging' kids that weren't settling into foster families. So, similar to a dorm, with a bunch of other teenagers... and we were all damaged somehow. There are lots of ways to act out, even in a GOOD group home."

"Shit," Lance looked at him, his face stark. "That sounds awful."

"Yeah.. well... it wasn't GREAT, but it was safe. That's better than a lot of places I could have ended up. Anyway, his name was Gavin and he was a year older than me... and we'd messed around a bit. Nothing too serious, we were still pretty young and just trying to figure stuff out. Honestly, it was probably more about feeling CLOSE to someone than anything to do with sex, but whatever. I'm not an idiot, I know what I look like. Especially back then. I knew I was 'pretty' and it wasn't hard to find company and contact when I wanted it. From people my own age- nothing gross!"

"That sounds kinda creepy," Lance said, cuddling into his side and slipping one arm behind Keith's back.

"It's true, though. Most kids in the system know how much of a target they are. It's a survival tactic. No one ever hurt me or anything... but I knew to be wary." He fidgeted, he didn't like talking about his past. He didn't like thinking about the group homes. He didn't like thinking about Gavin. He didn't LIKE any of this, but it wouldn't kill him, so if it helped Lance feel less... alone, then he could talk. "After I moved in with Shiro, I didn't see any of the kids from the home much, but a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday, I bumped into Gavin. He'd just gone through a break-up and just turned sixteen, so he had access to a car, and he was tall..."

"He sounds dreamy," teased Lance.

"Shove it," Keith countered, mussing Lance's hair to let him know there was no bite in the words. "So, we started dating... or at least I THOUGHT we were dating."

"Uh-oh," breathed Lance, "that doesn't bode well."

"Yeah, it went really sour, really fast. He was telling me we had to keep everything low-key because he was in a foster family that wasn't all that accepting, and at sixteen it is REALLY hard to get a good family. Most people want younger kids to foster. Shiro never liked him. Adam didn't trust him, said he seemed slimy. But, oh no, I knew better. He was just in a tight spot, they didn't understand because they'd never been in the system, they didn't know him like I did. It was a whole thing."

"So," Lance asked, "what happened?"

"That break-up? Not so much... more like a fight... with his girlfriend... that lasted like a weekend. His very 'good girl', very virginal girlfriend. He was just using me for sex," Keith shrugged, "honestly, as bad as it was, it was almost worse that I'd defended him so much and fought so hard with people who actually DID give a shit about me and were just trying to watch out for me."

"As bad as it was?" Lance's voice was sad, sympathetic, "how bad was it? Was he your first?"

"No, he wasn't my first. But yeah, pretty bad. I don't trust easily... but I thought Gavin was like me, so I trusted him. I shouldn't have." Keith went quiet for a few minutes, "so yeah, that's my big high school heartbreak story. I thought I loved a guy who just wanted someone to get off with."

"That SUCKS," Lance commiserated, his blue eyes dark with intensity, "what a fucking asshole. When we get back to earth, point him out to me and I'll break his nose. nobody treats my friend like that and gets away with it."

Keith laughed, sudden and pure, "my hero. Deal."

Lance smiled up at him, and his face was just so... fucking... perfect... it made his heart stutter and skip a beat.

Chapter Text

It didn't take long for the day to take a bad turn. After he and Keith had each showered and eaten, he'd started feeling antsy. He needed to talk to Allura. She'd been hurt, he needed to HEAR her say she was alright. But Keith wouldn't let him. Keith kept saying that she was still in a pod, but it had been several quintants, so she HAD to be out by now. Keith was just keeping them apart for some reason... and he'd said so. The disagreement escalated into an argument frighteningly quickly, and he almost thought they were going to come to blows, but no, Keith just steered him into that damn workout room and told him to get it out of his system. Again. He'd stomped around in a rage for a bit and then vented it all out on the punching bag. It was like everything he was feeling was just too big to wrap his head around.

When he came back out, much calmer, Keith had handed him a beverage pouch and hadn't said a word. So, he'd tried a different tact, asking nicely. But that didn't work, either and before he knew it he was wheedling and whining and pestering Keith to let him go back to the Castle of Lions to check on Allura. Didn't he know how important she was to Lance? Didn't he care about her at all? Didn't he want them to be happy? Didn't he understand that Lance COULDN'T stay here?

He could tell he was making progress. Keith kept stopping to take a deep, slow breath before he answered him. So, Lance did what anyone would- amped everything up. Eventually, Keith turned around to face him, his hands on his hips and shoulders squared. "Lance, it is NOT going to work. It isn't safe for you to be around Allura yet. It will hurt her and it will hurt you. I KNOW that doesn't make any sense to you right now. I KNOW you think the only way you are going to make it through another hour is if you are with her, but that is not true. It's just your brain lying to you because it wants a hit. Do you get that?"

Reluctantly, Lance nodded. On some level he understood, and the last thing he wanted was to endanger Allura... but his NEED to see her was... overwhelming.

"You want to send a message? Ask for an update?" he offered, holding out his phone.

"Yeah... that might work," Lance agreed, accepting his phone from Keith. He pulled up the messaging app that Pidge had routed through the Lions so they could reach each other in a familiar way.

"I'd suggest Shiro," Keith offered, "but any of them should be able to give you an update. Might help to talk to Hunk..."

"Yeah... Hunk," Lance said softly, dropping to the bed, "Hunk's good at making the science stuff make sense to me. Thanks, Keith. I'm sorry... about before..."

"Don't worry about it, Lance. It's not your fault. I know that. You've basically got the emotional control of a toddler right now. I think you are doing fine- all things considered."

"Ugh! A toddler? Really?" Lance groaned.

"Would you rather I had said a twelve year old? Because twelve year olds kind of suck... at least toddlers can be cute for a few minutes a day... like when they nap... or see a kitten... or whatever."

"I don't like either option," he pouted, falling back on the bed dramatically and pulling on the headphones that were still connected to Keith's phone while he messaged Hunk from his own.

Lance: hey

Hunka Fudge: Bud! How are you doing? Ready to kill Keith yet?

Lance: I'm okay, I guess. Hella moody. Is Allura out yet?

Hunka Fudge: No, sorry bud. She's still in the pod, but Coran says she's doing well. No need to worry.

Lance: Oh.

Lance: Pidge work any miracles yet?

Hunka Fudge: Not yet. I feel bad. I don't have any good news for you.

Lance: I know. I'm glad Allura is alright. Wish I was there.

Hunka Fudge: I bet. But here isn't much fun right now either.

Lance: Sup?

Hunka Fudge: Not much- Pidge and I are working.

Hunka Fudge: Coran is busy with... I don't know, Coran STUFF.

Lance: sounds normal

Hunka Fudge: Shiro's stressing. He's really worried about you guys.

Lance: ?

Hunka Fudge: He's worried.

Hunka Fudge: Keeps trying to hurry things up. Keeps checking on Allura.

Hunka Fudge: Wants to know how long the team will be split up.

Hunka Fudge: Keeps asking Coran about what you are going through.

Lance: Shiro's worried about ME?

Hunka Fudge: Yeah. He didn't like Keith's plan. Wants you guys back here ASAP

Lance: Keith's plan?

Hunka Fudge: Pidge says hi and feel better.

Lance: Hi and thx to Pidge

Lance: Keith's plan?

Hunka Fudge: GTG Pidge needs me. Feel better

Lance stared at his phone, irritated. He knew better than to think that Hunk would reply, he'd probably already pocketed the phone before the message even sent. Scowling, he messaged Pidge.

Lance: Pidge

Lance: Pidge!

Lance: PIDGE

Lance: PIDGE!

Lance: Answer me!

Angry Bird: OMG what? I'm WORKING!

Lance: Hunk didn't answer my question.

Angry Bird: What question?

Lance: What was Keith's plan? Why didn't Shiro like it?

Angry Bird: Keith's plan was what is happening. Take you and Red and wait until we fix the feedback loop problem

Lance: feedback loop?

Angry Bird: that's what I'm calling the whole addicted to each other thing.

Lance: Oh. Okay.

Lance: Wait...

Lance: KEITH was the one who came up with the idea of putting us alone together for ages? WHY?!

Angry Bird: Yeah

Angry Bird: he's immune to the lovey dovey mojo

Angry Bird: cuz Galra

Angry Bird: Shiro didn't like it

Angry Bird: emo-boy got in his face and was all "suck it, we're doing this"

Angry Bird: ^ paraphrasing. But twas epic

Lance: wow

Angry Bird: So don't... like.. kill him.

Lance: not gonna kill Mullet

Lance: Geez

Angry Bird: can I get back to saving your skinny ass now?

Lance: Yes please. Let me know when Allura is out?

Angry Bird: fine

Lance: thx

He let the phone drop onto his chest and sighed, letting the angry/sad music on Keith's phone pound into his brain. Every cell in his being was demanding that he go find Allura, be with her. He felt like he'd been carved in half- all he wanted was to feel WHOLE again. He felt so alone. So small. He just lay there, wishing that he could touch her. Dance with her. Hear her laugh. Hold her hand. Feel that little bubbling fizzy feeling in his head that being around her gave him. Heck, he even missed how she'd poke at him about Keith. She'd think this was so funny. She really would. She'd think it was HILARIOUS that he was cooped up with Keith for who knows how long with no escape. God, he missed her.

Chapter Text

It was hard to give each other privacy in the bolt hole. Privacy wasn't what it was designed for. There was one smallish room that held a bed, supplies, a kitchenette, and a small table with 2 rickety chairs, off that main room was a tiny bathroom, and the small work out space that could double as a bare bones 'surgery' if needed. The Blade of Marmora took training seriously, but he couldn't help but think that the few pieces of equipment the space held was more about pretending this wasn't a room for someone to bleed out in or patch themselves up on the slim chance that they'd recover from injuries sustained on missions.

Still, Keith tried to give Lance space when he seemed to want it, so while he was texting the others, Keith decided to get a bit of a work out. By the time he crossed through the main room en route to a shower, Lance had fallen asleep again. He'd been sleeping a lot, which wasn't really a surprise. He was barely eating and who knew how taxing this whole process was. The only thing that worried Keith was when he started crying in his sleep. There was just something so heartbreaking about not being able to escape the sadness and grief, even in sleep.

He was still peacefully sleeping when Keith returned, headphones in place, which he hoped was a good sign. He threw together some of the actual food that Pidge had packed up for them. Setting one knee on the bed for leverage, he leaned over to where Lance had managed to wedge himself in the upper corner of the bed and gently shook his shoulder. "Hey... you need to eat something, Lance," he said softly, "you've barely eaten all day."

Lance mumbled something incoherent and slung one long arm across Keith's back, yanking him onto the bed and flush against him. Keith squawked in surprise as he tumbled onto Lance's chest, only narrowly avoiding a painful impact of their skulls. "Lance," he sighed, fighting the urge to just curl up with him... again. "You need to eat."

Lance's other arm snaked around him- dangerously low on his back- and squeezed him tight, his face burrowing into the curve of Keith's neck, dislodging the headphones. They fell to the bed, and soft, distant music rose from them. "N'wanna," he mumbled. He was so close that Keith could feel his lips moving against the sensitive skin of his throat. He could feel the moist heat of his breath steam over his collarbone... and... holy... FUCK... it felt... a shiver rolled through him and he barely avoided letting a whimper escape.

"Lance," he tried again, his voice wavering slightly as his whole body flared to life with an exquisite awareness of Lance's proximity. "Wake up."

"Nuh-uh," he shook his head, arms tightening further, which resulted in him nuzzling Keith's throat. He hadn't shaved in a couple of days and his stubble scraped deliciously, which succeeded in wrenching a soft, breathless whimper from Keith.

"Lance!" his voice was sharper than he meant it to be, but it succeeded in startling Lance to full awareness. He felt him jolt in surprise and then he was peering into Keith's eyes, all adorably drowsy and confused, and far, far too close. "You.. um... you need to eat."

"Keith?" Pain bloomed in his eyes, awareness settling into place. "Food... right... sorry... I should..." He relaxed his arms, pushing away from Keith and grabbing the headphones and Keith's phone. "I should eat. Right." He tapped the screen, shutting the music off. "Ummm- looks like you have a text from Shi-Fos? What the quiznak is a Shi-Fos?"

"It's Shiro," Keith answered, sitting on the edge of the bed and reaching for the phone.

"Why do you call Shiro, Shi-Fos?" he asked, visibly confused.

"It's... an old nickname. Shi-Fos equals Shiro Foster. I'm in his phone as Kei-Fos. It's dumb," he shook his head, and handed Lance the plate of food he'd prepared, "I just... never got around to changing it."

"So, he was like your official foster family?" Lance asked, accepting the plate.

"Uh... yeah. That's how I got into the Garrison. They don't just let people bring thirteen year old foster kids home like stray cats. He was my legal guardian. There was some adoption talk, but it never happened."

"Why not? You guys seem pretty tight. Oh... was it Kerberos?"

Keith focused on his phone, not wanting to look Lance in the eyes, "no... before that. Some stupid policy thing. Doesn't really matter. Too late now, anyway. Same old, Same old." He pulled up the message, "no news. Shiro's just checking in with us. How should I tell him you are feeling?"

"Tell him... I feel like how my sister-in-law acted when she was pregnant," Lance answered, smiling wryly.

"Seriously?" Keith asked, skeptical.

"No- not seriously! Don't say that!"

"Then why did you tell me- never mind. Just, what should I say?" Keith sighed, trying to keep his edginess and discomfort out of his voice and body language.

"Tell him I am pretty raw, but getting better and I think I should be able to come back."

"Lance, you are not ready to go back. You know that," he said softly.

"Fine," he pouted, "leave that part out then!"

Chapter Text

He typed in the message and dropped the phone to the bed, twisting to look at Lance. Fear laced his words when he spoke. "The link between you and Allura is DANGEROUS Lance. When she got hurt, you dropped like a rock, and you weren't waking up. There was nothing the medical pod could do for you. Your vitals were dropping and no one could figure out why. You didn't wake up again until more than halfway here. If you go back now, before Allura is healed, before Pidge makes a fix, it will hurt you. We're trying to keep you safe, not punish you. Okay?"

Lance peeked up at him through his lashes, his face shy. Quiznak, that look should be illegal. He bit his lip, thinking. That should be outlawed, too. All of it. Every little adorable, sexy, endearing thing he did should be banned. Keith tried to level his breathing out, to focus on the conversation.

"Really?" Lance asked, his voice soft. "You're protecting me? Why?"

"What do you mean, WHY? Because I'm your friend, Lance, that's why. I don't want you to get hurt."

"Pidge said... this is YOUR plan... not Shiro's. You came up with this. Why?"

"Shiro would have come up with the same plan, Lance. I just put two and two together first. It's a good plan... even if I was the one that thought of it."

"That's not what I meant, Keith," he answered, shaking his head. "I'm just surprised you were the one who decided that we should be stuck together like this. That's all. I know I'm..."

"I'm immune to the empath thing, because I'm part Galra," Keith explained, "and we get along fine when you aren't picking fights or throwing down challenges. Not that it matters. I'd be here even if we were fighting constantly. I'm not afraid of a little arguing. Keeping you safe is more important."

Lance didn't say anything, he just nodded and turned his attention back to his food. He leaned back against the wall and drew his knees up, balancing his plate between his legs and his chest, his head down.

"Lance?" Keith asked softly, "are you okay? You seem upset."

"Fine," he whispered.

"Okay, even *I* know that's a lie, Lance," he sighed, "what's wrong?"

"Just... hate being so much work."

"You aren't work. I kind of expected you to be, but you aren't. You're just..." he trailed off, not sure how to finish that sentence. "You argue with me and you get upset, and you pester me... but you aren't WORK. I mean, what do I have to do, really? Answer some questions, make sure you don't try to make a break for it- and honestly, I don't even have to do that, because I KNOW Red isn't letting you leave until it is safe... other than that, all I have to do is make sure you eat when I do and like, be there when you are upset. That's not work. That's nothing. This whole thing is way harder on you than me."

"Why are you being so NICE?" Lance demanded.

"I'm not," Keith argued, "I'm just telling you the truth."

"You are," Lance insisted, "all of this... coming here... taking care of me... you are being nice."

"Lance, I'm not. I'm just being a decent person. I'm helping a friend. You'd do the same for any of us. Wouldn't you?"

"Yeah..."

"Do you think none of us notice that?" Keith asked, his voice soft, "because we do."

"I dunno... it's different."

"Hey," he crawled over to Lance, taking the plate away and tipping his face up. Shit. Lance was crying again. Tears streamed down his beautiful face. "Oh, come here," he sighed, pulling Lance into a hug and settling them comfortably against the wall, with Lance draped across his chest. "The team loves you, Lance. Any one of them would be here if they could. You have to know that."

"Hunk and Pidge, yeah," Lance answered after a moment, "and Allura..."

"Shiro, too," Keith said, "he was going to do this first, even with the whole empath thing. Coran said he couldn't because it was too dangerous. I don't get why you think Shiro doesn't like you. He does."

"Ah... that explains it." Lance sounded weirdly dejected.

"Explains what?"

"Why YOU are here... to protect Shiro. Now it makes sense."

"Dammit, Lance, that is NOT true," his voice was sharper than he intended and he felt Lance flinch. "I'm here because you need me to be. Nothing to do with Shiro. Why can't you accept that?"

"Cuz... that... that would mean you give a shit... about me... and I know better."

Keith went still, a huge part of him wanting to scream at Lance for being so blind... but really, why WOULDN'T Lance think that? It wasn't like he'd ever really given him any reason to think that he mattered to Keith. He sighed, smoothing that silky-soft brown hair in an attempt to offer comfort. "You're wrong, Lance," he whispered, "I know I suck at showing it, but I give a shit. I care about you. I really do. Okay? No more thinking I don't, because that's just not true." His heart ached. He loved this guy so much, and Lance had absolutely no idea... he never would. Somehow, that wasn't comforting anymore, just... sad.

Chapter Text

Lance was sleeping, coiled around Keith in a way that was starting to feel dangerously 'normal' when Keith's phone buzzed, alerting him to a message. It was Shiro. Keith dimmed the phone so the light from it wouldn't wake Lance and gently untangled his arms so he could type.

Shi-Fos: Checking in. What's happening?

Keith: Right now? Nothing

Keith: He's sleeping.

Shi-Fos: How are you holding up?

Keith stared at the phone trying to figure out how to sum up the millions of thoughts and feelings that were at war within him.

Keith: I'm okay. It's... not what I expected

Keith: We're okay

Shi-Fos: If you 'same old, same old' me, I swear to God, Keith, I'm coming to get you.

Keith: Definitely not same old, same old. Relax

Keith: He's just... not as much of a pain in the ass as I thought he would be

Keith: Quieter

Keith: Spends a lot of time sleeping or listening to music

Shi-Fos: Are you getting enough rest?

Keith: Yeah. I'm sleeping fine, actually

Shi-Fos: Really?

Shi-Fos: Don't lie to me so I don't worry.

Shi-Fos: won't work anyway. I'm worried about you.

Keith: Not lying

Keith: some of this is really tough But I'm actually sleeping

Shi-Fos: What parts are tough?

He sighed, glancing down at Lance's sleeping face cushioned on the curve of his shoulder, Lance's arm curled possessively over his chest. He couldn't see it, but he could feel the warmth of Lance's hand tucked around to the back of his neck, his thumb moving lightly back and forth every now and then. Getting used to this, he thought, that's not tough yet... but it WILL be.

Keith: He gets... insecure

Shi-Fos: explain

Keith: I dunno... seems like he thinks he doesn't matter or something

Keith: That's hard

Keith: He thinks you don't like him for some reason

Keith: won't believe me when I say different

Keith: talks like he thinks he's a burden sometimes

Shi-Fos: probably just backlash from being away from Allura. But thanks for the heads up.

Keith: I know

Keith: I just feel like I'm not the right person to reassure him

Shi-Fos: I disagree. You aren't someone who would lie to make him feel better and he knows that.

Shi-Fos: Everyone feels that way sometimes, Keith.

Shi-Fos: don't read too much into it

Keith: I know

Keith: any word on Allura?

Shi-Fos: Coran thinks another quintant, maybe two, in the pod.

Shi-Fos: Lance getting any more stable?

Keith: Yeah, actually

Keith: remembering more

Keith: less arguing

Keith: still pretty... cuddly? I guess?

Keith: like... needs a lot of touch- hugs and stuff

Shi-Fos: How are you handling that?

Keith: Fine

Keith: He's upset and not coping I get that

Keith: Not like I think suffering is hot, Shiro.

Shi-Fos: Not what I meant, Keith.

Shi-Fos: Just, it is hard to see someone you love suffering.

Shi-Fos: and I KNOW how much you love him.

Keith: I'm fine

Keith: It's fine

Keith: we're fine

Shi-Fos: Same old, same old?

Keith: Shiro, no.

Shi-Fos: are you SURE?

Keith: yes. Nothing 'same old' about this

Keith: Definitely going to need to get wasted after I am back though

Shi-Fos: You got it.

Shi-Fos: we can drown our broken hearts together.

Keith: Been thinking about Adam?

Shi-Fos: hard not to after what you said.

Keith: I'm sorry

Keith: I shouldn't have brought that up

Shi-Fos: Don't apologize.

Shi-Fos: It was selfish and cowardly of me not to consider what you two must have gone through.

Shi-Fos: I am the one that owes you an apology.

Shi-Fos: A face to face one.

Keith: Let's just call it even

Shi-Fos: Nope.

Shi-Fos: When you get back.

Keith sighed, he knew better than to think he'd sway Shiro from this.

Keith: Fine

Keith: I should get some sleep

Shi-Fos: Alright.

Shi-Fos: I'm here if you need to vent.

Keith: I know

Keith: You should sleep too

Keith: stop worrying about me

Keith: and Lance

Keith: we're okay

Shi-Fos: Easier said than done

Keith: night

Shi-Fos: night

Lance's hand twitched and he mumbled something in his sleep, wriggling closer. Probably dreaming... but Keith couldn't rule out the possibility of more sleep-tears. So, he deleted the entire exchange with Shiro and set the phone aside. Rolling onto his side, he wrapped his arms back around Lance. He fixed the blankets around them both and made soft, soothing noises, hoping to stave off any crying before it started.

The next few days were pretty uneventful. Lance's mood swings were starting to level out and while he was still not himself and still prone to downward spirals, they were less extreme and usually could be avoided or tempered with enough physical contact. Pidge and Hunk started texting him off and on during the day, which also helped him feel less isolated and kept him in the loop about what was happening. Shiro checked in with him first thing in the morning every day and Lance stopped acting like he thought Shiro disliked him. Keith spoke with Shiro every night and then deleted the conversation before he crashed. Lance was still listening to his music near-constantly, so he'd given him the lock code... which meant cleaning up chat logs was vital to Keith's piece of mind.

Coran had been wrong about how long Allura would be in the pod. She wasn't let out until the sixth day after Keith and Lance had arrived at the bolthole, and had apparently been so distraught at not being able to feel Lance's presence that the Blue Lion had started roaring in the hangar. Sedatives weren't really a thing in Altean medicine, so Pidge and Hunk had helpfully gotten her drunk enough to pass out. They'd told Coran it was an Earth tradition for dealing with being parted from a lover.

Interestingly, Lance had known that she was awake and upset before anyone had had the chance to tell him. He'd gotten agitated and angry, even going so far as to don his Paladin armor and try to force Red to bring him to Allura. Keith had been right about the Red Lion's unwillingness to let Lance put himself in harm's way, but he'd wisely refrained from mentioning that when Lance stomped out of the airlock of the bolthole and pushed past him to beat the shit out of the work out equipment. Keith took it as a good sign that Lance was still rational enough to recognize that that was a better option than picking a fight with him.

Things had settled down again after that, and the general thought was that Allura had just needed a bit of time to acclimatize to the lack of Lance's emotional input. Once she was awake, Pidge could start testing the device she'd been working on. This was good and bad. It turned out that the initial attempts had focused on the wrong parts of the tech available to them and Pidge had pretty much needed to start over from scratch. But she'd sent all her notes and blueprints to Ryner, who was now working with her to find a solution.

Chapter Text

Lance woke wrapped in Keith's arms. For the tenth day in a row... and every day they'd somehow managed to end up in a completely new configuration. This time, he was on his back and Keith was curled into his side, one arm under the small of his back and the other resting on his shoulder. Keith's head was right up against his jaw and cheek and his hand was buried in the glossy black strands of Keith's mullet. Somehow, he was completely, utterly comfortable- he felt like he could stay exactly as he was forever. Who would have thought that Keith would be so EASY to share a bed with? He yawned and Keith responded to the small movement and tiny noise by shifting, holding him tighter, his long fingers brushing back and forth against Lance's cheek softly, and making half-awake comforting noises. It was so... sweet... and tender... and FAMILIAR that it made his heart lurch in his chest. More and more, he was catching himself thinking that he'd be totally fine with never leaving this little bubble if Pidge couldn't find a fix. More and more he caught himself hoping that it took a little longer to find a solution.

Keith was so DIFFERENT here. Still quiet. Still way too focused on training. Still KEITH... but more approachable. Less guarded. Less... prickly. As his own moods had started to level out, he'd begun to be able to spot when Keith needed space, when he needed prodding to talk- and that was a revelation! Keith WOULD talk, often with very little prompting, as long as he thought that you genuinely wanted to hear what he had to say and knew it wouldn't be used against him. Lance had learned a lot about him in the last few days. He'd heard stories about Blade missions that Keith would NEVER tell Shiro for fear of worrying him... because, frankly, some of that shit was terrifying.

He'd heard stories about Shiro that blew his damn mind. Silly, harmless stories that old friends and family members know. Like the time Shiro had locked himself out of the house and had climbed in through Keith's window, only to get a lamp smashed on his head for his trouble. Or his many failed attempts to prepare a meal that was actually edible. He'd learned a lot about Adam, too and was kicking himself for ever being the slightest bit jealous of the guy... in part because of how he was connected to Keith, and in part because of how conflicted Keith was about him. Something bad had happened there, he didn't know what exactly, but he knew it was connected to Kerberos and Shiro. One thing was for sure, though, and that was that he was NEVER telling Shiro that he'd called Adam 'cute'!

The stories that meant the most to him, though, were the ones about Keith's Dad. He was starting to see what an act of trust it was for Keith to tell him and the others that story about his birthday celebrations with his dad that night they'd all been drinking, because whenever Keith mentioned him, his whole demeanor changed. It was easy to see how cherished the memories of his father were once he'd learned how to read Keith a little better. Honestly, he sounded like a pretty amazing guy, raising Keith by himself, even home schooling him, out there in the desert, and working as a fire fighter. He used to bring Keith with him for his shifts at the firehouse, and Keith had told him stories about hanging out with the office staff and helping to polish the trucks and organize the gear while his Dad was on a call. He could just picture tiny little Keith trying to be helpful and tagging around after his father. It was pretty clear that Keith had been the center of his Dad's world. No wonder a kid that ended up bouncing through the foster system would guard those memories so fiercely.

He'd learned that Keith sketched. Pretty well, too. He'd recognized some of the faces, and not others. When he'd asked why there were none of him or Pidge or Hunk or the others, but there were some of Shiro, Keith's answer had broken his heart a little. He only sketched people he didn't think he'd ever see again, so that he wouldn't forget their faces. Mostly though, Keith sketched things- landscapes, plants, little things like Pidge's glasses, or the funky little bowls the Arusians used, or the weird plant guns from Olkarion, or his jacket.

He'd discovered an entire playlist of karaoke recordings on Keith's phone labelled 'Fos Fam Jams'. The dorky name of it was so stinking cute that he'd literally chuckled at it for a solid minute, and the look on Keith's face when he discovered what he was laughing at was... it was everything.

Keith was everything.

He was EVERYTHING...

and he was so close...

and so untouchable.

That killed him. Keith was rapidly becoming his favorite person in existence, and while he was now pretty confident that Keith considered him an actual friend, Allura's words kept floating to the surface of his mind. "How long have you been in love with Keith?" she'd said... and the difference in his feelings for Keith THEN and Keith NOW was... so massive that only Pidge would know the words to describe it.

How was he going to go from THIS to normal life at the Castle? How was he going to go about day to day life with Voltron while Keith was off doing missions that were so much more dangerous than he'd ever realized? How was he ever going to be able to sleep without the space heater that was Keith in a bed that didn't smell like leather and good cigars and wood smoke and HOME?

"What's with the face?" Keith's voice startled him out of his thoughts.

"What face?" he asked, self conscious.

"You look worried, that's all," Keith explained, stretching hugely and making a little squeak.

How the hell did he make THAT sexy?

Lance's hands itched to touch the few inches of skin that was bared as Keith's shirt rode up his torso.

His lips ached to press into that little hollow behind his ear.

He was dying to taste his skin.

To make his breath hitch.

Make him shiver.

"Mmm? Oh. Just... thinking," he answered, smiling to reassure him as he banished those very dangerous thoughts from his mind. "Hey- don't forget, you promised to let me teach you to dance today."

"Ugh- really? You're going to hold me to that?" Keith groaned.

"I won the sparring match didn't I? Hell yes I'm going to hold you to that! It's my prize!"

"Fine. Whatever. I'm showering first. You see if you can come up with something other than goo for breakfast... and if it has booze in it, I'm cool with that."

Chapter Text

Breakfast had been boozy goo. Keith wasn't all that surprised, especially once he'd seen Lance tapping away at his phone. He didn't really mind, either. They had limited supplies and most of what was available to eat was food goo. The stuff wasn't that bad, and the vodka that Hunk had made actually made it taste a bit better. While he was eating, Lance had been snapping pictures of the bolthole from a ridiculous number of angles, even forcing him into taking a reluctant selfie with him because 'Hunk wants to see what this place is like'.

He'd barely finished eating before Lance was dragging him into the work out space, where he'd pushed everything around until they had a little clearing.

"Our dance floor," Lance had explained, "it's not as big as I'd like, but for a waltz this will work."

"A waltz?" Keith asked, "does that mean I don't have to try to keep up with you for Despacito?"

"Given how that worked out last time, I thought it would be a bad choice." Lance looked chagrined, his cheeks flushing. "A basic waltz is a great first dance- timeless, elegant, and not overly complicated."

"If you say so," Keith sighed, obviously skeptical.

"I do," laughed Lance, starting the music. "Alright, so your hands go here, and here. We are going to start with me leading, but I'll teach you to lead when you get the patterns down. The waltz is easy. It's a box step, which means we are literally tracing squares on the floor with our movements. Got it?"

"In theory," Keith said, clearly unsure.

"Good. Now, make sure you keep your elbow up. We are starting with my left foot, your right foot. You'll step back with your right, back with your left, feet shoulder width apart, then to the side with your right foot to bring your feet together, then forward with your left foot and so on. I'll count it out in threes. So, step, step, together. Easy, right?"

"How big of a step?" he asked, staring at their feet. He just KNEW he was going to screw this up.

"Ummm... a normal one?" Lance answered, "like about a foot, I guess. Do you want me to show you one or two first?"

"No, I think I can manage a normal step backwards," he griped.

"Alright. Geez," Lance rolled his eyes, "would you relax?"

"Sorry, this is weird. I'm like holding your hand and about to slow dance with you in a Blade bolthole... I don't dance. This is strange."

"We sleep in the same bed, hand holding is nothing," he pointed out, "just relax. If you screw up it's no big deal."

It was though. He didn't want to let Lance down, and he didn't want to screw up something Lance thought was SO EASY... and this felt different than sleeping in the only bed available. "Fine. I start with my right foot, yeah?"

"Yup. I'll do a three count and THEN you step, so you have warning," Lance smiled at him encouragingly and he felt heat rush through him in response. "Just look me in the eyes, don't look at your feet, and keep that elbow up. Annnnnnnd one, two, three, ONE," they started moving in unison, "two, three. Now forward, two three. Perfect! Two, three. You've got this, Keith!"

He grinned. It WAS easy. Definitely less complicated than some of the fighting maneuvers he did without thinking. "This is it?"

"This is the basic structure, yeah," Lance answered, "there are other steps and flourishes, but, Keith, you are waltzing. You are dancing, dude."

"I am, aren't I?" he laughed, shocked at how proud he was of himself.

"Yup... and we are just going to keep doing this for a while, until you don't have to think about it. Then I'll show you how to turn and move around the floor a bit."

"This is... kind of fun," he marveled, keeping his eyes on Lance's

"This is nothing," Lance replied, "wait until you learn some of the Latin dances. Those are a blast. Did you know that there are fighting styles that include dancing?"

"Really?"

"Mmmhmm... Capoeira, some traditional Japanese dances are essentially fighting forms at a different pace, some belly dance styles teach how to handle a sword," he replied easily, his smile making his eyes crinkle in a totally swoon-worthy display, "even the Paso Doble- which I think is one of the sexiest dances in history- is based on bull fighting."

"You REALLY love dance, don't you?" Keith didn't really expect an answer, Lance's whole being exuded happiness when he danced.

"I do," Lance answered, "I love everything about it, pretty much. I think it is as close to MAGIC as humans have ever gotten. Allura and I talk about that a lot- all the different ways that dance is important."

Keith's footing faltered and he lost his place in the pattern, tripping over Lance's feet and bumping into his chest. "Shit. Sorry... I screwed up."

"Yeah, you did- and look! Nothing awful happened," he teased, "just get into the starting position and we'll start again. Simple. Same as before... one, two, three. Go, two, three. There, you've got it again."

"So, I'm probably going to regret asking.. but... you and Allura? How did that happen?"

"I'm not really sure, actually," he chuckled, "we were hanging out after a dance lesson, talking about trust... and she just kissed me."

"Just, out of the blue?" He asked.

"Well, we'd been getting closer, spending a lot of time together- so I guess it wasn't really out of the blue.. But, I definitely wasn't expecting it." His smile faded a bit, "although... NOW I'm not sure how much was actually how she felt, and how much was the whole empath feedback loop thing."

Keith's heart sank. He had been right about regretting that question. "Seems like," he said softly, "you guys wouldn't have been taking it slow if it was the empath thing... and it seems like you guys were doing that. Taking it slow, I mean."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense," he brightened a bit, and Keith smiled. As much as he didn't like thinking about Lance and Allura being together, he DID like that he'd been able to say something to cheer Lance up. "Hey, check it out! You figured the turn out! We're moving in a circle."

"What? How did that happen?"

"Habit, maybe? I must have started to move in a circle, and you just followed," he smiled sweetly, "means you trust me."

"That's not news, Lance," he grumbled, "I have total faith in you to cover me in a fight, shouldn't be surprising I trust you to move me around now."

"Hey- let me be flattered," Lance teased, "I know you don't trust easily."

Keith sighed, his brow furrowing, "are you going to be impossible about this?"

"Who? Me?" his face was the picture of innocence and it was so incredibly appealing that Keith BARELY managed to catch himself before he leaned forward and kissed him. "Maybe just a liiiiiiittle?"

"Wonderful," he muttered, but the words had no heat. Lance was starting to act more like himself, and that was a good thing, even if it meant dealing with him being a pain in the ass.

Chapter Text

After the dance lesson, the day progressed pretty uneventfully. They'd trained and chatted and played some cards. Lance was unsurprisingly competitive at card games. Keith claimed it was the first time he had ever seen anyone trash talk during a game of crazy eights... but it was the way his family had always played, and somehow, it was reassuring to Lance to get so worked up over something so insignificant. Also, not surprisingly, Keith got pulled into the competition, which led to some of the most intense games of cards he'd ever played. It was fun though. It was stupid fun, actually. Lance had gotten so mad when he had been down to three cards and Keith had made him pick up four more that it almost seemed like actual steam would shoot out his ears. Keith had gotten right in his face and laughed mockingly... their eyes had locked... and for a second... time froze. Game forgotten, they just... sat there, inches apart. Then Lance had rolled his eyes and sworn revenge and everything slid right back to normal again... mostly. He tried not to think about how badly he'd wanted to kiss Keith in that moment and put actual effort into behaving more like 'himself' until they were ready to crash for the night.

They'd gotten into the habit of talking quietly as they wound down at the end of the day, curled up together in bed in their pjs. Lance couldn't really put his finger on when they'd started curling up together BEFORE he'd have a crying jag, but they had, and he was too terrified that it would stop if he brought Keith's attention to it to actually mention it. He really did need a lot of physical contact when he was upset, and while his emotions were closer to normal everyday, he still felt a bit shaky- and honestly, he probably would until he saw Allura face to face again and figured out what was happening with them.

That night though, it was Keith that had struggled. In the wee hours, Lance was awoken by the absence of Keith's warm body. He sat up and rubbed at his eyes. The bathroom door stood open, and the main room was empty. That left the air lock and the work out space as options, because there was no way Keith could have gotten into the gear he'd need to go to Red without waking Lance. "Keith?" he called, "everything okay?"

There was no answer, so Lance slid out of the bed and went to find his friend. Keith was in the other room, and it was clear that he had been moving things around, a worried crease in his forehead. "Keith?"

"Hmm?" Keith answered, not really looking up.

"What are you doing?"

"I..." he stopped, blinking as reality settled over him. "Nothing. I must have been dreaming. Thought I smelled smoke... was... just... checking? I guess?"

"Checking for a fire?" Lance asked softly. Like the one that had killed Keith's Dad, he realized. The one that had left him an orphan. He probably dreamed about fires fairly often. That was the kind of thing that tended to show up in dreams. No wonder it lingered a bit.

"Yeah," Keith lifted one hand, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I think so... I don't think I was all the way awake. I just... I felt like I had to make sure that it was safe."

"Oh. Okay," he tipped his head to one side, "do you still need to make sure?"

"What? No," he shook his head, "it was just a dumb dream."

"I know... but, if you need to make sure, just so you can stop thinking about it, we can check. It's not like we have anything we need to be doing in the morning... and even dumb dreams can linger."

He paused, pushing a hand through his hair and finally sighed, turning to Lance. He looked so young and... almost scared. "You really don't mind?"

"Keith, it's going to take all of three minutes," he said softly, "no, I don't mind. Just tell me where to look, okay?"

"Yeah... thanks... umm that far wall?" he gestured, visibly embarrassed, "sorry, I know this is stupid."

"It's not stupid, Keith. Dreams are weird. It's fine. Really. Besides, this is nothing compared to what I've been putting you through at night."

"Lance, knock it off. That's not your fault, and I'm fine with helping."

"Alright, fair enough... now just take what you just said and apply it to this situation."

Keith made a little hrrumph noise, but seemed satisfied. They took a few minutes to rule out any potential fires and Lance herded him back to bed. They were getting settled under the covers again when Keith had caught his eyes, "you don't smell smoke, right?"

"I promise," Lance had whispered, locking on to those huge, violet eyes, as if he could chase the shadows in them away with pure conviction, "I don't smell anything burning." The only smoke he smelled was the tiny traces of it that seemed to cling to Keith's skin no matter what, even when he was fresh from the shower. "You want me to help you think about something else?"

"Like what?" he asked, suspicious.

"Like... I can tell you a story about my family, in Cubano... that will mean you have to concentrate, and you'll forget all about the dream. My sister used to do that with me, tell me stories in English when I was just learning it to distract me from stuff."

"Yeah," Keith nodded, plumping his pillow and turning to face Lance. "That works. Thank-you."

By the time Lance had finished telling him about the big Easter feast his family hosted every year, Keith was sleeping soundly again, one of his arms under his head and the other flung haphazardly across Lance's chest. He smiled softly at him, pushing his hand through Keith's soft hair affectionately, before settling down to sleep himself.

Chapter Text

By the time Keith woke in the morning, Lance had already gotten up, showered, changed, and generally prepared for the day. He'd handed Keith a bowl of food goo before Keith was even really aware of the fact that he was awake.

"Morning," he'd said cheerfully, "you had a rough night so I made breakfast. Scooped the goo out all by myself and everything."

"I... did?" Keith asked, rubbing at his face. He was so confused.

"Bad dreams? Remember?" Lance prodded lightly.

"Oh!" he felt his face burn with a fierce blush, "oh quiznak. I remember. I'm sorry. I woke you, didn't I?"

Lance smiled, "not really. Your spot got cold and I woke up. You're too quiet to have woken me otherwise."

"My spot got cold?" he chuckled.

Lance's smile... changed somehow... and he nodded, "you're pretty toasty when you're sleeping." Was that a blush? Was LANCE blushing? He tipped his head, trying to get a better look, but he still couldn't tell, because Lance chose that moment to stand and grab himself a beverage pouch.

"Thanks for the help, anyway," he said softly, shifting his focus to his breakfast. "I slept fine after that."

"What are friends for, right?," Lance said, sounding totally normal and casual. "I've lost count of the number of times I've made Hunk just, like, chill out with me until I drift off when I can't sleep."

"Yeah, I guess," Keith answered, "I"m just not used to having friendships like that."

"Well, you do now," Lance replied, turning to flash a brilliant smile that took Keith's breath away. "Hurry up... I wanna teach you to lead the waltz today."

Oh no," Keith said dryly, "however will we find time to do that if I don't wolf down my food? There are just SO MANY things to do here!"

"Har. Dee. Har. Har," Lance rolled his eyes, "stuff it. I've missed dancing and I am impatient to do more of it."

"Fine," Keith sighed, scraping up the last of the goo and cleaning up after himself. "Do I at least get to shower and shave before I step on your feet?"

"Of course you do," he laughed, "who am I to get in the way of someone's beautification rituals? Scoot."

"Scoot?" he laughed, ducking into the bathroom, "that's adorable. What are you? Six? Great, I'm on a team with TWO six year olds, now!"

"You're sooo funny," drawled Lance, he didn't even have to look at him to know that he was rolling his eyes. "Wait! TWO six year olds? Who's the other six year old? Keith? Keith!"

"Yeah," he called back, "two- you and Shiro!"

Lance poked his head into the bathroom before Keith shut the door, "okay- THAT needs an explanation. Pronto!"

"Shiro's six," Keith answered, "he has had six birthdays."

"How is that even possible?"

"Wait- do you not know Shiro's birthday?" Keith gaped at him, "all that talk about him being your hero and shit and you didn't know he was born on February twenty-NINTH?"

"Shut UP! Are you SERIOUS?! Oh my god- you shower, I have got to tell Hunk and Pidge! This is... so..." he squealed, not even finishing the sentence before he disappeared.

When Keith stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist, he could hear Lance fiddling with the not-guitar that Hunk had included with his go bag. Every few minutes, he would go quiet then laugh- still messaging with Hunk and Pidge, then. Keith smiled, speculating on the playful torture those three would be plotting to unleash on Shiro. He toweled off and slipping into a pair of boxer briefs, wrapping the towel around his long hair while he brushed his teeth and shaved. He was almost done when Lance called out to him.

"Keith! Your phone just buzzed. Looks like you have a message from SHI-FOS- quiznak that dumb name never gets old," he could hear him laugh. Lance in a good mood was infectious, Keith could feel a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Want me to bring it in?"

"Nah- just read it to me," Keith answered. He finished up before Lance said anything. Puzzled, he shook his towel out and hung it to dry. "Lance?" he asked as he exited the bathroom, "is everything okay?"

Lance was sitting on the edge of the bed staring at the phone, and he had an expression on his face Keith had never seen before. "Lance?" he asked again crossing the room and touching Lance's shoulder, "what did Shiro say?"

Chapter Text

Lance blinked, and turned his face to Keith's. He was pale, and his eyes... those ocean blue eyes churned with emotion, dark and stormy. He stood, closing in on Keith, radiating intensity that was very un-Lance-like. "I opened the message," he said, his voice low and soft, his rarely heard accent slipping out on the edges of the words. "Like you told me to. You told me to. That's important. I didn't go snooping."

"Yeah," Keith agreed, confused, "I told you to."

"Shiro doesn't seem the type to be casually bi-phobic... am I wrong about that?" he asked, still unnervingly intense.

"No... you're not wrong?" Keith was starting to worry, "why? What did he say?"

"Well, the message that just came in just said good morning, no news... but see... there was a second unread message... and I saw both... and this other message... it didn't really make sense to me... because it was kind of a strange thing to just SAY out of the blue... and, like I said, he didn't seem to be bi-phobic to me... so... I really couldn't understand why he would tell YOU to... oh, let me read this out, because I really don't want to screw it up." He lifted the phone, his eyes flicking away from Keith's for a microsecond, "I quote- beware rebounding bi boys. That's kind of a weird thing to say, just out of the blue, isn't it?" Lance cocked his head to one side, those incredible eyes boring into Keith.

Keith swallowed, his stomach bottoming out and his pulse going crazy. Oh god. Oh God. OH GOD! This was bad. Bad. Bad... sooo BAD... He was trapped, there was nowhere to go. He wished the floor would open up and swallow him the way the training room's did when you screwed up in the shielding sim. "Ummm..."

"So, then," Lance said his voice dropping to a whisper, "I started thinking... WHY would Shiro say that to Keith? I'm the only bi boy I can think of... and I'm here, all alone, with Keith... who Shiro is very protective of. But.. WHY, Keith? Why would he say THAT and not 'I know he's a pain, but please don't kill him'? And then, I had a thought... it seems pretty out there..." He licked his lips, his eyes dropping to Keith's mouth, and there was something so... fucking sexy about his face, his posture, his CLOSENESS that it made Keith's breath hitch and his cheeks burn. "But the only thing that makes sense is... he's worried about me hurting you... but the only way I could do that..." His eyebrow quirked up, questioning, "is if you cared... more than a friend... right?"

Keith tried to back away but hit the mattress, barely catching himself before he fell backwards. Lance's arm shot out, catching him around the small of his back and holding him until he steadied himself. Just that contact was... Fuck... His breath stopped. Lance withdrew his arm, the very tips of his fingers barely trailing over the bare skin of Keith's back. It was clear that Lance was making a point not to touch him without good cause. He was close... so close... but Keith had no doubts that he'd back off in an instant if Keith gave him any reason to. Still the proximity was making him short circuit. He could barely hear anything over the pounding of his heart, the rush of blood deafening in his ears. His life flashed before his eyes. His whole body tingled like he was too close to an electrical current... arousal sizzled through his skin...

"Are you going to make me ask, Keith?" Lance breathed, so close he could feel it caress his skin. Lance studied his face, "or are you just going to say it?"

Keith tried to speak, but all that came out was a tiny, needful whimper. At that sound, Lance's whole face changed, and the lopsided, speculative, smirk that spread over his features like warm honey and dark promises was the single hottest thing Keith had ever seen in his life.

"Are you... into me, Keith?" he purred, leaning still closer, "do you have... a thing... for me?"

"Um... um..." His lips were so close. So close... and his eyes... oh god... Keith had never seen anything as mesmerizing as Lance's eyes right in this moment.

"Because, Mullet... ¡Dios mío!... I have been... soooo head over heels for you... for soooo long... and... I thought... it was... hopeless..."

Keith blinked, trying desperately to make his brain process what was happening.

"Keith?" he met Keith's panicked gaze, "I want to kiss you. Can I kiss you?"

"H-head over heels?" Keith breathed, having found his voice, even if it was barely audible and rough with emotion and lust, "for me?"

"Mmhmmm..." Lance nodded, lifting one of hands to almost cradle Keith's face, still being impossibly careful not to touch him. If anything was going to happen between them, it would have to be Keith that closed the distance. "You made me yearn for so long..."

Keith moved without conscious thought, his head tipping forward and to the side, brushing against Lance's hand. They both trembled, breath catching in unison.

"Are you?" Lance whispered, his eyes pleading and vulnerable and filled with barely banked hunger, "into me?"

Keith nodded, letting the movement carry him forward so he could press his lips against Lance's. The contact was so exquisite that he gasped, his hand rising to slide along Lance's jaw and into his hair, holding him close as Keith changed the angle of his head, parting his lips and tracing the soft velvet of Lance's mouth with his tongue.

Lance shivered.

Keith whimpered.

Lance's arm slid around Keith's back, closing the fraction of an inch that separated their bodies, as he returned the incendiary kiss.

Chapter Text

Dammmmmmmn Keith could KISS! All trace of nerves or self-consciousness vanished the instant their lips had touched. Keith's mouth moved against him with a confident hunger that made delicious tingles race up and down his spine, and scalding, heavy heat settle into his belly. Lance made a noise that was very similar to a purr and tightened his hold on Keith, not wanting the kiss to end. This kiss was the culmination of just... so much.

All that pining.

All that worry.

All that agonizing soul searching because this guy, this beautiful, brave, talented, moody, standoffish, hot-headed guy had so filled his thoughts and heart that he'd single-handedly dragged Lance, kicking and screaming out of a very roomy, glass-walled closet thankyouverymuch. Months of holding back, resisting temptation, telling himself that what he felt was one-sided. That there was no way that Keith saw him as anything other than a teammate, or maybe a begrudging friend on good days.

All of it crashed through him like a breaking wave and he got completely swept away by the reality of having Keith in his arms. Of being in Keith's arms.

He sighed, the sound swallowed by Keith's kiss. He ran his hand up and down Keith's spine, needing more contact. His fingers tangled and twisted in Keith's shower-damp hair.

Keith's teeth caught his bottom lip and he whimpered, the sensation surprising and exquisite.

Keith sucked his tongue into his mouth and Lance shuddered.

Keith tugged at his hair, changing the angle of the kiss again, and Lance hissed.

Keith broke away from his lips to press scorching kisses in a path along his jaw and down his throat and Lance whined, mourning the taste of him. His head flew back to better expose himself to these hot, sharp, little kisses, and he craned forward encouragingly, sending them both crashing to the bed.

That was fine.

Better than fine.

He was SO on board with having Keith Fucking Kogane, sprawled out beneath him on that big bed while they kissed. Keith nipped at his earlobe and Lance jolted, a moan rattling through him.

"God, that's hot," Keith purred, nipping at his ear again.

"What is?" Lance gasped, hips rolling of their own accord, grinding against Keith's thigh.

"Those little noises you keep making," Keith answered, his voice rough before he sucked the flesh of Lance's throat into his mouth and did something... magical... that made Lance shudder and his eyes roll back in his head. He felt, rather than heard Keith laugh, and then he was the one sprawled out on his back, with Keith's weight pressing him into the mattress. He heard a small pop sound as Keith pulled away, then the sizzling heat of a tongue being dragged from collarbone to jaw bone. "Your skin tastes good," Keith whispered before catching his lips in another soul-rending kiss.

Quiznak. He'd always been a fan of kissing... necking... just making out in general.. but this was... so next level he couldn't even cope. There was a hunger that rode him that was light years beyond anything he'd experienced before. Keith was making his blood boil with just a few kisses. How? How was he so hot? Soooo sexy?

Keith's skin felt impossibly smooth, and every little brush of his fingers over it made Lance shudder. He kneaded at Keith's back, his shoulders, grabbed at his hips, dragged his hand down the thigh that was tucked up against his side. He just. couldn't. stop. touching. Keith.

Keith's mouth left his, and he dragged a deep, ragged breath into his lungs... which promptly escaped as a fluttering little moan as Keith started to bite and suck his way along Lance's jawline and down his throat. "Holy shit," he panted- he'd always been a playful/sweet kind of bedmate, but he was seriously loving Keith's penchant for biting. "Keiiiiith," the name was a whimper, accompanied by the arching of his back.

"Like that?" Keith whispered darkly, grinding against Lance's leg as he bit down harder on the cord of muscle that led from Lance's shoulder to his neck.

"Fuck! Keith!" he yelped, shuddering as a bright star of pleasure radiated from the spot making his vision go white.

He felt a soft kiss against his lips and gentle fingers brush his hair back from his face. "Well, I wasn't planning on going quite THAT far this morning," Keith purred, humor lacing his voice. His eyes drifted open to see Keith gazing down at him. He'd thought Keith was gorgeous before? Holy hell, he'd been so wrong! The vision above him was unreal. Keith's hair had dried enough that it was starting to fluff up and combined with their activities, it looked incredibly sex-mussed. Those beautiful, beautiful violet eyes nearly glowed they were so lit up with arousal and... something more. His face was flushed, skin dewy, lips red and kiss swollen and teeny tiny little fangs peeked out behind that very smug smile. Wait. What? FANGS?!

"Keith... your... teeth..." he struggled to catch his breath.

"Felt good, huh?" he cooed, playing with Lance's hair.

"Fuck, yeah... but... Keith... you have fangs. Tiny, sexy little fangs."

"What?!" Keith scrambled off the bed, racing to the bathroom and peering at his reflection. "What the actual hell?!"

"So, I guess that's that for the sexytimes mood?" Lance called out, head kind of reeling from the sudden change of activity. He followed Keith into the bathroom, slipping his arms around Keith's waist from behind. "I think they're cute... and kind of hot... and holy shit- my neck!"

"Well, I'm glad you like them, but I didn't HAVE them when I brushed my teeth, Lance," Keith grumbled, turning in Lance's arms to inspect his neck, "and I didn't KNOW I had them when I bit you... That could have been really bad, Lance..." He touched one of the angry-looking red rings that encircled a rather impressive number of hickeys. "Tender?"

Lance flinched, "without all those endorphins? Yeah, a little... it's not too bad, though. Really, Keith." He flashed a cocky smile and twisted those elegant eyebrows into a decently convincing leer, "one hundred percent worth it."

"Hmmmpf..." Keith scowled, "doesn't look like I broke skin anywhere."

"See? Totally fine," Lance tipped Keith's face up to his and dropped a gentle kiss to his lips, and then his forehead. "The fussing is cute, but stop worrying. Okay?"

He lifted those violet eyes to meet Lance's and sighed, but mustered a small smile. "This galra stuff just keeps throwing me curveballs."

"Oh yeah, the hits keep coming," Lance agreed, "because you have normal teeth again."

"Ugh!" Keith groaned, "quiznak- I'm going to have to tell Shiro and Coran and..." He went pale, "shit... Allura."

"You don't HAVE to," Lance pointed out, "and if you decide to, it doesn't have to be right away. You can totally take some time to adjust and process this yourself before cluing them in."

"But, they'll want to make sure that it isn't a sign that I am going to start... being more Galra," countered Keith. "Record it, test it, track it, and all that."

"Yeah, I get that. I understand that none of us really know what to expect in terms of your Galra blood and how it might change things," his voice was gentle, "but it still something that is happening to YOU. You get final say in who knows and when they know it."

"But what if there are other changes, ones I might not notice?"

Lance could see the panic starting to build in Keith's eyes. "Hey," he cooed, cupping Keith's face between his hands, "I already know about the teeth, and we are cooped up in here, just the two of us, for who knows how long. I'd LIKE to think that know you pretty well at this point, right? Definitely better than Allura or Coran do. So, how about this? I will record any changes I see in you- just like the time, the situation, and the change- and I'll talk about it with you, and you can decide when to share that information with them. Does that work for you?"

Keith thought for a moment and then visibly relaxed. "Yeah," he said quietly, "that works for me." He chewed at his still kiss-swollen lip for a second, "and yes. You do know me pretty well. Better than almost anyone, actually."

Lance blushed, smiling softly for a moment before an impish glint appeared in his eye and his expression turned playful, "better than Shiro?"

Keith made an unimpressed face, "Shiro basically raised me for four years, so no, not better than him... but you know stuff about me that he doesn't."

Chapter Text

Lance was surprisingly good at calming him down and keeping him calm, Keith reflected, glancing up from the page. After he'd talked him down from the edge of a panicked meltdown, he'd tossed clean clothes at him and told him to get dressed, poured him a drink (a real one- a space screwdriver), then plunked him into one of the rickety chairs they mainly avoided and handed him his sketching stuff, telling him to draw something. After that, he'd grabbed the other chair, and the not-guitar and vanished into the little work-out space, giving Keith as much privacy as he could manage. He'd even made a point of leaving his phone behind, as if he knew that Keith would be worried about what he might be saying to the others. Not that he thought Lance would tell anyone about the fangs, he knew that wouldn't happen... but what LED to the fangs? Yeah... that might get discussed with Hunk and/or Pidge and Keith wasn't really ready to even think about that.

He was actually kind of surprised at how Lance had responded. Before they'd ended up here, he would have thought that Lance's repertoire of 'how to support someone' consisted of bad jokes, rough-housing, and hugs. He would have thought Lance would be one of those people that pushed you to talk. People in general were big on talking. Somehow, though, Lance had known he'd need some space and a distraction. It was interesting to Keith that Lance's choice of distraction for him was sketching. Shiro would have dragged him off for a sparring match. Keith himself likely would have gone with training- that tended to be his go to when he was upset or stressed out. Lance, though? He'd picked the far more personal, far more low key hobby that hardly anyone even knew about... and he'd been right. This was helping. A lot, actually.

He'd drawn a few of the little items that were scattered around the room. Just stuff that had interesting lines, or the light hit in funny ways. Nothing particularly important or complicated. The breakfast dishes in the little rack, drying. Lance's sneakers, tumbled together where he'd kicked them off. The handle of the bathroom door. Now, he was sketching the pillows, but his mind kept wandering.

That kiss. That whole encounter. Lance's lips on his. Lance's taste on his tongue. The way his scent changed as those sexy little sounds he made escalated. Lance's hands on his skin... just... everywhere at once. His voice when he'd said that... 'head over heels'. Lance's EYES when he'd confessed to yearning. YEARNING, for Keith. It didn't seem real. But it didn't feel like a lie, either... and Lance wasn't a cruel person. Impulsive, rash and thoughtless at times, but not cruel.

So, that meant they were pretty much on the same page, right? He sighed, shifting in the oddly shaped chair. How long had he been sitting here, drawing? He'd barely touched his drink after the first couple of anxious gulps, but he was starting to feel hungry, so that meant it had been a couple of hours since breakfast, at least. He set his paper and pencils aside and stood, stretching before heading to the other room.

"Lance?" he asked from the doorway. Lance was sprawled in the little chair, one leg hooked over the arm as he fiddled around with the alien instrument, "you want food? I'm getting hungry."

He turned those blue eyes on him, and Keith felt his stomach do a little flip. Somehow, he reacted even more strongly to the leggy Cuban than he did before. He wouldn't have thought that was possible. But the second those eyes met his, a rush of memories of those kisses, the feel of being under him, his breath catching, more... flooded him. God, he loved this guy.

"I could eat," Lance replied, smiling shyly, "feeling any better?"

Keith rubbed the back of his neck and shifted his weight to his other foot. Lance's lip quirked upwards. "Yeah, actually. Thanks... that was a good call... What?"

"Nothing... just... that thing you do- with your neck? Shiro does it, too. I mean a lot of people do- but you do it EXACTLY the same way he does."

"So?" Keith asked, confused about where this was going.

"It's just cute, that's all. Like... it's a family thing. Kind of like how it is cute when Pidge and Matt say the same thing at the same time... or when Allura gets so caught up in what she's doing that Coran shakes his head and mutters about Alfor." He shrugged one shoulder, "it's cute."

"Okay?" Keith blushed, not sure how to respond to that. Lance chuckled and stood up, closing the distance between them in a couple of long strides. Then his hands were on Keith's hips and his thumbs skimmed over his hipbones under the hem of his shirt. The blush intensified and Keith glanced up at Lance's face.

"The blush is cute, too," Lance whispered, "for such a scowly badass, you do a lot of really cute things."

"I do, huh?" Keith relaxed a little, enjoying the small touch. He looped his arms around Lance's waist, linking his hands at the small of his back and moved a little closer.

"Yeah, you really do," Lance replied, "you can be downright adorable."

"Cute AND adorable... I'm not sure I'm liking where this is headed. Those are words people use to describe babies and small animals."

"Hey now- I ALSO called you a badass," Lance pointed out.

"Yeah, a SCOWLY badass," Keith countered, "I'm not sure that's a compliment."

"It is," Lance's eyes flicked to Keith's lips, "it all was. Kissably cute. Sexy scowl. HOT badass."

"Hot?"

"Oh yeah," Lance's voice dropped, making it very clear that he wasn't kidding about how sexy he found it. "Seriously hot."

Keith smiled up at him and then they were kissing again. Arms tightened, locking them chest to chest. Keith gasped at the contact and Lance took control of the kiss, sweeping his tongue past parted lips to explore. Keith trembled, his body flaring in response to the giddy rush of the kiss. He stepped back, taking Lance with him, the two of them moving in concert toward the big bed until the back of Keith's knees hit the mattress. Lance sat Keith down on the bed, breaking off the kiss with a smile.

"You said you were hungry."

Chapter Text

"What?" Keith blinked up at him, a little dazed from the abrupt end to that very promising encounter.

"You asked me if I was hungry, because you were hungry," Lance chuckled. "But I kinda love how distracting you find kissing me."

"Ugh," Keith swatted at Lance's leg playfully, "great- like you needed an ego boost! You're going to be a nightmare about this, aren't you?"

"A nightmare? Me?" he teased, waggling his eyebrows, "nah, I'm gonna be your dream come true, Mullet."

Keith flopped back on the bed, hands over his face, "what have I done?"

He heard some rustling and then felt the mattress give beside him as Lance stretched out. "You," he whispered, setting a Galra meal replacement ration bar down on Keith's chest, "admitted that you LIKE me. So, the complaining isn't gonna fool me... eat up, Keefy."

Keith sighed, uncovering his face and picking up the bar. He rolled his eyes at Lance, "doesn't mean I am a fan of your ego."

"Yeah- it kinda does," Lance replied easily, "I bet you think it is actually pretty charming."

"Yeah, no... I don't think that," he insisted.

"Gotcha... it's more of a sexy, attractive thing than charming. That makes sense, people are always talking about how confidence is what makes someone sexy."

Keith groaned, fighting the urge to smile, "why are you like this?"

"Like what? Honest? Charming? Confident? Witty? Hot? You really need to be more specific, sugarplum."

He sat up, grumbling nonsense under his breath as he opened the bar and took a bite. Sugarplum? And here he'd thought that 'Keefy' and 'Mullet' were bad. Sugarplum was a whole new level of awful.

"Speechless?" laughed Lance, who crunched into his own bar while still sprawled on the bed. "I haven't forgotten about that waltz lesson I was planning, by the way."

"Seriously?" Keith sighed, "I suck- why are you so gung-ho to teach me to dance?"

"You don't suck," Lance protested, "why do you think you suck?"

"Umm... because I screwed up and stepped on your feet?" Keith's voice was incredulous.

"ONE time! You did that ONE time. That is NOT sucking, Keith! That's really good."

Keith turned to face him, his expression openly dubious.

"I mean it. You did really well. You picked up the moves quickly. Your stance was good. You didn't fight being led. All those things tend to trip up new dancers."

"Really?"

"Yes!" Lance was getting exasperated, "okay- let's say that your bayard hadn't formed some kind of blade, but some weird alien weapon you'd never used before. Would you expect yourself to be able to kick ass with it the very first time you saw it?"

"Obviously not," Keith scoffed.

"Right, but you'd probably do a decent job, because you have a good basic knowledge of fighting. You've got the strength and the flexibility and the grace. Same thing with dance. Still needs grace and flexibility and strength- which you have... it's just applying those skills differently. Make sense?"

"Is that why you were getting so frustrated with me that night we were all drinking?" Keith asked.

"I wasn't frustrated with you," Lance said, sitting up. "Why did you think I was?"

Keith couldn't meet his eyes, he just stared at his fingers as he plucked at the bedding, "we were talking and dancing... and your face like... closed off..."

Lance went quiet for a second, thinking, "after the comment about showing off for Allura... I thought you were mocking me. I was hurt... and, okay, yeah maybe a little frustrated- because it is HARD to get close to you, and I thought we were making progress.."

"We were," Keith interrupted, "we were getting closer... which is probably why I freaked out and said something stupid. I've been trying to work on that..."

"Trust is really tough for you, huh?" Lance asked gently.

"Well, yeah. Everyone I've ever trusted has left-" his eyes flew open and he clamped his mouth shut, suddenly realizing what he was saying.

Lance shifted on the bed, pulling Keith into a gentle hug. Keith sat stiffly, his arms locked over his chest and head turned away. "Okay, so I'm not going to make any promises that I will always be around, because I know that you won't believe them right now- and that is completely okay. I WILL tell you though, that Hunk considers you family and a friend, and as long as there is breath in his lungs and that giant heart of his is beating, that is not going to change... and Pidge feels the same way, and you have SEEN what she is willing to do to get family back. So... yeah... there's that." Keith shuddered slightly, still not talking, still not looking at him, so Lance continued. "Just so you know- I get why it might seem better to keep everyone at a distance than risk getting close. But, it seems to me like you still care anyway... so all you are doing is protecting yourself from the good parts, and not the bad ones, cuz it still sucks when someone leaves, even if they have no idea that you care."

"You sound like Black," Keith muttered, shaking his head.

"I didn't know Black was so smart," Lance teased.

"You are the worst," Keith muttered, not quite managing to avoid the laugh that bubbled through him, "the absolute worst."

"Says the guy who TOTALLY has a thing for me," he prodded.

"I'm starting to think you are wrong about that, Lance," he grumbled.

"My achey neck disagrees," Lance chuckled.

"It hurts?" Keith was suddenly pushing Lance away so he could get a better look at his neck, "how bad... stupid fucking fangs..."

"Oh yeah," Lance drawled, "you're not the slightest bit into me, Mr. Fussypants." He caught Keith's face between his cupped hands, and rested their foreheads together, "it doesn't hurt. It aches a little- but in a good way. A 'hey- remember that totally hot make-out session with the guy you've been crushing on forever' kind of good way."

Chapter Text

"Crushing on forever?" Keith echoed.

Lance grinned, his expression impish, "no complaints about 'Mr. Fussypants' as a nickname? Noted! Also, out of all that, you skip the 'totally hot make-out session' part and go right to the end bit? Alrighty." His smile turned shy, leave it to Keith to latch on to the one part he was hoping would slide, "yeah... since... uh... let's just say a long ass time."

Keith's eyes sparkled, and somehow that made the most gorgeous eyes he'd ever seen EVEN MORE gorgeous. He nearly sighed, just from how damn pretty those eyes were. But the more important thing was that Keith seemed to be relaxing and cheering up a little. So, the flirty compliments were helping, then... he could work with that.

"I could ask Red," Keith pointed out, "she'd know, right?"

"He wouldn't say- wait... Did you just call Red 'she'?" Lance stopped, his head cocked to one side as he reached out to his Lion. "That's weird. Red definitely feels male to me."

"That is strange," Keith agreed, "you'd think it would be the same for both of us, right?"

"Yeah... although... It's pretty much an emotional imprint I get, so it could just be that I read that combination of emotions differently than you do. I'm not totally sold that giant magical robot Lions HAVE genders the way we think of them."

"Pidge called Green her 'girl', so we aren't the only ones who assigned a gender though," Keith pointed out.

"Yeah, Hunk calls Yellow 'he', and Allura refers to Blue as female, just like I did... do... whatever. Black... I don't think I've ever heard Shiro say one way or the other..."

"Black feels male to me, I guess," Keith said, "although, that could be because Black reminds me of Shiro a lot of the time."

"Makes sense, Red reminds me of you," Lance replied, "I mean, other than the whole you used to be Red's Paladin thing. Like, you guys have a lot of the same strengths."

"We were a good pair," agreed Keith, "but so are you and Red."

"I can't believe Red let you fly us here... wherever here is," Lance sighed.

"Only because it was to protect you," Keith curled back into Lance's arms, resting his head against his shoulder, "to help you. You'll be the one piloting us out of here. When it is time to go back."

Lance smiled, nuzzling the top of Keith's head. "Which won't be for a while, Pidge doesn't even have a prototype, yet... although she said Ryner has some theories."

"We've still got lots of supplies, at least," Keith said, "but I don't like that they can't form Voltron."

"You and me both," Lance agreed, "especially since this is all my fault."

"How is this your fault, Lance?" Keith tipped his face up, meeting Lance's eyes, "you had no idea about any of it. This is no one's fault."

"It feels like my fault," Lance answered, "I'm the one that had to be isolated."

"So, you didn't die," Keith pointed out. "And probably take Allura with you... maybe even all the others."

"What are you talking about?"

"What's the last thing you remember before waking up on our way here, Lance?"

"Umm... the mine... the floor caved in, Allura's suit was damaged, I told her to jump..."

"And she did, and you caught her," Keith picked up from the last of Lance's memory, "and she was hit... right about here." He rested his hand over the spot that Allura had been injured, "and you collapsed... and so did Shiro, Pidge, and Hunk." He snapped his fingers, "one injury knocked out FIVE Paladins... just like that."

"Quiznak," Lance breathed, "you weren't kidding about that link being dangerous."

"Yes, Lance," Keith said dryly, "that's exactly the kind of thing I am known to crack jokes about. Almost having to watch every person I care about in the universe get picked off by Galra in a fucking mine shaft."

"Sorry... shit... I'm sorry," he cupped Keith's face softly, the reality of the situation starting to sink in, "you... saved us. All of us. HOW?"

"I'm... fast?" Keith half-shrugged, "I don't know... I pulled you and Allura to cover, then Shiro and Pidge, then Hunk... there was a pretty big pile of rubble to use as cover... and the others came around pretty quickly."

"You're fast," he echoed, staring at the man in his arms in awe. "You. Are. AMAZING. You saved all five of us, on your own. That's amazing. Thank-you."

Keith blushed, but it wasn't like the cute blushes from earlier, this was different somehow. Less cute... there as something... kind of sad about it.

"I didn't really think about it, Lance," he said after a moment, "I just... reacted. I just did what any of you would do. Don't turn it into a big thing."

"So, I'm supposed to NOT thank you for saving my life, because Pidge or Hunk or whoever would also save my life in that position? You really think I wouldn't say thank-you to one of them if they were in your position?" He kissed Keith, just a sweet, chaste little press of lips to lips, but it was still enough to send his heart into a freefall. "Just accept the gratitude Mr. Fussypants and say 'you're welcome', already."

"That nickname is sticking, isn't it?" he shook his head and rolled his eyes, "fine... you're welcome."

"It must have been awful to see everyone hurt at once like that," Lance said after a moment. "I would have been terrified."

"I didn't have time to think about it. I just reacted."

"Yeah... but later?"

"Later we were trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Allura's injury was healing, but she wasn't getting better, and you didn't have a scratch on you but your vitals kept fading. You were both just... fading away and no one knew why. If you hadn't gotten me to train with you that morning. If you hadn't mentioned being an empath..." He trailed off, his face pale.

"So... you saved me twice," Lance whispered, "and then you came here, with me, and you've been taking care of me ever since."

"You haven't needed 'taking care of' in days, Lance," Keith griped, "don't make this a bigger deal than it is."

"I'm not! I just... you haven't really given yourself a chance to process everything, that's all."

"There's nothing to process- everyone is fine."

Lance hugged him close. He could practically FEEL the eye roll he knew Keith was giving him, but he wasn't about to let that stop him. Eventually, Keith would have to realize that the whole mess in the mines was traumatic and needed addressing, but that day clearly wasn't THIS day, and he knew Keith well enough to know that pushing would be bad. So, he had to just let it drop for now. "Sooooo?" he asked slyly, "ready for that waltz lesson?"

Chapter Text

Soooooo, waltzing with Lance was actually kind of amazing. Not that Keith would ever admit that out loud to LANCE... but it kind of was. He'd probably never LOVE dancing, but he had to admit that he'd enjoyed dancing with Lance. It helped that the dance itself wasn't that hard, especially now that he wasn't trying to do it backwards. But the joy on his face. Quiznak, the sheer joy that beamed out of Lance was... intoxicating. Without even really being aware of it, Keith had learned the basic steps, and some fancy stuff he didn't know the name of, but that made Lance do that weird little rooster crow howl thing he did sometimes in his Lion. He was so happy it made Keith's heart feel like it might actually burst because it wasn't big enough to hold all that love.

After awhile, Lance abandoned that whole 'your space/my space' thing and tugged Keith in close as they danced and that was even better. He'd spontaneously laugh, or playfully dip Keith. His eyes would close and he'd hum along to the music. He'd dust sweet little kisses over Keith's face, or whisper little endearments to him in Cubano. A happy- truly happy- Lance was an incredible sight and for a little while, Keith really believed that Lance was truly happy. For the space of a dance, the entire universe outside of their little bolt-hole ceased to exist. No war. No weird empathic spiral. No stress. Just the two of them, some music, and a dance.

He had no idea how long they were box-stepping around the work-out space, but eventually they got thirsty and they stumbled into the main room together. Keith found his abandoned drink from earlier and topped it up, mixing another for Lance and then he dropped onto the bed, beaming at Lance. "Can we listen to some music that ISN'T a waltz now?"

Lance downed half his drink in two gulps and then shuddered, "woah- forgot how strong that space vodka is. Music. Yes. Definitely." He held up Keith's phone, "something from your playlist? Which I absolutely want to copy once we get back to the Castle of Lions, by the way."

"Like I am going to say no to my own music?" Keith laughed, "just... stay away from the messaging app."

Lance made a show of pulling up the music and hitting play before he crawled up onto the bed bedside Keith, "I don't know... that little snafu this morning turned out pretty well." He leaned in and kissed Keith softly, "right?"

"That doesn't mean that I want you reading everything that Shiro THINKS he is sending to me," Keith countered, "just... Shiro deserves some privacy, that's all."

"Yeah, okay," Lance relented, "fair enough. You wanna play crazy eights?"

"No, you are in too good a mood to risk you losing a round of crazy eights," Keith chuckled. "How about... you tell me some stories in Cubano?"

"But we just did all that waltzing," Lance replied, "we should do something you enjoy."

"I do enjoy that," he answered, smiling, and taking a sip of his drink, "I like hearing about your family, your life on earth. I like trying to figure out the differences between Cubano and Spanish. I like getting to hear you speak your first language."

"Really?" Lance looked surprised, "I got the impression it was... like a chore or something."

Keith shook his head, not really ready to tell Lance WHY he hadn't been the most enthusiastic listener in the days before they ended up here together. "Nope, c'mere," smiling at Lance, he dropped a pillow onto his lap and leaned back against the wall. Lance stretched out resting his head on the pillow and smiled up at Keith, who brushed his bangs back tenderly. "Tell me a story."

"How about... the first time I went driving with my Tio Angus?" he asked.

"Sure.. wait... you have an uncle named ANGUS?" Keith laughed, "I was NOT expecting that!"

"Yeah, Angus McClain," Lance answered, "it is a Scottish name. My Dad's Dad is from Glasgow."

"How about, instead of the driving story, you tell me THAT story?"

"Sure," Lance replied, switching to Cubano. It was a really sweet story, and it really showcased Lance's romantic streak. Lance's grandfather had been a musician, who had gotten a job working for a cruise company on a ship that had a four day stopover in Varadero and his grandmother worked at a little market stall near port. He'd spent an entire year 'wooing' her four days at a time. Her family had NOT been a fan of his pursuit- apparently cruise liner staff were not generally well regarded by the locals, but she had not let that little detail blind her to the charms of 'her Scotsman' and they'd eloped on the last day of his last scheduled stopover and he simply never returned to Scotland. They named their first son Angus- after some old Celtic god of poetry and love. So, it seemed the romantic nature was genetic in Lance's case. Keith could hear the love and admiration in Lance's voice as he spoke about his family and it warmed something inside of him... over and above the heat generated by just how sexy Lance was when he spoke Cubano, all low and slow and soft.

During the story, they'd both finished their drinks and Keith had set the empty mugs to one side. They hadn't been weak drinks, and Hunk's homemade vodka was strong, so they both had very beginning of a buzz by the time Lance finished telling him about his grandparents' vow renewal when he was a kid. "Your family sounds really great," Keith sighed. "No wonder you miss them so much."

"Yeah, I am really lucky," Lance agreed, his voice wistful, "my family is awesome."

"If anyone deserves an awesome family, it's you," Keith whispered, "because you don't take them for granted. Okay, NOW tell me the story about driving with your uncle Angus.

Chapter Text

"In a minute," Lance answered, closing the small distance between them to kiss Keith softly. Keith's lips parted almost instantly and before he knew it, that sweet little kiss ignited.

Lance's hand buried itself in all that inky-soft black hair with a low moan. Keith wound his arms around Lance, his hands tucking up under Lance's shirt. God, his hands were so warm...almost scorching hot against Lance's skin, and it felt amazing. He rolled, pinning Keith with his weight, their legs tangling together.

Keith made a little growling noise that made something twist tight deep in Lance's belly, and he shifted his weight, tucking his thigh snugly against the hardness that was beginning to press insistently against his hip. It was SUCH a turn on to know that he got to Keith like this. Keith- who had always seemed so impossibly untouchable. And who was now under him. Kissing him with a hunger that matched his own. So, very, very, irresistibly touchable.

He broke the kiss by catching Keith's bottom lip between his teeth and tugging lightly before releasing him. Keith's eyes were dark and luminous, somehow both at once. His face with flushed with arousal, lips just starting to swell from kissing. "So hot," he whispered, roughly, raining hot little kisses over Keith's forehead, his cheeks, his jaw, "so gorgeous."

Gasping, Keith found his throat again, making him shudder from the ripples of pleasure that radiated out from hot lips and teeth working him over. His hips rolled, his body fully at attention in response to the guy in his arms. He tugged at Keith's hair, making him hiss and bare his own throat. Hungry little kisses and sharp nibbles followed, and he smiled triumphantly when he discovered that they made Keith whimper and squirm against him.

"Jesus, Lance," Keith murmured, his head craning back as he started pulling at Lance's shirt, "off..." Lance didn't need to be told twice. Levering himself up off of Keith, he pulled his shirt off and tossed it aside. Keith's hands immediately flattened against his pecs, and he shivered at the touch, his breath catching in his throat as Keith's fingers skimmed lightly over his skin tracing out the bumps and hollows. His eyes found Keith's and locked, losing himself in that purple gaze. Reaching out, he brushed Keith's bangs out of his face, letting his fingers linger.

Words sat on the tip of his tongue threatening to fly out. Too serious. Too soon. Too much. Way too much. Way too soon. Way too serious. But he could feel them there, heavy and earnest... and he knew he had to leave them unvoiced. This thing with Keith... it felt impossibly fragile and he absolutely refused to wreck it by being his impulsive, emotional self. Instead, he settled his weight back over Keith and kissed him, pouring the unsaid words into the kiss along with every scrap of emotion that backed them up.

The kiss felt like it lasted forever, and it just. kept. ramping. up. By the time it broke, they were both breathless and trembling, faces flushed, eyes glazed- lost in a frenzy of desire. Keith moaned and rolled Lance onto his back kissing his way down his throat and past his collarbones. Hot, hungry hands slid over his ribs. Down his sides. Clutched at his hips. Lance's own hands tangled in Keith's hair and his back arched from the feel of those teeth and lips on his skin. "Keith," he breathed, "feels amazing..."

Keith tipped his head up, licking his lips, and it was the hottest thing ever. "Fangs?" he asked, his voice smoky.

"What? Oh..." Lance took a shuddering breath, forcing himself to focus on Keith's gorgeous face. "Mmmmhmmm... little ones... god they're hot..."

"Kay," Keith replied, "won't bite too hard then... good?"

"Don't," he panted, mustering up a cocky smirk, "hold back... on... my... account... babe."

Keith rolled his eyes but shifted so he could kiss him again, letting it stretch out and linger until it chased nearly every thought from his head. "Don't want to do damage," he growled, moving to nip at Lance's earlobe, "don't wanna HURT you... wanna make you feel... goooooooood..."

"Mmmhmm," he whimpered helplessly. Yup. Okay. Sure. He was SO down with that plan. "You, too..." Suddenly, he was levering upwards, taking Keith with him, until Keith was straddling his lap and their chests were pressed together. Keith's weight settled against his aching erection in the most delicious way, making him tremble and gasp, hips rolling reflexively into the pressure. Keith moaned in response, his head falling back temptingly. "Keith... shirt... off.." His long fingers slipped under the thin fabric of Keith's shirt, dancing teasingly across the well-defined muscles of his back. Keith nodded and rose his arms so Lance could slick the offending fabric off of him. For a second, Lance just looked at him, committing the scene to memory, etching every stunning line of the vision in in his arms to his psyche.

"¡Dios mío! You are incredible, Keith," he breathed, tipping his head to nibble at Keith's throat.

"Fuck, I love when you drop English," Keith moaned, a shudder rolling through him, "sexiest shit ever..."

Ohhhh... that was very good information to have! Lance smiled against Keith's skin, dragging his tongue up the line of his throat until he could steam his ear with his breath. His arms coiled tight around Keith, needing the feel of his skin against him as he began to whisper in Cubano, detailing all of the very naughty things he wanted to do to Keith.

Chapter Text

Keith was going to combust. Like, literally go up in flames. The things Lance was whispering into his ear were going to incinerate him. They were. So. Damn. Hot. He'd never really been one for dirty talk, but quiznak, he was really starting to reevaluate that.

He'd never been so turned on in his life. His body was pulled taut as a bow string, aching, trembling with the need to touch, to taste, to learn Lance's body as only a lover could. Arousal hung heavy in the air. He could smell it, his Galra blood made that particular sense stronger and he could literally smell the arousal and desire wafting up from their bodies and blending into an irresistible perfume that just fueled the fire that had replaced his blood at some point. His hips were moving of their own accord, rocking and grinding against Lance, feeling their erections drag against each other through their clothes.

Moaning at a particularly erotic promise, Keith dropped his head to Lance's shoulder, sinking his teeth into the strong muscle that covered the broad expanse of it, being careful not to break skin. He loved the taste of that creamy-gold skin. Loved the goosebumps he could feel crop up whenever he got a little rough. He especially loved the noises Lance made and the way his breath would trip and hitch and waver as the teeth pressed into him.

Lance's hands felt like satin whispering over his skin making him quake with need and pleasure. His pants were getting uncomfortably snug, a situation that only got worse when he felt Lance's fingers tuck just barely under the waistband and drag across his back from hip to hip. "Ffffffffuck," his hips rolled, pace increasing.

"That okay?" Lance asked, voice soft, "don't... wanna... push..."

"It is.. you aren't," Keith answered breathlessly, "touch me anywhere... everywhere..."

"You sure?" Lance's hand slid through his hair, tugging to get him to meet his eyes. "I'mmmmm... fine... with... mmmm... going slow... god, the way you are moving..."

"Feel good?" Keith asked, already knowing the answer, but wanting to hear it.

"Yessss," Lance hissed. He didn't have the range of movement that Keith did, being the one that was straddled, but he was able to rock his hips from side to side, which felt so damn good that Keith whimpered.

"Sssssooo sssick of sloooooow," Keith insisted.

"Pants off?" asked Lance, trailing hot, wet little kisses across Keith's chest that tingled as the room air hit the damp skin, "or keep'em on?"

"Off... definitely off," Keith twisted, dropping to the bed beside Lance, his hands already working to free him of his pants.

Chuckling darkly, Lance caught his hands in his own. "Uh-uh, I wanna do this part," he bit his lip in anticipation, pushing Keith's hands away. Long, slim fingers popped the button and Lance pressed a tiny kiss to the newly bared skin.

Keith moaned, his back arching. He felt the zipper open and sighed at the relief of being released from that pressure. Lance's hands flattened against his hips and slid around him, pushing the dark fabric down as they caressed him. Light, nipping kisses in random spots over his torso made him jump and shiver and sigh so much that he barely noticed when the pants were whisked away completely.

"You," Lance skimmed his hands over Keith's calves. "Are," he pressed a kiss to the inside of Keith's knee. "Sooo," he dragged his nails over the thin jersey covering Keith's thighs. "Fucking," he nipped at one hipbone sharply. "Perfect," he kissed him, his weight settling over Keith like a blanket.

Keith poured every drop of what he felt for Lance into that kiss. Words, he sucked at... but words weren't the only way to let someone know how you felt. His hands wormed between them, finding the fly to Lance's jeans and tugging in silent question. Lance lifted his hips in response and Keith popped the button-fly open and pushed the soft, well-worn denim down over his hips.

"Lannnce," he purred, breaking the kiss to nibble at Lance's earlobe. "Sooo hot..." he pushed at Lance's jeans with his feet, "off..."

Between the two of them, they managed to get rid of the jeans, and Lance's boxers went right along with them. Naked. Lance was naked and in his arms... in their bed... naked. It was like it was too much for his pleasure addled brain to grasp.

"You okay?" Lance asked softly between kisses, his eyes so blue and soft that they made Keith's stomach do little flip flops.

He nodded, his smile reassuring, if a little bashful, "mmhmm... I'm okay. Just kind of hard to believe this is real. You?"

Lance tangled their fingers together, pressing a kiss to Keith's knuckles. "Same... might be a good time to set some boundaries before we get too caught up in everything..."

"I thought we were pretty caught up," Keith whispered, stroking Lance's leg with the flat of his foot.

"I just meant... we have time. LOTS of time," he kissed Keith softly, "I don't want to treat this like some kind of random hook-up."

"You want to slow down?" Keith's voice was soft, gentle.

"Yes... and no," Lance blushed, his cheeks blazing red, "this is... amazing... you are... god, Keith... you have no idea... but... umm... this is farther than I've ever gone with a guy before..."

"Oh," he kissed Lance's cheek softly, "gotcha. We'll slow things down." He smiled at his bedmate, "I'm glad you told me, Lance. I thought... when you told me you were bi, I made assumptions I shouldn't have."

"I'm not a complete horndog," Lance joked, nuzzling his throat, "god, how do you always smell so good?"

"Me? I'm not the one that uses all the scented products," Keith giggled, "half the time you smell like a cupcake."

"Great- cupcakes are suuuuuper sexy," he muttered, "what about the other half?"

"That's harder to describe... like...hmm... rain is pretty rare in the desert, but it happens, sometimes... and like right after it stops, before the sun bakes it out of the sand again, the air is so crisp and clean... and you smell like that, but also like cedar wood, and black pepper... and just YOU... and for the record, you are suuuuuper sexy, even when you smell like a cupcake."

"Wow... My Keith's got a romantic streak- who knew?" he grinned, kissing him again.

"Shh," Keith whispered, nipping at Lance's lips playfully, "it's a secret... don't ruin my badass reputation..."

"Super sexy, huh?" Lance asked, "suuuuuuuper sexy, even."

Keith's eyebrow quirked up, his voice dry, "pretty sure that I've made it pretty clear today that I think you are sexy, Lance."

"I know," he grinned, pulling Keith closer, "but I still like hearing you say it."

"You're impossible," Keith grumbled, but his words held no heat, and he was losing his fight not to smile, so he buried his face in the curve of Lance's throat and kissed him lightly, "and naked... I haven't forgotten that part, either."

Lance shivered, "mmmhmm... I am."

"Soooo," Keith drawled, "we decided to slow down... so, tell me... where do you want to go from here? Where did you want to put the boundary?"

Lance grinned and rolled Keith under him so he could whisper in his ear, in very explicit Cubano exactly what he wanted to do. Keith whimpered and sank his fingers into Lance's hair, "I love that idea..."

Chapter Text

After roughly two weeks of sharing a bed with him, Keith had thought he was fairly familiar with how cuddly Lance was. Apparently, he had somehow been holding back, because after their rather intense evening's entertainment, when a sleepy and sated Lance had drifted off to sleep he'd reached new levels of snuggle. Not that Keith was complaining about the sleepy little murmurs, or the gently stroking hand at his shoulder, or even the little kisses that Lance was giving him every time he shifted in his sleep. Not in the slightest. It was easily the most heart-meltingly adorable thing he'd seen in his entire life. It was making it kind of difficult to text Shiro, though, since Lance kept managing to pin his arm to his side. Finally, Keith had to resort to rolling away from Lance, who immediately transitioned to being the 'big spoon' with his arm locked around Keith and clutching his bicep like he was afraid Keith might make a break for it.

Shi-Fos: Is everything okay there? You've been very quiet all day.

Keith: Yeah things are fine

Keith: Lance was listening to my music so I didn't have my phone for most of the day

Technically, that was all very much true. He tried to avoid lying to Shiro, just like he'd always tried to follow the rules that Shiro and Adam had put in place. But, that had never stopped him from finding loopholes in rules back then... and it wasn't stopping him from hedging the question now. It wasn't even that he didn't want Shiro to know about the changes between him and Lance. It was just that he knew Shiro worried, and that nothing he could type would reassure him while they were separated. He had a feeling that no matter what he said, Shiro would see this as a repeat of the mess with Gavin... and honestly, there was part of him that was a tiny bit worried that Shiro would be right. No one had any idea how things would change or stay the same once Lance and Allura could be in the same place again. He wasn't naive enough to think that there were any guarantees when it came to this kind of thing.

Shi-Fos: How is he doing?

Keith: I think he's pretty much back to normal

Keith: No real mood swings for a couple of days

Keith: he's had more energy

Keith: less napping

Shi-Fos: is he driving you nuts? Are you guys arguing?

Keith: Actually no

Keith: we are getting along really well

Keith: he taught me to waltz today

Keith: tomorrow I'm going to teach him how to sharpen a blade

Shi-Fos: How the fuck did he convince you to learn to dance?

Keith: He won the sparring match

Shi-Fos: so, a bet. Okay, that actually makes some sense.

Shi-Fos: good to hear that you guys are keeping up with your training.

Keith: Not like we have a ton of options for ways to kill time

Keith: This place is tiny

Shi-Fos: how are you holding up?

Keith: I'm good

Keith: stop worrying so much

Shi-Fos: not going to happen. Worrying is part of the job description. SorryNotSorry

Shi-Fos: Keith, you are acting like I didn't have a broken-hearted roommate before you left.

Shi-Fos: there has never been many people that could hurt you that badly

Shi-Fos: and now you are stuck in a small place with the guy that did that to you.

Keith: again- he didn't do anything wrong

Keith: he had no idea how I feel

Shi-Fos: "had"?

Keith: yeah, when he and Allura got together he had no reason to think it would hurt anyone

Shi-Fos: could you please just let me be secretly pissed at the guy who broke your heart? At least I am not threatening to hurt him.

Keith: you get that you are pissed at an EMPATH over something they didn't know they were doing right?

Keith: you can't be 'secretly mad' at him

Keith: he can feel your emotions

Keith: so you need to get over that before we get back

Shi-Fos: shit. I didn't think of that

Keith: that's what I figured

Keith: and he really looks up to you

Shi-Fos: I get it, kid.

Shi-Fos: Lance has no idea how lucky he is to have you in his corner.

Keith: ?

Shi-Fos: You are just very protective of the people you love, and he doesn't know you love him, so you end up being protective behind his back. He has no idea how often you go to bat for him, that's all.

Keith: oh

Keith: not sure how to take that

Shi-Fos: it's just an observation

Keith: any progress on the blocker thing?

Shi-Fos: LOL I had a feeling there would be a subject change. Yes, actually. Ryner and Pidge have something, but it is too big, so now they just need to make it small enough to be implanted.

Keith: implanted? wtf?

Shi-Fos: Coran says that some empaths would hurt themselves rather than lose that bond.

Keith: fuck- that's intense

Keith: How is Allura?

Shi-Fos: mostly good. She misses Lance and she doesn't like being short a Lion and two Paladins... but other than that she seems to be back to normal. She was in a really good mood today, actually.

Keith: How does she feel about the whole 'implanted' thing?

Shi-Fos: she is... less than enthusiastic about it, but I think she understands

Keith: Lance won't like it. You know that, right?

Shi-Fos: Lance will just have to deal with it. It's not optional.

Keith: yeah good luck with that

Shi-Fos: Keith

Shi-Fos: (did you hear my stern warning tone when I said that? Because you should know I used it)

Keith: and you were shocked that they all call you "Space Dad"

Keith: Shocked

Keith: shocked and floored

Keith: Can I go to sleep now? Are you satisfied that I am not slowly dying from being alone with Lance?

Shi-Fos: I hope you sleep better tonight than I did last night

Shi-Fos: I dreamed I was a muffler

Shi-Fos: I woke up exhausted

Keith: you are not funny

Keith: stop trying to be funny

Shi-Fos: I know I'm not funny. I'm Shiro!

Shi-Fos: love ya kid, sweet dreams

Keith: you, too.

Keith deleted the conversation, as was his habit, and set the phone aside. The movement made Lance stir and he mumbled something incoherent and wriggled closer to Keith, nuzzling the back of his neck. Keith smiled and tipped his head forward to press a kiss to Lance's knuckles. He kinda liked being the little spoon.

Chapter Text

"Morning, Sugarplum," Lance's whispered words cut through the last dregs of 'not quite awake' and made Keith's eyes fly open.

"Seriously? Sugarplum?" he groaned, rubbing at his eyes adorably and rolling to face Lance. "You come up with the worst nicknames, Cupcake."

"I'm Cupcake now?" Lance laughed, threading his fingers through Keith's hair, "well, aren't we cutesy? How did you sleep?"

"Fine," Keith answered, burrowing into the crease between Lance and his pillow, "great... want to do more of that."

"Are you always this grumpy in the morning and I just never noticed," he teased, "or were you just awake all night gossiping with Shiro about me?"

Keith's head lifted and he flinched at the light, blinking furiously to get past the squinting response. His whole face was all scrunched up like a little kid's, and it was so dorky and cute that Lance couldn't resist kissing the tip of his nose. "What? Wasn't gossiping with Shiro..."

"I woke up. You were texting away. Had to be Shiro, I've never seen you text anyone else."

"Yeah, I was talking to Shiro, but I wasn't gossiping. He was just checking in, same as always." Keith yawned into his fist and dropped back onto the pillows.

"So, you didn't tell him?"

"I'm not a fourteen year old girl, Lance."

"Why not?"

"What?"

"Why didn't you tell him?" Lance asked, his voice soft, "I thought the question was pretty clear."

"You... want me to tell him?" Keith blinked, confused, "m'not awake enough for this..."

"I didn't say that. I just want to know what your reasons are not to."

"Ummm... a bunch, I guess. I don't want to answer a million questions. I don't want him to worry. I'd rather tell him in person. He'd want to tell Allura, and I don't think that's a good plan. We have no idea what's going to happen when we go back. Whatever this is, it is brand new... I like having my privacy..." Keith shrugged.

"Okay," Lance answered cheerfully, cuddling close and pressing a kiss to Keith's forehead.

"That's it?" Keith asked. It was clear from his face that Lance was making no sense to him at the moment. He looked so lost, and worried.

Lance sighed, his cheeks coloring, "I was maybe a little bit worried that... you think I'm embarrassing... or... like... not good enough... Just a little."

"Keep calling me sugarplum and that might be true," Keith grumbled. Lance flinched. It was a tiny movement, but he hadn't been able to to squelch it completely, and Keith TOTALLY noticed, because his eyes flicked up, locking on Lance's. "I don't think you're embarrassing or not good enough, Lance. I'd never think that. I HAVE never thought that. "

"You're sure?" Lance prodded, his voice quiet and laced with nerves, "cuz I know things can look different the morning after..."

Keith wrapped his hand around the back of Lance's neck and tugged sharply. His lips crashed into Lance's in a fiery kiss that left him breathless and a little dazed.

"I'm sure," Keith insisted. "Nothing has changed for me overnight. Okay?"

"Yeah," he smiled, "okay." He relaxed, "me either... just... for the record. Nothing's changed for me overnight, either."

"Good." He shifted and squirmed until his head was pillowed on Lance's shoulder and his arm was draped over Lance's hip, then yawned. "Can we go back to sleep now?"

"Sure," Lance said with a tiny, tender smile, "I love that you are secretly a cuddle bug."

"S'not a secret," Keith countered, "just not many people I trust enough. Easier to keep my distance."

Lance's heart broke a little for him. What would Keith have been like if he hadn't ended up in the system? He was starting to see that a lot of the things that he and the others associated with Keith were actually defensive mechanisms. He wasn't really the emo loner hothead that they'd initially thought. He was kind, and funny, and patient. He cared deeply for Shiro, and Lance was starting to see that he cared almost as much for the rest of the team. He was heroic, and loyal, and brave. "No more of that keeping your distance shit with me, from now on. Deal?"

"If I agree, will you let me go back to sleep?"

"Grumpy!" Lance teased, "good thing you are cute. Geez! Fine, let's go back to sleep."

"M'not cute," Keith protested pulling a discarded pillow over his head to block out the artificial light.

"Nope," Lance fought to keep the smile out of his voice, which was hard, because he TOTALLY had a massive, besotted smile on his face at Keith's adorable crankiness, "not cute. Not at all."

It actually didn't take Lance long to follow Keith back to dreamland and when he woke again, he was alone in the bed. There was a bowl of goo set out for him, and he could hear Keith working out in the other room. It felt familiar and domestic and good.

Better than it really should. He felt like he should be going stir-crazy, or be impatient to get back to the team. He knew they were important to the 'good fight' and he took that seriously... but since he didn't really have the option to do that, it was like some part of his brain had just decided to treat this isolation like some kind of vacation from the worry and danger of being on the front lines of an intergalactic war before he was old enough to vote.

It didn't hurt that his only company was Keith, although he might not have had the same opinion a month ago.

Chapter Text

Angry Bird: Lance

Angry Bird: Lance!

Angry Bird: LANCE

Angry Bird: LANCE!

Angry Bird: Answer me or I'm giving the space caterpillars your room!

Lance: You wouldn't DARE!

Angry Bird: Ah-ha! There you are!

Angry Bird: I've seen those pics you sent Hunk- that place is a matchbox

Angry Bird: what were you doing that you couldn't reply

Lance: sleeping?

Lance: why? what's so urgent?

Angry Bird: News! Good news!

Angry Bird: Ryner came through for us with some gloriously divine tech

Lance: "gloriously divine"? Pidge, we need to get you laid or something

Angry Bird: ew. No. Don't try to do that.

Lance: I said 'or something' geez don't twist your ace-britches in a knot

Angry Bird: whatever

Angry Bird: we have a device that seems to be working!

Lance: What? Really?

Angry Bird: Yes! Allura is trying it out now. If it works, we just need to make it smaller.

Angry Bird: which was a real problem, until Ryner found this way to make it work for this tiny little crystal

Lance: so what does that mean?

Angry Bird: fingers crossed, you guys might be able to come home in a few days

Lance: a few days? Is that enough time to test everything?

Angry Bird: Like we'd risk you or Allura by rushing testing

Angry Bird: tsk tsk

Angry Bird: I bet you are impatient to get out of there

Angry Bird: can't be easy dealing with Keith 24/7

Angry Bird: considering

Lance: he's been pretty cool to hang with

Lance: I think he copes better one on one

Lance: Hey. Did you know that Adam guy?

Angry Bird: okay, random... but yeah, a little

Lance: What was he like?

Angry Bird: uh.. he was nice, I guess. Steady, organized, focused

Angry Bird: pilot, and teacher. Matt liked him. Dad said he was 'good for' Shiro

Angry Bird: whatever that means

Angry Bird: why?

Lance: just curious

Lance: Hard to picture Shiro as half of a couple is all

Lance: How is Allura doing?

Lance: You guys aren't just ignoring her are you?

Angry Bird: no we aren't ignoring her

Angry Bird: she's okay

Angry Bird: tired

Angry Bird: worried

Angry Bird: I'm kind of worried about her- she actually seems to be MISSING you! I think she might have hit her head

Angry Bird: seriously, though

Angry Bird: she's okay

Angry Bird: Hunk's been keeping an eye on her

Lance: I miss her too, and I can't wait to see her

Lance: can you show her that?

Lance: so she knows it comes from me and not you guys just trying to make her feel better?

Angry Bird: sure, but I am not being a go-between if you two decide to start sexting

Lance: no sexting on your phone, I promise

Angry Bird: I would say she should borrow Shiro's phone

Angry Bird: but you know

Lance: yes, we need to protect the innocent eyes of the six year old

Lance: good thinking

Lance: you must be thrilled not to be the youngest anymore

Angry Bird: Now, now. I take my responsibility as a surrogate big sis very seriously

Lance: I can't believe he is 6!

Angry Bird: it is like a gift from the heavens

The door slid open and Keith entered the room. He'd worked up a sweat and had pulled his shirt off, using the soft fabric to mop up the sweat that glistened on his pale skin. It was an impressive sight. Even better was that the second his eyes lit on Lance, he smiled and Lance's heart did a little flip flop. Oh, he had it so bad for this guy. He smiled back, crooking his finger, "kiss?"

"I was just heading to the shower," Keith answered, "I probably stink."

"Don't care," chuckled Lance, "just a quick little kiss. It won't kill me."

Keith's eyebrow quirked speculatively but he took a few steps, bracing one knee on the bed and leaning down to give Lance a quick kiss. "Pidge or Hunk," he asked, gesturing to the phone.

"Pidge," Lance answered with a smile. "Ryner thinks there is a way to make a crystal work as the blocker thing."

"That's good news," Keith replied, headed to the bathroom. "Say hi to them for me. Did you tell Pidge?"

"No, you were right about why we shouldn't say anything," Lance's smile faltered a little, because as true as that was, he was also nervous that saying something to someone else would jinx them some how and he didn't want to risk that.

"Okay, cool." Lance could hear the water for the shower start up and for a moment he was distracted by the visual his imagination supplied him with of Keith in the shower.

Lance: Mullet says hi

Angry Bird: hi Keith

Angry Bird: Did you update him?

Lance: I did

Lance: he said it was good news

Angry Bird: he must be sick to death of having company constantly

Lance: Hey! I know how to give someone space!

Angry Bird: mmhmm sure you do

Lance: I do

Lance: Seriously

Lance: Big family remember?

Angry Bird: if you say so

Angry Bird: so you haven't been ogling him?

Lance: wellll I never said THAT

Lance: he was working out

Lance: now he is in the shower

Lance: there was a shirtless interlude between those two things

Angry Bird: 'shirtless interlude' - name of your sex tape

Lance: that would be one boring sex tape

Lance: shouldn't you be working

Lance: and not you know

Lance: busting my balls?

Angry Bird: "busting my balls" - name of your sex tape

Lance: weak

Lance: but still an improvement over 'shirtless interlude'

Angry Bird: you are right though

Angry Bird: I DO need to get to work

Lance: omg- he is singing in the shower

Lance: that's new

Angry Bird: you should try to record it!

Angry Bird: hang on Allura is here

Angry Bird: she wants to type

Angry Bird: hello this is Allura

Angry Bird: this interface is strange

Lance: hello my princess

Lance: how are you feeling?

Angry Bird: Good. I miss you

Angry Bird: and I am worried about you

Lance: I am fine, Lulu. Promise

Angry Bird: I can't wait to see you Lala. I am giving this back to Pidge now.

Angry Bird: Lulu and Lala? you guys just HAD to be cutesy on MY device huh?

Lance: I agreed to no sexting, not no cutesy stuff

Angry Bird: whatever

Angry Bird: ttyl

Lance: ok

Lance: and thanks for working so hard on this

Lance: means a lot to me

He waited for a few minutes and got no response, so he figured that Pidge had pocketed her phone. Keith was still singing in the shower, which he honestly found just... delightful. He hadn't heard that before and there was a little part of him that hoped that it was something he did when he was happy and that maybe, the changes between them were the cause of that happiness. Combine that thought with the warm glow he had from being able to actually interact with Allura again- even if it was just a few lines of text on a screen- and he was one contented guy.

Chapter Text

"You planning on staying in bed all day?" Keith asked from the bathroom doorway. He'd hauled on fresh pants, but no shirt and was towel drying his long hair. Lance's gaze raked over him and he could practically FEEL the heat in it.

"That depends on if you want to join me in here or not," he replied easily, flashing an impish smirk.

Keith laughed, THIS kind of flirting from Lance was so much more appealing than the cheesy lines. "Was that an invitation?" he asked.

"Coulda been one, yeah," he chuckled, "I mean... there's plenty of room..."

A charmed smile tugged at Keith's lips, "you still naked under there?"

Lance stretched out, lying on his side with his head propped up on one bent elbow. He tipped his head down, feigning bashfulness and peeked up at Keith. Dark blue eyes peered out from beneath a fringe of not-quite-black lashes. It was kind of unfair how expressive those eyes of his were. "Mmmhmm," he answered, "which makes you... kinda overdressed..."

"Does it?" Keith replied, sitting on the edge of the bed beside Lance and running his fingers through the soft brown hair, "I seem to recall that full pjs is the usual dresscode for bed here."

"That's an outdated rule," Lance laughed, the sound far more erotic than it should have been, "the most recent regs call for people in this bed to be fully naked."

"There are regs now?" he chuckled, leaning closer.

Lance nodded, his eyes skimming over Keith hungrily, "yup. Definitely regs. Definitely need to be naked to get in this bed."

"Assuming I want to get in the bed, you mean," Keith teased.

"Yeah," Lance bit his lip, his eyes darting to meet Keith's, his voice dropped as he continued, "you absolutely want to get in the bed, Sugarplum..."

"That stupid nickname," he muttered before twisting so he could close the distance between them and kiss Lance hungrily.

Lance laughed into the kiss, his arms wrapping tight around Keith and pulling him down onto the bed. It was so happy and pure, so unlike anything else in his life, that it took Keith's breath away. He tossed the towel aside and deepened the kiss, his hand settling on Lance's deliciously bare hip as he slipped his other arm under Lance's head, supporting his weight so he didn't crush his bedmate. Kissing while laughing and smiling so hugely it made his cheeks hurt was a new experience for him, but he knew he'd treasure this memory forever.

Eventually, he felt Lance's hands in his hair, tugging him back. He lifted his head and smiled down at him, "mmm?"

"You are still overdressed," Lance pointed out, his voice rough with arousal and his accent slipping on the ls and rs and in the cadence of the words.

"Should I leave?" Keith teased, still smiling.

"Leave your clothes on the floor?" Lance countered, "excellent idea."

"Stubborn," he said playfully, kissing the tip of Lance's perfect little nose. "Last night you were pretty eager to be the one to-"

"Keith- just strip already and get your sexy self under the sheets with me!" Lance snapped, still grinning.

Keith cracked up, but rolled away from Lance, shimmying out of the soft pants, and shucking his socks at the same time. This was actually the first time he'd been fully naked with Lance, he realized. Somehow, the night before, his boxer briefs had stayed on... well, technically they'd stayed on, even if they had been pushed out of the way. "Umm... I should probably tell you. I ha-"

"Is that a TATTOO?" Lance's fingers skimmed his skin, and he shifted in the bed. "How did I not know you had a tattoo?"

"I don't really talk about it, I guess," Keith answered. He moved so Lance could get a better look at the small image inked into the top of his thigh.

"For your Dad, huh?" he guessed. It wasn't really a stretch, the tattoo was simple enough- a watercolor-style picture of a firefighter's helmet, with his family name written in Korean superimposed over it.

"Yeah," he answered, "it's old. I don't think about it much."

"It's really gorgeous," Lance said softly, "I kinda want to say it's hot... but it's, like, about your Dad, so that feels kinda... skeevy..."

"Skeevy?" Keith chuckled, mussing Lance's hair, "is that even a real word."

"Sure it is," Lance laughed, "you knew exactly what I meant, didn't you?"

"Yeah, I guess I did," he kissed him sweetly, pressing Lance back into the bed and crawling under the blankets with him.

"Mmmm," Lance purred after they'd been kissing for who knows how long, "mmmmmuch better dresscode for this bed.

Keith chuckled. He didn't really understand how he could be so damn turned on, and so thoroughly entranced by the fact that he had LANCE in his arms, and still be laughing and smiling so damn much. He'd never experienced anything like this giddy arousal. "Yeah... no more complaining about the new regs from me."

Lance had his leg curled around him, his bent knee hooked over Keith's hip, holding him close. Keith was stroking his thigh, a light, tender caress that ran from knee to hip and back again, just enjoying the feel of his skin and the way it made him shiver. "I love your legs," Keith murmured, pressing kisses into the soft flesh of Lance's throat. His hand slid over Lance's side and across the small of his back, "and your hips..." He trailed haphazard little patterns over his back with the tips of his fingers making Lance's breath catch and dragging a soft moan out of him, "and your back..."

Lance whimpered and caught Keith's mouth in another kiss- soft and sweet and languid. Keith moaned and melted into the tenderness of it all. Last night it had felt like he was going to burst into flames, this felt different. This felt like the warmth that spread through him after a couple of drinks- cozy and safe and soothing. It felt like he was floating in some kind of sun-warmed pool, weightless and exquisitely aware of every tiny, tentative touch. This was the magic that was Lance; one second silly and playful and bursting with youthful joy, and the next quiet and serious and deeply, hugely romantic.

The kisses were soft and sweet and completely mesmerizing. The hands that roamed and touched and held were gentle and reverent and weighted with something... real... something much more precious than attraction.

They'd kiss and kiss and kiss, as if there was nothing else in the universe but each other. Then they'd just gaze at each other, fingertips tracing the lines of their bodies, learning each other in quiet worship. Breathing hitched, shuddered, caught and escaped in little sighs, tiny moans, whispered endearments.

'Sugarplum' didn't sound ridiculous when it was whispered with such reverence as Lance peppered slow, soft kisses along his collarbone.

'Mullet' made his heart skip a beat when it was breathed into a kiss that stretched out like forever was something they could forge together.

Spending the entire day in bed sounded like absolute perfection when it was with Lance like this.

Chapter Text

The next few days all kind of blurred together in a mess of laughter and cuddles and talking for hours and training together and losing themselves in exploring each other. Keith still sang in the shower, or at least he did when he was alone, which was no longer automatically a given. The shower stall was built for Galra, so it wasn't too cramped, but it was definitely a tight enough squeeze to be fun when they doubled up. They'd quickly given up pretending that they were attempting to save water by showering together, because that had proved to be so hilariously untrue that neither could even say it with a straight face.

Keith had figured out that Lance's feet were ticklish. A discovery which nearly ended up with him getting a broken nose from Lance's helpless kicking and flailing. That unexpected revelation had very effectively derailed a truly promising encounter. The resulting tickle fight made Lance feel like a little kid again, and hearing the hearty belly laughs and startled squeals from Keith as he found his own ticklish spots made him feel like his heart was too big for his chest.

Lance had learned that speaking Cubano was a very effective way to guarantee Keith's undivided attention... provided he wanted that attention to be of a more carnal nature... which, to be honest, he usually did. He'd teased Keith mercilessly about the day they'd hung out in the Paladin Pad with him telling stories from home once he figured out why Keith had seemed so very NOT eager to hear him speak his first language back then.

Countless silly and sweet little nicknames were adopted and discarded. He was sure neither of them would be able to remember even half of them. But for some reason 'sugarplum' and 'cupcake' stuck around... and Lance suspected that Keith didn't hate 'sugarplum' half as much as he claimed to. He knew that he got a secret little thrill whenever Keith called him 'cupcake' regardless of whether it followed a breathless gasp or a sarcastic joke.

Keith finally relented to letting Lance hear the karaoke playlist and an entire afternoon was spent with Lance trying to guess who was singing at any point. It had been strange to hear Shiro's singing voice, and how young and carefree he had sounded singing silly pop songs with Keith. Stranger still was the change in his voice when he was singing sappy duets with the still somewhat mysterious Adam. Keith sounded like Keith- younger, a little less confident and sure of himself, but recognizably Keith. But all together, they'd sounded... like a family. A pretty close family, actually.

Lance had dug out the selection of skin care products that Hunk had packed for him and they'd spent an entire evening in mud masks and then cold cream , stretched out on the big bed and watching videos on their phones. Keith had even conceded to taking a few selfies together.

The new 'dresscode regs' for the bed became a standing rule, and there had been no more bad dreams or bouts of sleep crying since the night before Lance had blessedly stumbled upon that text from Shiro.

It was wonderful, and idyllic, and if neither of them touched on the subject of how things might change when they rejoined the others that was okay. If neither of them acknowledged the positive updates from Pidge and Hunk and Shiro and how those updates meant that their time alone was dwindling, that was fine. If neither of them said out loud that the little videos they were recording of each other, and the pictures they were snapping on their phones were sandbags against the oncoming flood of the real world, that was alright.

Because they both knew that the other was aware of it. They were aware of the war, and the friends, and the enemies that were out there... waiting. But in here, in their little bolt-hole, they were safe. They were safe, and whole- in a way neither had been in a long time-, and they were together. They chose to focus on each other, because they both sensed that the little reprieve they'd forged was rapidly coming to a close, and once they walked out that airlock, nothing was certain anymore.

But for now, they had each other and they had some time... and as Lance hit the button to ensure that he'd never forget the little joy that was hearing Keith sing in the shower, he knew that they were happy... and happiness really suited Keith.

He was still smiling when his phone chimed.

Angry Bird: Great news! Everything is ready to go.

Angry Bird: Allura will have a worm hole open for you guys in 2 vargas!

Chapter Text

Lance was bouncing in the seat of Red's cockpit. Keith couldn't tell if it was nerves, impatience, excitement or a combination of all three. He'd come out of the shower to discover Lance staring at his phone. It was very reminiscent of the day that everything had changed for them. This time, though, when he'd gotten Lance's attention, it was to discover that they had less than two vargas to pack up their stuff and put the bolt-hole to rights, before bidding farewell to the three little rooms that had housed them for these last few weeks.

Travelling back to the Castle Ship was significantly faster than leaving it had been. He hadn't thought of that. In the back of his mind, he'd thought they'd be travelling the full distance in Red, without the aid of a wormhole and that they'd use the travel time to come up with some kind of plan, to address the subjects they'd both been so careful to avoid. With Allura at the helm again, and not confined to a med pod, the trip back would only last a few minutes.

Keith knew that Lance had every reason to be excited to return. He knew that he'd been feeling like he was putting the whole team in danger because of the whole empath thing, and Lance was nothing if not protective of the people he cared about. He also knew that Lance NEEDED to see that Allura was recovered with his own eyes before he'd really believe it was true.

But he couldn't help but worry that part of his reaction was happiness or relief at not being stuck with only Keith for company.

He kept watching for little signs that everything was okay between them, still... but he wasn't seeing any. He took a deep breath, reminding himself that he knew this was a possibility. He wasn't a naive kid anymore. He'd known all along that Lance's interest in and attachment to Allura hadn't changed or lessened. He'd been the one to reassure him that there were more signs that her feelings were genuine than there were that they were a side-effect of them both being empaths, after all.

Now that they were through the wormhole and the Castle was looming just ahead of them, the reality of that knowledge was starting to weigh on him. "So... umm," he said, feeling awkward, "when we dock, I'm guessing Pidge will want to see you right away, and then you'll want to see Allura, so they can make sure everything is working the way they need it to. So, ummm... It makes more sense for me to do all the unloading and you go right to Pidge."

Lance turned his head to flash a grateful smile at him and his pulse tripped up at the sight. "Sounds good," he said, "and I'll come find you after I talk to Allura, okay?"

"Yeah," Keith answered, feeling his heart start to fracture again, "yeah, that makes sense." He felt a surge of smokey warmth somewhere deep in his soul and he smiled, accepting the comfort Red was offering.

"It didn't take long for the Lion to get settled in the hangar, and Pidge, Hunk and Coran were waiting when Red's jaw lowered.

"You sure you are good with unloading?" Lance asked, one foot already on the ramp.

"I'm sure," Keith answered, "you go on. I 'll deal with this while you see the others. Same old, same old, right?"

Something flickered in Lance's eyes, but it lasted less than a second and then he was moving again, "thanks Keith!"

He smiled half-heartedly and nodded. Lance descended the ramp and Hunk pulled him into a tight hug. Pidge, though jogged up the ramp to Keith, "hey."

"Hi Pidge," he said, keeping his voice neutral, "anything exciting happen while we were gone?"

"Not really, some coalition meetings and stuff. How was the forced vacation?"

"It wasn't a vacation," he answered, "but it was fine. It wasn't as bad as Coran led us to believe it would be."

"Still... all that time... alone with Lance..." she trailed off, almost expectantly.

"It was fine, like I said," Keith answered, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Anything more than that, you are going to have to get from him. He was recovering from an injury, he deserves to have his privacy respected."

"You," she pointed her finger at him, "are USELESS for good dirt- you know that, right?"

"Hey now, who do you think told Lance when Shiro's birthday is?" he countered, starting to feel a little more like himself.

"That... is true," she eyed him warily, "but I am not letting you off the hook for Lance dirt!"

"There's no dirt," he laughed. "I promise! Now, go fix him, would you?"

"Fine, fine, fine," she muttered, stomping off after the others.

He watched her descend the ramp and jog after the guys and only after they'd all exited the hangar did he drop onto one of the bins of their gear and let the fear and worry and pre-emptive heartbreak flare to life.

Red sent him another surge of soothing warmth and silent support, but he wasn't an idiot. Lance had been utterly smitten with Allura from the moment he'd laid eyes on her, and Keith had SEEN how well they worked as a couple with his own eyes. It wasn't even a competition, and he knew it.

After a few minutes of self-pity, he started lugging the bins and boxes out of the Lion and into the hangar to get sorted out and dealt with.

Chapter Text

Hunk had enveloped Lance in a hug so tight he was grateful he was wearing his Paladin armor. "Man, you are in a GOOD mood!" Hunk gushed, "I can feel the happy like champagne bubbles tickling my nose!"

"You can feel that?" Lance asked, surprised.

"Yeah, Allura's been helping us learn how to tell our own emotions from the stuff she is broadcasting. She said it would be the same for you. You must be PUMPED to be back."

"Yeah, I kind of am," he answered, "but I've been in a good mood for a while now. The time away was good for me, I think."

"He must be impatient to see Allura," commented Pidge, "because I just had the urge to giggle, and I am not a giggler."

"I have missed her," he answered easily, "so tell me about this ground-breaking tech you came up with for me."

"It is really quite the ingenious little device," Coran enthused, twisting his mustache as he spoke, "it allows the bearer to retain access to their own empathic abilities while removing the risk of creating a dangerous exponential amplification of those same abilities when developing an emotional attachment to another empath. Very clever. Very clever indeed."

Lance smiled, because he had genuinely missed Coran and his quirky personality... but he looked to Hunk, one eyebrow quirked in silent question, because he had absolutely no idea what the Altean was talking about.

"Like a surge protector for your emotions," Hunk hissed, "too much feedback from another empath and it just clicks off for a few minutes to self-regulate."

He gave Hunk a thumbs up and rubbed his head. He hadn't realized how much he'd come to appreciate the emotional quiet of spending time alone with Keith. Going from THAT to such close proximity to Hunk, Pidge and Coran, who were all excited and worried about this new device felt like going from a library to a rock concert with no time to adjust. His head didn't HURT so much as it felt like it was being squeezed just a smidge too tightly to be comfortable.

"So, what's my new bling look like?" he asked conversationally, "is it a crown? Do I get a crown? Or maybe one of those bracelets you wear way up on your bicep? A ring, like a soft, bendy ring that won't break my finger if I punch something?"

"Ummm... no," Hunk said gently, steering him into the workshop. "It's not jewelry, Lance."

"It needs to be in constant contact with your nervous system," Pidge explained, settling Lance into a chair.

"It's an implant," Coran announced.

"A what now?" Lance was sure he'd heard that wrong.

"Ummmm... morrrre like... a dermal piercing?" offered Hunk, "it's actually really pretty."

"Ahhhh," Lance nodded twice and then his head switched direction, "no way! Thanks for all your work, but I'm gonna hafta say a big ol'nope and just nope on out of here. Kaythanksbye."

"I am afraid you don't have that option, my dear boy," Coran said, "it isn't safe for you to be around Allura or the Lions without it."

"How big is it," asked Lance, skeptically.

"Not big," Hunk assured him.

"About the size of my pinky nail, Lance. It's nothing really. You won't even feel it because there is a topical anesthetic before we place it. Takes like less than a minute." Pidge was giving him the look he'd coined 'don't be a pussy'.

"Where does it go?" he asked, still leery.

"Right here," Pidge tapped the hollow at the base of his throat.

"Not gonna work. My mom will KILL me. You don't even understand."

"It's a medical device," Hunk reminded him, "your mother will understand."

"Hunk, you've MET my mother. I want you to think about the sentence you just said and tell me if that sounds right for the woman you met back on Earth."

"She'll come around?" he tried, hopefully.

"Can't you put it somewhere else? Like up in my hair or by my hip or something?"

"Sorry bud, it has to go where it has to go. It won't work as well anywhere else," Hunk rested a heavy hand on his shoulder and based on the emotional imprint he was getting, Lance suspected it was half motivated by a desire to comfort him and half to keep him from bolting.

"Can I see it first, at least?" Lance sighed.

Pidge grabbed a sealed little petri dish and held it out for him to look at.

"Hey, Lance, welcome back," Shiro poked his head into the room, "Is Keith not here? I figured he would be with you guys."

"No, Keith's back with Red," Lance offered, "he said he'd unload so I could get this taken care of faster."

"Ah, gotcha. How is he doing?" Shiro asked, radiating concern. The guy was such a classic big brother sometimes. No wonder the Space Dad nickname had stuck, even if its origins hadn't quite been as wholesome as they'd let people believe.

"Good," Lance answered, "I think he just wants to get back to normal life. When I double checked that he was okay with unpacking on his own he was all 'yeah, no big, same old same old.' So..."

The concern coming off Shiro... changed somehow and his eyes narrowed, "those were his exact words? 'Same old, same old', that's what he said?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure... I mean, I didn't think I'd be getting QUIZZED on the conversation or anything sooooo..." Lance shrugged, not liking the shifts in Shiro's mood. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," he answered, but the word was clipped, "I just need to talk to him." He gave a half-hearted wave and ducked back out of the room.

"What was that all about?" he asked Hunk.

"I told you, man, Shiro's been really worried without you guys here. Now that he's seen you, he'll probably go back to normal once he talks to Keith."

"Can you please take a look at the crystal so we can get this dealt with?" Pidge griped, "we could have been finished by now, you know this right?"

"Fine- let's just get it done," Lance sighed, pulling off the armor plates on his arms and torso. "I'll have plenty of chances to look at it in the mirror."

Hunk helped him unzip the back of the under armor and he pulled the black fabric down to expose his shoulders and upper chest.

Pidge let out a low whistle. Coran made a noise that might have been a muffled snort and Hunk cleared his throat... twice. A strange combination of embarrassment, humor, and smugness radiating from the three of them.

"That explains the good mood," Pidge muttered digging something out of her pocket and slapping it into Hunk's outstretched hand.

"What? Ohhhhhhh..." He felt his cheeks burn as he realized that he'd forgotten about the many, many love bites that decorated his skin in various stages of healing. "You guys placed a BET?!"

"I think, perhaps, that is my cue to return to the bridge," Coran said primly, sidling out of the room with an expression that suggested he was trying very hard not to burst into laughter.

"Oh yeah, we definitely placed a bet," Hunk crowed. "You have been mooning over him forEVER and you guys came like thiiiiiiiiis close to hooking up like four different times when we were all drinking. I knew it was just a matter of time and opportunity."

"I figured you were both too blind to see that the other one was pining and nothing would happen," Pidge grumbled grabbing a funky looking device and some grainy looking blue paste. "You look like he made you his favorite chew toy! Geez! Anyway, I'm gonna smear this stuff on your skin, load the crystal into this little guy right here, count to ten and then basically just touch you. Kinda like a nail gun, but not as extreme."

"A NAIL GUN?" he squawked, his embarrassment forgotten.

"I can count TEETH prints," Pidge pointed out, "like individual little bruises from teeth. You don't get to bitch about the implant anymore."

"It's not the same," Lance grumbled.

"Can it, chew toy!"

Chapter Text

Shiro found Keith in Red's hangar, carefully detailing which supplies had been consumed, or had been left behind to replenish the stores at the bolt-hole.

"Keith?" he said gently, resting his left hand on Keith's shoulder.

"Hey, Shiro," Keith answered, "we need to notify Kolivan that we've vacated that bolt-hole and thank him for the use of it. I left pretty much all the shelf stable supplies we didn't use there. I'm sure whoever ends up needing the place would appreciate a bit of variety for food options. The standard stock in those places is just the Galra meal replacement bars. Man, am I glad we didn't have to eat those three or four times a day for weeks on end."

"Keith?" he tried again, "I saw Lance..."

"Okay, good," Keith gave him a ghost of a smile, "he's completely back to his normal self, right? I told you he was fine."

"Same old, same old, bud? I know what that means. That means 'this is shit, but I'm so used to shit I don't even complain anymore'. It means you are braced for something awful, right?" he tipped Keith's face up to his, getting a good look at Keith's eyes for the first time. "Ohhh kid," he sighed, "what did you do?"

"I made a decision," Keith answered curtly, jerking his head out of Shiro's grasp and returning to what he was doing.

"Keith, talk to me," Shiro prodded.

"I'll talk to you tonight, Shiro... with the booze you promised."

"This is NOT reassuring me, you know that, right?" he asked.

"Fine- I made the decision to give him a chance after he saw the text you sent me warning me off rebounding bi boys. Not surprisingly, he had a few questions about that, so, I decided to answer them honestly," he sighed, still refusing to look at Shiro, "you didn't do anything wrong. I just didn't realize you'd sent it, so it didn't get deleted with the rest of the conversation."

"Give him a chance?" Shiro took a deep breath and let it out slowly, a telltale sign that he was struggling to control his temper.

"Lance didn't do anything wrong," Keith pointed out.

"I think we have different definitions of 'wrong' in this situation, Keith."

"You heard Allura on the comms, Shiro," he pointed out, "she was very clear that they weren't exclusive. "

"She also wasn't herself when she said that, and you know it," Shiro countered, starting to pace.

"Yeah, well, I've been away from the Blades for weeks, I doubt I'll be around here much longer anyway. So, it's most likely a moot point, anyway."

"Looks like we have different definitions of 'moot point', too... and I just don't understand why..."

"Yes, you do, you COMPLETELY understand- you just don't LIKE why," Keith insisted. "You know how I feel about him and we were alone for WEEKS in a TINY space with a single bed. I'm good at keeping my distance from people, but even I can't do that AND be the loving, supportive friend in THAT situation."

"I knew this entire plan was a bad idea! I tried to stop you..."

"But you COULDN'T stop me because there was. no. other. option. I'm not a kid, I am an adult and I made choices and I own then. For good or bad, they were my decisions and I am the one that has to live with them, not you. Shiro, you are my only family, and I love you, but you don't get a vote on my sex life, or love life, or whatever the hell you want to call it. You get to cheer me on, or help me drown my sorrows, but that's about it."

"I just don't think it will be worth the fallout," Shiro grumbled. "I know how hard you take this kind of thing."

"No, you don't," Keith argued, "you know how hard I took the situation with GAVIN back when I was fifteen years old. I know you know this, but I feel the need to point out to you that I have been through some shit since I was fifteen that might impact how I deal with things. Shit like having my family fall apart, and dealing with a death, and getting kicked out of school, and ending up in space, and being part alien. And you know what? The way I feel about him NOW is not all that different from how I felt a month ago, or two months ago, but you know what else? I have a bunch of pretty great memories now. So, yeah, this whole thing might have been a mistake, and it might blow up but right now, I think it was worth it."

Shiro blinked at him, "I... don't think I've heard you say that much in one go in years."

"Yeah," he sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck, "well, I've been talking more lately."

"Good," he said softly, "that's a good thing."

Keith nodded, turning back to his task and sighing because he lost his place. "Dammit, I need to start over." He rolled his shoulders and moved back to the first bin. "We didn't have a single argument... not a real one. That entire first few days he was trying to pick fights, but that wasn't really him, it was his messed up brain... but after that? Once he was himself again, we didn't fight at all- unless you count yelling at each other about cards until we ended up laughing. We genuinely got along really well. I didn't really think I could DO that. Even you and I butt heads." He gestured between them, "clearly."

"He's a good kid," Shiro said, his voice gentle, "I know that. A little flaky and abrasive, but a good kid... I just know that even GOOD kids can do a lot of damage when it comes to this kind of thing."

"It's not your job to protect me from that stuff, Shiro," he insisted.

"It kind of is, though," Shiro said mildly.

"It really isn't, and if you want to get technical, you have had ONE relationship and what? Three dates with people that aren't Adam? I literally had more dating experience than you do NOW before I was 16, unless... do you WANT to include your accidental girlfriend, because we totally could."

Shiro blushed so hard his ears turned red, "uh.. no... we can just continue to pretend that that never happened, Keith."

"Aww c'mon," he teased, latching on to the opportunity to steer the conversation AWAY from him and Lance, "it's like my second favorite Shiro is a dumbass story!"

"You have multiple favorite Shiro is a dumbass stories?" he asked, incredulous.

"Oh yeah," Keith chuckled, "my all time favorite is how you and Adam ended up together- the REAL story, not that watered down bullshit you tried to tell me was the story."

Shiro's eyes narrowed, "the only one who knows all the details is Adam and he would never-"

"Oh THAT is where you are very, very, wrong, 'Kashi'," he smirked, putting air quotes around the outdated nickname, "he told me that story after three glasses of wine on movie night while you were visiting your parents... and it is GOLD! You know how chatty he got after a few glasses of wine. I think he was trying to make up for the condom incident."

"I don't know why you are still calling it that. We just wanted to make sure you were being safe," Shiro argued, "and don't call me Kashi."

"FIVE boxes though?! Seriously FIVE?! Not even normal sized boxes! Five of those massive ones you get at like wholesale stores! What the quiznak were you thinking? What teenager needs FIVE HUNDRED condoms!?"

"I think we might have panicked," he admitted.

They looked at each other for a moment, incredulous expression meeting chagrined face, and then one of them cracked a smile, and the other followed and before they knew it they were both laughing so hard they couldn't seem to catch a breath.

Chapter Text

"Quiznak, Lance, will you stop fidgeting! I'm just trying wipe the numbing paste off your skin. You can go see Allura in a second," Pidge grumbled as she wiped over the implant with a spongy black cloth. Hunk had ducked out seconds before Pidge had placed the implant. Lance suspected he was worried there would be blood.

"Sorry, sorry," he grinned, "I"m just... I missed her."

"Yeah, I can tell," she rolled her eyes, "being around you right now is like mainlining espresso!"

"Yeah, empathy is weird, I know," he answered, "sorry about that, too."

Pidge stepped back and smiled, "alrighty. You are done. So, there are nanoleads that will radiate out from the crystal into the nervous system. They work fast though, so it should be completely irremovable without microsurgery within a few minutes."

"So, it is safe now?" Lance asked.

"Not this second, but by the time you get your gear back on and find her, yeah," Pidge laughed, "you wanna see your new bling first?"

"Right! Yes, I do," Lance grinned at her, "please."

She shook her head but handed him a small mirror. The crystal was indeed small, and teardrop shaped. It didn't look like tech. It looked like a body jewel. It shimmered oddly, the colors within it whorling and swirling around themselves- red and blue and some kind of smokey dark grey mainly, but with hints of pink and orange and green and more. He lifted a finger to it gingerly, wiggling it against his skin. It didn't hurt, but it also didn't feel like it was stuck to him, it felt almost like tapping on a tooth... which was weird. "It responds to and interacts with your natural quintessence," Pidge explained, "so it never needs external power, which is how it can be so small."

"Very cool," he cooed, "sexy even."

"Yeah, I will actually agree with you on that one- that is some sexy tech you are sporting," she teased. "You might not want to be showing it off JUST yet though- since it is pretty much surrounded by emo-boy's gnaw-marks."

"Hey, don't call him that," Lance tsked her, "his actual name is easier to say than emo-boy..."

Pidge blinked, so surprised by his response that she doubted reality for an instant. "Dude, you call him mullet. Did you forget that?" His smile changed at the reminder and the little flashbacks of the last few times he'd used that nickname that flitted through his mind. Pidge got a weird expression on her face, "okay, if you could stop projecting the..." she waved her arms at him dramatically, "just... like... allllllll of that Keith stuff that you are projecting right now, that would be AWESOME."

"How?" he asked, because he suspected that might be a valuable skill to have from now on.

"Ummm... Allura said something about picturing a particle barrier around you like the ones the Lions have... this might be better for you to talk to her about... speaking of... umm... what are you going to tell her about," Pidge gestured to his neck and shoulders.

"Probably nothing, she'll know as soon as I get anywhere close to her. She always does when it comes to Keith."

"Right," Pidge nodded sharply and stepped back. "Yup, that's it. I just hit maximum weirdness for my day. Shoo! Outta my sight!"

He hopped out of the seat and gave Pidge a hug, "missed you gremlin! I'll be back for my armor plates later."

He knew EXACTLY where Allura would be waiting for him- their little dance studio- and he raced through the castle hallways until he got there. The door opened before he even reached it and she was barreling into his arms. He caught her easily and absorbed her momentum by spinning with her. They were kissing before her feet touched the ground. It was short and sweet and tender and just... thoroughly lovely and warm. He rested his forehead against hers and held her gaze for a moment and then they both started speaking at once, laughed and tumbled back into the studio together.

"Okay," Lance said finally as they flattened out on their backs on the floor, each one resting their head on the other's shoulder with their arms spread and fingers tangled together in their usual way. "You were the one that was actually hurt, so you fill me in first."

She chuckled, "I am FINE now, the cryo-pod healed me fully, but I initially had a collapsed lung, several broken ribs, damage to my shoulder blade, and of course, muscle and tissue damage."

He turned his head to press a kiss to her cheek, "thank god for those pods. I can't even imagine... no wonder you were in there so long."

"Oh no," she assured him, "I was in there so long to deal with the empathic shock and withdrawal. I'm sorry you had to be awake for that."

"Yeah, it wasn't exactly funtimes there for a bit," he said softly, "but Keith was... he did really well with my moodiness and clinging and irrational stuff." He felt a swell of emotion within him at just the thought of Keith and those weeks they'd spent together. How kind and patient he had been in the early days when Lance was really struggling, and how he had neither coddled him nor pushed him as he started to improve, but just accepted each day as it came, even when it meant backsliding or unexpected reactions. He remembered the warm strength of Keith sleeping beside him, soothing him whenever he moved without even fully waking. He remembered how he could be fiercely passionate, or delightfully playful, or reverently tender when they indulged the attraction that drew them to each other. He MIGHT have even sighed, "I am pretty sure I was a real pain in the ass, too."

"Woah," she cooed and he could hear the smile in her voice. "That was... very... mmmmm... wow..."

He laughed, "yeah... that's pretty much the best way I can describe it, too."

"When did THAT change?" she whispered. Even thought they were completely alone in the studio, somehow, she seemed to know this was something best discussed in soft, secretive tones, like it was so new and fragile that just the volume of normal speech might threaten it. "Because Lance, oh, my word, that is so much more... just so much more..."

"Mmmhmm... right?... and ummm... about two weeks in," he answered, grinning, "that was the BIG change, but things had been... shifting kind of before that, too."

Chapter Text

"Like with us," she said, smiling, "the day with the spin was the big change, but it didn't come out of nowhere."

"Yeah," he smiled at her, struck once again at just how pretty she was, feeling a wave of warm affection roll over him. It meant so much to him that he could be so open with her and she just... accepted him as he was and saw the best in him, even when he was bogged down with doubts. "That was a great day, wasn't it?"

"It really was," she sighed, "so... tell me everything about the BIG CHANGE."

"He was shaving and he got a text from Shiro, and- let me be very clear here- I offered to bring him his phone but he TOLD ME to open it and read him the text..."

Allura laughed, "uh-oh, I get the feeling this is very important."

"It IS!" he beamed at her. God, he'd missed hanging out with her. He'd been worried that things would feel flat and uninteresting with the new implants, but it didn't... well, not REALLY. It didn't really feel THE SAME, but the affection was still there, and the closeness, and the acceptance, and if that wonderful fizzy giddiness he associated with her was barely present, that was... okay. He could be okay with that. He was still himself and she was still herself, and he was so happy to... talk to her... just... be around her. "So, I open the message, but there is one from like the middle of the night there, too... and it says, get this, 'beware rebounding bi boys'."

"What? Why would Shiro say that to Keith? That doesn't make any sense..."

"Right? Unless," his eyebrow quirked and he waited for her to put it together.

He was NOT disappointed by her reaction. He loved watching her think, she had such an animated face, and he could feel her curiosity and the little thrill she got from solving puzzles. She sat bolt upright and spun on her butt until she was tailor sitting facing him, and then clasped his face in her hands. "Unless he was WORRIED about Keith getting hurt!" she said in a rush, "and Shiro wouldn't worry about THAT unless he KNEW, for a fact that... QUIZNAK! Lance! That is so wonderful!"

He laughed, loving that she was so happy for him, no trace of hurt feelings or jealousy or anger. "So, I walked him through that exact same logic and then... I outright asked him if he was into me."

"What did he say?" She was still holding his face, her eyes bright with excitement for him.

"He didn't really SAY anything," he let his eyes drift shut as he remembered those few momentous seconds replay in his mind, "he like LOOKED at me for, god, it felt like forever, and then he kind of nodded and then he was kissing me."

She squealed and kissed his forehead, "I am so happy for you!"

He laughed and reached up, catching her around the ribs and pulling her into a hug. He nuzzled her hair and breathed in the scent of her and waited for that familiar magical lull to sweep over him, but it didn't. "I love that you are so happy for me," he whispered into her hair, "and I missed you so much. Sometimes it felt like I would die if I didn't see you right away. I remember being SO sure that this whole thing was some kind of conspiracy to keep us apart."

"That sounds awful," she said softly, cuddling into him. "I really hate this little crystal thing," she said after a moment, "I feel like it is... muffling us. It doesn't feel right."

He didn't answer her right away, he was waiting and hoping he could find some way to tell her she was wrong. But she wasn't. "Me too... They said without it we were making each other high," he said softly, "that's why it felt so good to be around each other. It wasn't really US... this is the real us... and this feels... faded and pale... like how the sun bleaches the color out of paint and fabric. You can kind of see ghosts of what it used to be like in the shaded spots, the creases and stuff."

"Yeah," she sighed, "I truly do love you Lala."

"I know," he answered, "I can feel it... and I adore you, Lulu."

"Yes, I know," she replied, pushing away from him and sitting up again. "But it is nothing like it was and even that... it was wonderful and captivating and exciting... but it wasn't even close to what I feel from you now when you think about him. We love each other, but we aren't IN love... and we never were."

His eyes were stinging with unshed tears and he nodded. "I can't feel what he is feeling. I'll never KNOW it the way I know what you are feeling, or what any of the others are feeling... but... somehow it feels more real, even though I am blind to it."

She reached out to stroke his cheek, "you will always be my very cherished friend, the only one who knows what it is like to be me sometimes. But I think we both know, we aren't meant to be lovers... and if we try to pretend otherwise, we will always feel like it is not enough."

He hugged her tight, "you'll always be MY princess, though... and this isn't because of Keith, because of what happened with him."

She smiled through her own tears, "oh I know. Loving him was part of you long before you ever even met me. Like my father and Coran. But I am not my mother and you are not my father."

"And Keith is definitely not Coran," he teased, trying to lighten the mood.

She laughed at that, "no. No, he most certainly is not."

"We'll figure this out," he promised, kissing her knuckles, "and I refuse to lose my favorite dance student."

"Good, because I love dancing with you," she took a deep breath, "but I think... other than dancing and group gatherings... we should give each other space for a while. Let the memory of what it used to be like mellow a bit.. so we don't feel its lack as much."

"Yeah," he wished he could make her happy again. He felt bad that she would be so alone again. She really was such a wonderful person and deserved so much more than the lonely life she had been leading. "But if you need me, I'm here for you. Always... and right now, what you need is space, and I have to go talk to Keith." He pushed himself to his feet and she did the same. "This wasn't really what I had in mind when I offered to get you something sparkly... but that crystal still looks really pretty on you."

"Thank-you Lance. I'm not particularly fond of it at the moment, though. But I am still so very happy for you," she said softly as he left the room and he nodded, blowing her a little kiss.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Pidge?" Lance popped into the workshop to retrieve his armor plates. After a few fumbles, he decided it was easier to just put them on than to try to juggle the awkward, slippery things. "Have you seen Keith? He's not with Red or Black, and he's not in his room..."

"You're looking for Keith already?" Pidge blinked, her expression kind of wilting, "hey, are you okay? I figured you'd still be hanging out with Allura, being all cutesy, but it feels..."

His smile faltered, "yeah... that's uh... not going to be happening anymore."

"Oh shit," Pidge cringed sympathetically, it was kind of impressive how she was so much of a wise-ass most of the time, but in a blink could become such a compassionate friend, "that explains the lack of the champagne-nose-bubbles-feeling Hunk was talking about, and why I sudddenly want rocky road ice cream... Was she pissed about Keith?"

"What? Oh," he smiled softly, shaking his head, "no. Not at all. She was really excited for me about Keith. It was super sweet. She's always been like that about him. Just... me and her? It's not the same... and it's ENOUGH not the same that it... kind of hurts." He sighed, "it's hard to explain."

"Are you like... okay?" she asked.

"Yeah. I mean, it's sad, but it's nobody's fault... and we still love each other, just not like THAT, you know?"

"I think I know what you mean," Pidge said, "and you know we are here if you ever need to talk or whatever. But I haven't seen Keith since we left Red's hangar."

"Thanks, I think I know where he probably is," he answered, smiling.

Keith was training... because of course Keith was training. Lance smiled, shaking his head at himself for bothering to look anywhere else. From the look of it, Keith was nearly done. There were only two bots still functioning and Keith was easily evading them. Not that he minded having the opportunity to watch Keith showcase his skills- especially in that Blade of Marmora suit. God bless whoever designed those things!

Sure enough, a few moments later, after some pretty impressive evasive maneuvers that served to herd the two bots right where he wanted them Keith's energy changed. He wasn't evading and dodging anymore. He was 100% on the offence now. She sprung forward in a burst of speed, quickly gaining momentum and did that Keith thing where he ran ON THE WALL somehow, twisting his torso as he jumped, and sliced through both in one perfect arc with his blade.

Lance gave him a little round of applause, "nice work. You need more time?"

Keith shook his head, he didn't even seem winded. His face flickered into view, and Lance felt a smile light up his face.

"I expected you to... be busy," Keith said and his voice sounded... oddly hollow, "for longer. With, umm.. you know... just, everything."

He shook his head, "the tech thing took like a minute. I have a sexy little implant jewel now!"

"Shiro knows," Keith said suddenly, shifting the subject. "About... the text you saw and... all that."

"That makes everyone then," Lance answered.

"Everyone? We've been back... like.. an hour," Keith looked so shocked that it made Lance giggle and a flush crept up his cheeks.

"Uhh... yeah... you don't feel it because of your Galra blood, but empaths broadcast what they are feeling too, we don't just pick up on other people's emotions... plus... umm... the implant had to go right here," he tapped the spot, feeling the hard little bump that was his new 'medical device', "and Pidge, Coran, and Hunk got a bit of an eyeful. I didn't SAY anything to them about it or anything. So, it's not like they have details... or even an explanation, now that I think about it... I should probably fix that soon..." He shook his head, he'd worry about that part later, "but yeah, they saw, so they know."

Keith groaned, blushing cutely, "so you had to tell Allura. I get it."

"Yeah. Wait-What? You thought I wasn't going to tell Allura? Oh, my g-... You really thought that!"

"Well, we hadn't talked about it... and... you know, lots of guys wouldn't."

"Right." Lance blinked at him, stunned and more than a little hurt. "Okay, this is not the place for this conversation. C'mon, we are going somewhere more private, someplace with somewhere to sit. Because there's OBVIOUSLY some stuff we need to figure out!" He grabbed Keith's hand and dragged him out of the training room and down one of the endless corridors, muttering under his breath in Cubano the whole way.

"I can't make out what you are saying," Keith informed him as they rounded a corner.

"Yeah. I know. That's on purpose," he responded, tossing an irritated look at Keith over his shoulder as he dragged him into his quarters, locking the door behind them. He turned to face Keith, anger and hurt flashing in his eyes. "Okay- FIRST of all, I am not a cheater. I don't know why you assumed I was, but I'm not. Let's get that out of the way right off the bat. I don't cheat. Period. Clear?"

"I wasn't trying to say that you were," Keith replied, "but that doesn't automatically mean you would TELL her."

"Second of all, the whole reason that we ended up in the middle of nowhere together was that Allura and I were getting too tangled up in each other's emotions, right? It was getting hard to tell which of us originally felt what, because we were like... blending together or something, yeah? So, she knew the situation with me before we ever set foot in those mines. She's been all up in my face about you since the day you got back... I mean, its sweet but... ugh..."

"She's what?" Keith looked so confused.

"Ah-ba-ba-ba-ba, not done here," Lance cut him off, waggling his fingers in Keith's face, despite the fact that he had been asking Keith questions, "and third of all- even with the crystals she and I are BOTH still empaths- I didn't HAVE to tell her anything, Keith. I said your name. I didn't even have to do that. The second I thought of you, she KNEW. She could feel... all of it."

Keith rubbed at the back of his neck, "Lance, I really don't understand half of what you just said."

Chapter Text

Lance sighed, reminding himself of how confusing HE found the whole empath thing, and he was the one experiencing it. Keith was immune to it, so it must be even more alien and bizarre to him. He plunked himself down on his bed, and patted the mattress beside him. "Sit... please?" Keith sat, eyeing him warily, "ok... so, the empathy means that I can usually FEEL what the people around me are feeling. Not like 'oh, Hunk is sad, I can tell' but like 'I feel sad when I am close to Hunk, but it doesn't feel like MY sadness'. With Allura, before we got... chipped... I could feel her emotions almost like they were mine. If they were STRONG enough, it really felt like it was ME that felt it. Like, one time, after a briefing I just fell apart- everything was too much and I couldn't sort myself out, she found me, and she fell apart. We were a mess, just like sobbing all over each other and... ugh... it was just awful. Blue had to intervene to stop the spiral. Am I making sense? I feel like I'm not making sense."

"No, I think you are good... I think I get it."

"Okay... so the day you came back? In the hall? She knew. She felt it. Like RIGHT away, the second I felt it, so did she." Lance shrugged, "but I was used to ignoring it, like, not consciously thinking about it... and she... Allura doesn't ignore shit. It's a pain in the ass."

"That's kind of creepy... almost like spying or something."

"Yup- no arguments here," he answered, "there's lots about this whole thing that is creepy. It creeps me out and I'm the one it is happening to. I don't NEED to know that Shiro is just like, constantly mad at me about nothing. I don't NEED to know exactly what Coran feels when he thinks about King Alfor- because trust me, it is really hard to feel that and not let on. I feel like I am getting glimpses of people's diaries and I really wish I could figure out how to just let some shit be private, for everyone's sake."

"He's not constantly mad at you about nothing," Keith said.

"What?"

"Shiro- he's not constantly mad at you over nothing."

"I know what I am picking up from him. I know what anger feels like, Keith."

"I get that- I'm just saying, it's not constantly, and it's not over nothing. It's just... brother stuff."

"Brother stuff?" He cocked his head to one side, watching Keith's face, "ahh... the 'rebounding bi boys' comment? That kind of 'brother stuff'?"

Keith nodded, not meeting his eyes.

"Me and Allura?" he asked gently, "that bothered you? Before the clusterfuck mission?"

"Yeah... it bothers me," Keith said after a moment. For a second, he had looked like he was going to deny it.

"I'm really sorry, Keith," Lance whispered, "I didn't know..."

"Yeah, I know. I keep telling him that it isn't fair. You didn't do anything wrong."

"You've been defending me?" he was floored, "to Shiro?"

Keith's eyes flashed with irritation and he scowled at Lance, "yeah- it's just the truth."

Lance sighed, visibly touched. "Still... that means a lot to me."

"You make no sense sometimes," Keith muttered.

"I could say the same about you, you know."

"Hrmmph," he rolled his eyes.

It was surprisingly adorable and Lance fought the urge to grin at him, suspecting it would not be received well. He decided to try to bring the conversation back on track, "Allura and I... that whole thing with her... it's done."

"Is she furious? Does she hate me again?"

"She doesn't hate you, and she's not even a little furious. She's actually really happy and excited... and also sad and disappointed, but that bit has nothing to do with you."

"You're not making sense again, Lance."

He sighed, "okay, I'm screwing this up. So, I'm going to try quoting her. Maybe that will work. The day you got back from the Blades... I asked her if she was mad, or hurt, or jealous and she was confused about why I would think she was. She said that how I felt about YOU had nothing to do with HER. That's her mindset. Alteans approach relationships differently. She was pushing me to make a move, Keith. She couldn't understand why I wouldn't. Today, I mentioned you and she like SQUEALED... it was very girly and dramatic."

"This whole thing is really weird," Keith muttered.

"Yeah, kinda... but in a good way- at least that part. The not so great part is that the implants kind of suck... that's what she's sad and disappointed about."

"Are you? Sad and disappointed about the implants?" Keith asked.

"Well- I am a big fan of not putting the team at risk because of how close Allura and I were, and I love that I don't have to leave Voltron and I can be back here again. So, that's a major pro... and I don't WANT to be getting high from her... but I'd be lying if I tried to say that high wasn't awesome. The thing is, I didn't KNOW it was a high, not really. I wasn't CHOOSING to get high... it was like having my drink spiked. I thought it was just... us. So, it hurts to know we were wrong about that, and being around her reminds me of what it USED to be like. But... with clear heads, it was super obvious to both of us that Allura and I are definitely just friends."

"Just friends?"

"Yeah, we are still going to dance together, probably not everyday, but other than that, we are sticking to group hang-outs. At least for a while."

"You think that will work? That you guys can go backwards like that?"

"It's not backwards, it doesn't work like that," Lance sighed, "I love her, I do... but I am not in love with her. I'll never be in love with her. We don't...like... fit together that way. I had a crush, and the empathy thing sort of distorted that... I mean, she's amazing and we get along really well, but without that feedback loop I think I would have gotten over the crush pretty quickly once I got to know her better one on one. So, it's not backwards... it's more like... getting back on track."

"As friends," Keith confirmed.

"Yeah... as friends." Lance smiled, "it'll take a while, I think, but once we get used to the crystals and everything to do with the whole getting high off each other thing fades out a bit, I am pretty sure she and I could be really good friends."

"You friends with a lot of your exes?"

"No- but I also don't WORK with any of them, and I also never dated any of them because I had a giant robot lion activate latent empathic tendencies I didn't know I had and forge some kind of weird amplifying emotional link between us, either. Soooo..." he shrugged, "besides, we're each the only other empath we know, no one else can really understand what that is like and we're both still just figuring it out- we're going to need a friend we can trust and that gets it... and we really do get along well. I think friends will work for me and Allura. It's not like we had a nasty break-up or anything."

"Does it bother you that your empathy doesn't work on me?" he asked, peeking up through his lashes.

"I actually love that," Lance answered, he hadn't really realized that until he said it out loud, but it was definitely true. "I like that I know what I'm feeling is just from me. I like that you get to decide how much you want to share with me. Coming back here made me realize how much I appreciate your bubble of silence." He reached out to brush his fingers through Keith's hair, "I like YOU, I don't want my weird feelings mojo to change you if we spend a lot of time together. Allura and I were changing each other- in a very not good way."

"You're sure?"

Lance laughed, "I'm sure. There will probably be times when I get frustrated or hurt or whatever because you aren't making sense to me, or you aren't understanding how I am reacting to something... but I would MUCH rather that than the alternative. Does it bother you that you're immune to it?"

"No, I don't like the idea of not being able to keep what I feel about something private... but..." he sighed, shaking his head.

"But?" Lance prompted, "I know that talking isn't, like, your THING, but that was not the end of a sentence where you stopped talking there."

Keith glared at him then shifted on the bed a few times. Lance just waited, he'd seen this before. This was one of the things Keith did when he was trying to sort out what he wanted to say.

"I guess I was kind of worried that you might think it was a bad thing... or that it made me 'too Galra' or something."

"You being immune saved us all, Keith, I'm never going to think that's a bad thing... and you are just YOU... you can't possibly be 'too Galra', however much Galra you are is exactly as much as you should be. It's just... part of you. I like you the way you are. When you aren't being a pain in the ass."

"Me?! You are just as much of a pain in the ass as I am!" he protested sharply.

Lance smiled, "I don't know what you are talking about, I am a joy to be around. A JOY!"

Keith grabbed a pillow and smacked Lance with it. Laughing, Lance surged forward, knocking Keith onto his back on the bed. Immediately, his fingers went for Keith's lower ribs, where he KNEW he was ticklish. The Marmora jumpsuit was distractingly flattering, but it was made of an odd fabric that was somehow slick and stiff at the same time, so he wasn't sure sure how effective his tactic was going to be until he heard the little stifled squeak that Keith made when he was trying not to laugh.

His grin turned evil and he redoubled his efforts, "hit me with my OWN pillow, huh? Ohhh... you are so going to pay for that!"

They grappled and tossed each other around for several minutes before Lance fell- or was knocked- onto the floor. "Enough!" he laughed, "fine, you win!"

Keith poked his head over the edge of the bed, smirking triumphantly at him, "damn right I win."

His eyes were sparkling, his face flushed from laughter and exertion, his hair a messy halo framing his face, and that smirk... was just... Lance felt his face stretch into a smile that seemed decidedly 'dreamy' and he sighed, "you really are crazy gorgeous, you know that?" He blinked, his face shifting to a more serious, thoughtful kind of beauty, but still gorgeous.

"I'm still not used to you saying stuff like that."

"Would it help if I added, 'you and your stupid mullet' to the end of it?" Lance teased.

"I can still reach your pillows you know," Keith threatened.

Laughing, Lance held up his hands, "truce!"

Reaching out, Keith grasped one of Lance's hands and let him brace against him to sit up. He leaned his back against the side of the bed and stayed sitting on the floor with his knees bent, just enjoying the quiet moment. Shortly after that, Keith started playing with his hair idly and he smiled, basking in the attention.

"You wanna see the implant?" Lance asked after a little while, mainly to distract himself from the big scary questions that were rattling around in his brain. They'd done SO WELL when they were studiously avoiding discussing how their relationship was evolving back at the bolt-hole, but that was a luxury they no longer had.

"If you want to show me, sure," Keith answered.

"Yeah," he answered, pulling his armor off again. It was kind of ridiculous to being wearing the full suit when he was just lazing around in his room anyway. "I tried to get Pidge to put it somewhere I could hide it. You know, from my Mom when we get back to Earth, but I guess it only works right in one spot. I didn't ask why."

Keith snorted, "so someone said 'here let me staple this alien tech into your body right there... because reasons' and you just went 'ok sounds fine'?"

"Not SOMEONE," Lance argued, "PIDGE. I trust Pidge." He'd shed all of the armor plates and was pulling his arms and shoulders out of the black under layer.

"Are you sure that is wise?" Keith teased, "she's a little... intense when it comes to tech... not to mention her evil streak."

"I trust Pidge," Lance insisted, "besides, Hunk and Coran were both there, too... and I didn't pick up anything from any of them to make me suspicious."

"Relax, I'm just giving you a hard time," Keith laughed, "Pidge wouldn't mess with you about something like this. Alright... lemme see."

Lance dropped to the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of Keith. "Tada, my new bling."

"Quiznak," Keith chuckled, "I'd gotten so used to seeing it I stopped noticing how marked up you are. Pidge, Hunk AND Coran saw this?"

"Yes!" Lance responded, flinging arms wide, "Pidge called me a chew toy! YOUR CHEW TOY!"

"S'kinda true," he snickered, "but it could have been worse."

"Really? It could have been worse than chew toy? Oh! And finding out those jerks had a BET going- Hunk won a BET about us!"

"Yeah, that makes sense... and yes, it could have been worse... SHIRO could have been there. He was probably PLANNING on being there to see it get implanted, and got distracted by checking on me, you know that, right?"

Lance went pale, "yeah, that would have been worse."

"I like it, though," Keith said softly, "the little jewel thing. I like it. It's kinda hot."

"Yeah?" Lance's lip crooks up on one side, his eyebrows doing that waggle that always makes Keith roll his eyes and smile a little.

Sure enough, Keith rolled his eyes and smiled, "yeah... or maybe it's the reminder of how you got all marked up."

"That WAS fun," Lance whispers, leaning closer and bumping his nose against Keith's.

"It was," Keith agreed, kissing him softly.

Chapter Text

Lance smiled into the kiss. Keith loved it when he did that. He didn't know why he loved it so much, but he did- it made his breath catch every single time. Lance's smile relaxed and he leaned closer, his lips parting for him. Keith tipped his head to the side and swept his tongue out, ready to deepen the kiss and flinched back. "You taste wrong," he said, frowning.

"Rude," Lance replied, aghast. "Dude, I haven't even eaten anything since the last time we kissed!"

"I don't know... it's not like you taste BAD, you don't taste like YOU," Keith rolled until he was able to sit up. He was on edge suddenly and he didn't like it at all. The last thing he wanted to do was insult Lance... or worse, hurt him, "that was the weirdest thing... I have no idea what happened there..."

"You wanna try again?" Lance asked him.

He didn't seem hurt or insulted, a little curious... maybe even like he was trying not to laugh at Keith or something. Not that long ago, that expression from Lance would have had him backing off- wary of a prank- but now he knew there was no way Lance would be making some kind of joke out of this. He sighed, "I guess... I'm not sure what would have changed since the last one though."

"It was probably just some kind of fluke thing, Keith," Lance said softly, moving closer again, and kneeling up to rest his hands on Keith's shoulders, "don't overthink it."

"Yeah, you're probably right," he smiled, trying to shake the weird feeling.

Lance was the one to close the distance this time, pressing his mouth to Keith's with confidence and nipping at his bottom lip playfully. Keith gasped, surprised and Lance pressed forward, meeting Keith's tongue with his own. Keith pulled back, "I'm sorry... I don't know what's going on."

"Heyyy," Lance slipped his arms around him, hugging him close.

Keith let his eyes drift shut, relaxing into the hug and burying his face in the curve of Lance's throat, breathing in the- "you smell different, too. What the fuck is happening?" He pulled back, there was just something so disconcerting about it.

"Babe, it's probably just that we are back on the castle- different air or whatever," Lance reassured him, "it's been a while since either of us were here."

"Yeah... that makes sense, I guess." Except that Lance had always smelled like himself when he came back from time with the Blades, even when he'd been gone for longer.

"Okay Sugarplum," he said softly, "why don't we change into civvies and go get something to eat, maybe socialize with our friends? Think about something else for a bit?"

Keith nodded, he STILL couldn't believe that Lance called him that ridiculous nickname. Even more mortifying was that it didn't even BOTHER him anymore, sometimes he even LIKED it, "sounds like a plan... and I'd like to see everyone. But... Shiro is probably going to have questions, he might even pull you aside..."

Lance laughed, "Shiro is going to pull me aside with 'questions'? Are you saying I'm going to get the 'what are your intentions?' interrogation from Takashi Shirogane? How is this my life now?!"

"I'm... not really sure why you are laughing, Lance," Keith said softly.

"It's just... so... my life is just so strange, that's all. When I was at the Garrison, I wanted to be just like Shiro, I wanted to go to space, I wanted to fall in love with a beautiful girl, I wanted to know how people really felt about me, and have adventures like flying to the moon, or piloting science expeditions to the 'far reaches' of our solar system. Now I am sitting in a space ship that is also a castle, having just split up with an actual princess because we were getting high off magically exaggerated happy feels, I am a literal famous person, who had a damn tv show and has action figures and fans and shit, because I pilot a robot ship that is shaped like a lion that becomes the arm of a bigger robot ship that is shaped like a man in an intergalactic space war, I eat goo at least twice a day, and Shiro might pull me aside to quiz me on my intentions for my 'rival' Keith... who, by the way, is part alien and ALSO part of the whole sentient robot fighting team thing." He shook his head, "you have to admit, it kind of sounds like I used mad-libs to write a fake diary entry."

"Mad-libs?" Keith repeated, puzzled.

"Yeah, the stupid word games that kids do all the time. You know, you fill in a list of words based on instructions like 'noun', 'adverb', 'color', 'person's name', 'verb' and whatever, and then you read a story with blanks in it and use the list to fill the blanks. You've never done mad-libs?"

"I've never even heard of mad-libs," Keith answered, "but it sounds like something Shiro gets a kick out of."

"Oh man, they can be a real blast. I should see if me and Hunk and Pidge can come up with some so you can see how they go."

"You don't have to do that, Lance. I don't think I'm missing a whole lot," Keith smiled, he loved how much joy Lance got from so many little things. It was seriously endearing. "But it doesn't change the fact that Shiro probably will corner you... so you should be prepared, because I'm not sure he'll back off when I tell him to."

Chapter Text

"Well... what do you want me to say to him?" Lance asked.

"I don't know- the truth I guess," Keith said with a shrug.

"Which is what?"

"Huh? The truth us the truth, isn't it? So, whatever he asks, tell him the truth."

"And if he asks what's going on with us, I should say...?" Lance spread his hands helplessly, eyebrows quirking up like he was expecting Keith to give him a script or something.

"The? Truth?" Keith repeated.

"Oh my god, Keith," Lance flopped over onto the bed dramatically, "you are killing me here, babe! This is as bad as the Voltron chant thing."

"I still don't understand why we wouldn't just say-"

"I know! I know you don't understand, " he took a breath and sat back on his heels again, "sugarplum? If your protective big brother asks me what we are to each other, what do you want me to tell him? What WORDS do you want me to use?"

"Oh," Keith blushed, "I don't know. I'm not good with this stuff."

"What stuff? Talking to Shiro? You are good at talking to Shiro," Lance moved to sit beside him on the bed, running his fingers through Keith's hair gently.

"No... emotional stuff... people stuff..." he rubbed at the back of his neck, starting to stress.

"Okay, calm down," Lance smiled, "we'll figure this out, it's not that difficult, right? We just need to decide what we each want and see if we can make that happen. Nobody else gets a say."

"Yeah, alright," Keith nodded turning to face him, one foot on the floor the other hooked over his knee. "So, what do you want?"

"No fair, making me go first, "Lance griped, "I was the one that put myself out there first at the bolt-hole."

"Yeah, well that turned out pretty good, didn't it, cupcake?" he smirked.

Lance glared at him, but there was no heat in it. "I can't decide if that was a sarcastic 'cupcake' or not." He huffed, still kind of scowling. It was so wrong that he looked so damn adorable doing that. "But I get that this kind of thing is really tough for you so finnnnnne, I'll go first. I liked the way things were between us at the bolt-hole. I'd like to keep building on that. I mean, I know we can't spend every single minute within ten feet of each other and never talk to anyone else ever again... but I liked being like cuddly, and affectionate, and open and stuff. I liked being 'coupley'."

"That's not really saying what you want, though, that's saying what you liked before..."

"Keith, I want to be 'coupley' with you, like we were back at the bolt-hole, like we've been in here. I want THIS," he clarified, gesturing back and forth between them, "I want YOU- as much of you as you are willing to share with me. BUT I only want it if that's what you want, too. I don't want to be like... a tag-along, or a distraction, or a way to kill time." He took a deep breath, steadying himself, and he looked... almost scared, "I want you to be with me because you want ME, not because I'm the least unappealing option in a tiny pool of possibilities... and I don't want to be made to feel bad because of who I am."

"What do you mean?" Keith was getting worried, did Lance really think he would do any of that stuff? USE him like that?

"I'm polyam- I can be into more than one person at a time... and I'm a flirt- BUT I don't cheat... and I don't pursue every person I like... and most of the time, my flirting isn't serious, a lot of the time, I don't even really notice I'm doing it, it's just how I interact with people, it's just a way to keep the mood light and make someone feel good... and maybe get some of the same thing back. If I am in a relationship and I'm exclusive, I take that seriously- but I can't control whether I find someone else appealing, I can only control my ACTIONS." He fidgeted, "I mean, I feel like this stuff is probably pretty obvious because of the way everything happened with Allura and you and me, but I want to be really clear. I've had people be really nasty to me about this, accuse me of stuff I didn't do, tell me I don't feel what I feel. I am done with that. I won't keep letting anyone make me feel like a monster because I can care about two people romantically just as easily as I can care about more than one family member or more than one friend. I am a GOOD person, and I treat people well."

"Woah... you are getting really upset," Keith caught Lance's hands in his own, "I didn't say any of that stuff. I know you are a good person. I see that every day. I could never think you were a monster."

"Okay," he let out a shaky breath, "sorry... coming to terms with that part of me was rough, I'm still kind of touchy about it. The whole bisexual thing was way easier, and I think Hunk was ready to cut off his ears and pluck out his eyes so he could get a break from me stressing at him about that... Yeah... space has been kind rough on me."

"Space?" he was confused again, what did space have to do with any of this.

"Yeah," Lance blushed and half chuckled, "I did a really good job of avoiding thinking about any of this stuff by keeping myself busy and distracted on earth. I couldn't do that here. Lots of soul searching for Lancey Lance when we first got here. Buuuut- we got side-tracked... your turn: what do YOU want?"

Chapter Text

"The same stuff," he answered, "all the stuff from the bolt-hole... all the 'coupley' stuff. That's what I want whenever I am here."

"Whenever you are..." Lance sighed, his eyes closing as he shook his head slightly, "I can't believe I forgot about the fucking Blades of Marmora. You are literally IN your Blades gear right now. I'm such an idiot."

"Hey- you're not an idiot! Don't do that!" Keith snapped, he didn't mind it when Lance joked about being dumb, or when the others playfully mentioned it- he'd done it himself... but this sounded... different. It sounded like he MEANT it, and Keith had serious issues with THAT. Lance wasn't a brainiac like some of the others, but he WAS smart! He was a far cry from an idiot!

"Fine, whatever... moving on.. so, what do you want when you're NOT here, Keith? Because, I gotta say, I'm not a fan of the idea of going from bolt-hole coupley stuff to alone with no contact for weeks or more at a time and no idea if you are even still ALIVE, no way to reach you, and no clue when you'll be back. That sucked enough BEFORE the bolt-hole!"

Keith sighed, somehow he was already screwing this up. "It... wouldn't have to be like that. I usually touch base with Shiro a couple of times a week if it is safe. I could... do the same with you. More probably, when we aren't under radio silence. I could... like... make you my first contact- kind of like 'next of kin', you'd be the person that Kolivan contacted if I got hurt or..." He trailed off.

"Killed. You can say it. Killed. If you die on a mission, Kolivan could make sure I knew at least. I DO actually understand that we are in the middle of a war and what those stakes are, Keith. Any of us could have our luck run out and just... not survive the next mission. We've all had situations where we barely made it out alive. Hell, I got blown up at a party right here in the castle," he grumbled.

"How about we both avoid mentioning SPECIFIC times we almost died?" Keith shot him a look. Lance wasn't the only one that worried when he was away with the Blades, which was a big part of why Keith checked in with Shiro when he was able. "Okay, so... yeah. If I make you my first contact, Kolivan... well, the Blades, as a whole, really, would make sure that you, specifically, are notified if I am injured or killed. Some of the Blades make, like video messages before missions... just in case. We could do that- both of us."

"Well, this got real fucking depressing real fast, didn't it?" Lance sighed, scrubbing at his face. "Somehow 'oh hey, Shiro is going to talk to you' turned into us making final good-bye videos before every mission in like less time than it takes Pidge to solve a magic square."

"So," Keith pulled back, "I guess that's not good enough? We aren't going to do the coupley thing, then?"

"Hey, hey... that's not what I said," Lance reached out, tangling Keith's fingers with his, "I just don't like to think about you DYING, alright? It like... makes me SAD to make a plan for what will happen if you DIE on me. I'm pretty sure that being bummed about the other person dying is a prerequisite for ANY couple."

"Okay," he shifted, trying to puzzle out the best way to word what he wanted to say, "so, does that mean... that you are... my boyfriend, now?"

"You mean," Lance smirked, teeth flashing, eyes sparkling, eyebrows doing that THING he did with them as he moved his hand from his shoulder to his hip like one of those pretty women on game shows, "you wanna lock down all this awesomeness?"

Keith rolled his eyes and blushed. It was a weird combination that he had literally NEVER experienced before meeting Lance, but that happened all the damn time, now, "Why? Why are you like this?"

"Awesome? Wonderful? Seeeeeeexy?"

He groaned, shaking his head, "yes, Lance, that's what I meant. Couple. Boyfriend. Exclusive. First contact. All that stuff."

"Hand holding?" Lance asked.

Keith nodded.

"In front of the others?" his eyes sparkled. How did he DO that? The light was constant- it should be impossible. But there it was, those blue, blue eyes glittering like they were thirty different shades of sparkling sapphires or something. He almost forgot that Lance had asked him a question.

"Yeah, in front of the others... unless... you think it might upset Allura."

"Are you kidding? Allura will probably coo at us or randomly start complimenting your eyes again."

"That was a very strange day," Keith reflected.

"I can probably explain some of it another time. We need to talk sleeping arrangements."

"We do?"

"Oh yeah- I must insist on enforcing the new dresscode regs AND that we sleep in the same bed when we are in the same place."

Keith smiled, realizing that Lance was now just being a pain in the ass, and not actually debating his answer, after all. "You insist, huh? I think I can make that work. But I must insist that NO ONE finds out about the whole sugarplum/cupcake thing!"

"Oh HELLS no! The thought of Pidge knowing those nicknames makes my blood run cold!"

They both laughed, and then Lance met his eyes, and the laughter stopped. He got the softest, sweetest look on his face that Keith had ever seen and he went quiet and still. The way he did every now and then- like he was trying to go so still that EVERYTHING froze... and he did the little eyes-close-slow-breath thing he did before he took a tough shot, and only after that, with those impossibly deep, incredibly blue eyes locked on his own, did Lance say anything, in a tiny, shy, hopeful voice, "babe... you're my boyfriend."

Chapter Text

He could feel the smile that slowly spread over his features hit the spot where his smiles usually stopped and just. keep. going. Until his face felt like it would split apart. Until his cheeks actually hurt. He was just so utterly, completely happy in that moment. He couldn't imagine anyone ever being happier.

Lance's face, with his perfect features, mesmerizing expressions, and those eyes of his- so beautiful and clear, just so open and trusting. His face was... seared into Keith's memory, just like that, and forever tied to those four words 'babe... you're my boyfriend'.

It felt like every little crack and fissure and scorch mark on his heart just... healed up like they'd never existed. He was so bursting with love that it felt like the words might just leak out of him somehow, but he held them back. He knew this wasn't the time. This moment was already special enough, already perfect.

He felt a flare of campfire-coziness and Lance laughed suddenly, "Red seems to want to claim matchmaker credit. Did you feel that?"

He nodded, "smug pride, affection, and a whole lot of 'it's about time' what you got?"

"Pretty much, with a dollop of 'I'm not going to say I told you so, but...' on top of the other stuff." Lance tapped him on the nose playfully, light dancing in his blue eyes, "Blue is happy, too... I was worried she'd be pissed... about the crystals... and about Allura... but she feels, ummm... like a little bad... guilty maybe? or maybe just sorry? about that stuff and big happy splashes about you."

"Splashes?" Keith asked, his head cocking to one side, "happy splashes?"

"Yeah, like excited kids playing in the pool and like, sending up the big sheets of splashes you can make by cutting your hand through the water just so- usually accompanied by like squealing and laughing at the same time. That's what Blue feels like, that exact mood."

That didn't really make any sense to Keith, how was the mood the water and not the kid? I mean, obviously, the kid was the one having the emotion, right? But, it was just so LANCE, like in the best way- not like how when he somehow managed to get himself cuffed that was also just so LANCE. This was like how Lance was always the one to know when someone needed a hug, or how he could magically make Shiro sit the fuck down for five minutes and relax, or how he could look at him just exactly the way he was doing right now and like, make him forget how to breathe... just because he was so perfectly HIM.

"Black is kind of... big? Black's like a shadow, so it's really hard to put that stuff into words. Ummm... ok, you know when a cat wakes up and does that like crazy big stretch thing with the paws all stretched wide and the head like squashed down and it looks like it is just the best stretch ever? Like half THAT and half the way Shiro gets all pigeon chested with his arms crossed when someone thanks him for something he wasn't expecting? Like, not the heroic stuff, the little things- like if someone forgets their phone somewhere and he drops it off, or he remembers something from one of Coran's stories and Coran gets that FACE he does when we know what the hell he's talking about.. Black feels like those two things at once."

"Wow- that whole thing just made me glad I never ended up in Black! I would be soooo lost if I had to decipher cat+Shiro SHAPES," Lance blinked at him, "but I guess it only matters that YOU get it."

Keith shoved his shoulder lightly, "maybe I experience the lions differently because of the whole Galra-empath-immunity-thing?"

"Maybe... what does Red feel like to you?"

"Now? Like a campfire where I am just out of range of the heat, unless it flares up or the wind is blowing just the right way. Before? Pretty much just fire- but not dangerous fire, useful fire."

"Well, that's good, I can't imagine how hard it would have been for you if it was just like a raging brush fire or something back when you were piloting Red," Lance's voice was soft, sympathetic... and for a second it surprised him, he wasn't used to people acting like the loss of his father might still affect him.

"Yeah, that would have been rough, but I don't think that could happen between and Lion and their pilot, just because of how the bonds work."

"Yeah, maybe. For me, Red feels like... magma, maybe. Heat and rocks and fire that flows and moves like water. So, yeah it seems like it changes from person to person. That's kinda cool."

"Soooo... boyfriend," Keith drawled, trying out the label for the first time. Boyfriend. Lance was his boyfriend. LANCE was his boyfriend. Lance was HIS boyfriend. Lance was his BOYFRIEND. That was a real thing that had happened! He grinned, "you mentioned civvies?"

"Yes!" Lance clapped, because of course he did, and he hopped to his feet, pressing a kiss to the top of Keith's head, "right. Civvies and socialize. NOT be hermits hidden away in my quarters. You wanna wear something of mine? Or head back to your own room to change?"

"If you think you have stuff that will fit, that's fine with me," Keith replied easily.

Lance chuckled, "we're really going to be broadcasting this couple thing, huh? You in my clothes, me all marked up."

Keith shrugged, "Shiro is always saying I'm like 'all or nothing' with stuff, so that will make sense to him, at least."

"Speaking of... just how pissed at me was he when you saw him last?"

"I think he was more irritated with me and generally worried. But, I'm supposed to go get drunk with him tonight, so that should smooth over any lingering anger."

"You're getting drunk with Shiro? Tonight?" Lance confirmed, "is this like a regular thing you guys do? Get sloshed without us?"

Keith shook his head, "no- before I left, I said some things about Adam... about how Adam reacted to the news about Kerberos... we haven't ever talked about that before. So..."

"Oh," he stopped poking through his clothes and pulled Keith into a hug, "I know I smell wrong- deal with it. I am sorry tonight is going to be heavy for you. I hope it helps- both of you... and I'll be here when you get back."

"Thanks," Keith sighed, soaking up the comfort of the hug. They were supposed to both be drowning broken hearts- that had been the plan- but now Keith was honestly happier than he'd ever been, and Shiro was going to have hear about the nightmare the reports of his death caused. Keith was suddenly very, very glad that he'd be coming home to Lance and not an empty room after that.

Chapter Text

Keith fidgeted as they walked, hand-in-hand, down the hallway. Lance resisted the urge to tease him about it because he knew the fidgeting had more to do with nerves than comfort. This was a big step for both of them, but it was scarier for Keith- who was so acutely private, and who was worried about Shiro, and who was still uncertain when hanging out with the others, and who was so sweetly, adorably worried about hurting Allura.

"You look really cute," he whispered to his boyfriend, smiling when his violet eyes darted in his direction and his brow furrowed skeptically. "You do!" Lance grinned, "I think you look adorable."

"Adorable and cute?" Keith repeated, clearly unimpressed. He was dressed in clothing Lance had claimed that day he and Allura had gone in search of dance gear. Altean clothing was made with some kind of tech or magic that allowed them to adjust and shift to some extent for a better fit. Keith was a tad shorter than him and a slightly different build, but evidently close enough for the clothes to auto-fit themselves.

The colors were not Keith's usual palette, and the fit was VERY different from the skin tight clothes and cropped jacket that was signature 'Keith', but Lance thought he looked good. REALLY good, actually. The dusky grey pants were trim, but not tight and they flared slightly at the knee then were tucked into Keith's boots. He wore a sleeveless white shirt that fit snugly and had a high collar topped with one of those embroidered tunic tops that were so popular in any of the footage they'd seen of Alteans, in black and white, with the usual golden trim and accents.

"Would 'handsome' be better?" Lance asked lightly, "because I think going for sexy would be counterproductive to the goal of spending time OUTSIDE of a room with a bed in it and only each other for entertainment."

"I look like I got a summer job at a Ren Faire," he grumbled, squeezing Lance's hand again.

"Do I look like I work at a Ren Faire?" Lance asked, as he'd also donned some of the 'new to him' Altean clothing. As much as he loved his baseball tee and jeans, and appreciated the advanced tech that cleaned clothes IN the wardrobes overnight, he was really dying for a change. He was wearing a loose blue tunic top with half sleeves and a blessedly high collar that was probably intended to be worn under something with decorative touches, because is was all one color except for some black embroidery around the hems, over a pair of loose cream-colored pantaloon things.

"No," Keith sighed, his eyes closing for a moment. Lance stopped them in the hall, turning to Keith.

"Babe? Are you okay?" he asked gently.

Keith mustered up a smile, reaching out to cup Lance's face. "Yeah... I'm just nervous and worried about the thing with Shiro tonight."

"It's just the team, babe, everything will go right back to normal after like 5 minutes, I promise. As for Shiro, all I can say is that I can talk to you as long as you like when you get back, okay?" He rested his forehead against Keith's smiling softly. "Allura is close, I can feel her... and before you worry- she's in a good mood."

"Lance?" Allura's voice carried down the hall and Lance heard Keith mutter something he couldn't make out, although he did recognize the slightly snotty expression on his face as he said it.

"We're just around the corner, Allura," he called back, tugging Keith along with him.

She laughed as they rounded the turn, then stopped short when she saw them. "Oh my!" A pulse of nostalgia hit Lance and he smiled at her. "The clothes! Of course, I'd forgotten you'd taken more than just leotards. Oh you both look so handsome! Welcome home Keith!" She pulled the startled Paladin into a tight hug. He balked for a second and then awkwardly patted her back, shooting Lance a puzzled expression. Lance grinned at him and gave him a thumbs up.

"Um... thank-you, Princess," he said, relaxing in to the ongoing hug. Her hair tickled his nose and he screwed his face up trying to avoid laughing or sneezing. She smelled like almonds and lemon and- "Lance!" he blurted out, "I figured it out! You smelled like Allura!"

Allura stepped back, startled and visibly confused, Lance laughed, "that makes sense. Sorry, Lulu... Keith couldn't figure out why something seemed off about me earlier. I guess so long in such close quarters really fine tunes the senses."

"Oh," Allura chuckled, "I'm sure it doesn't help that Galra tend to be territorial of their lovers. I'm sorry if that was upsetting, Keith."

"I'm not Galra," Keith said immediately.

"She knows that, babe," Lance said gently, resting his hand on Keith's back.

"Of course! I merely meant that since you have Galra in your background, you might be more sensitive to things that might trigger a territorial response..."

"Like smelling you on me?" Lance asked.

"Given our history and how very recent it is, yes, very much like that," Allura said.

Keith rolled his shoulder, moving closer to Lance and sliding his arm around his waist. Lance leaned into the touch, moving his arm to drape over Keith's shoulders. He could feel the concern and... regret?... embarrassment? tingeing in around Allura's generally happy and affectionate mood. He squeezed Keith's shoulder and rubbed his thumb against the curve of muscle knowing he must be feeling uncomfortable. Allura WOULD be the first one they ran into.

"How are you feeling, Allura?" Keith asked, shifting his weight slightly. "I know you were in the pod for a really long time."

"Physically, I am fine, Keith," she said with a smile, "and I am in your debt- as are we all, I am told."

"I just did what any of you would do," Keith said, shaking his head.

"Just because we are a team of remarkable people doesn't discount that you are remarkable," she chided softly. "You saved all of our lives and I am very aware of that fact... and then you were willing to isolate yourself with Lance for an indeterminate time and no idea of what taking care of him would entail. That was truly exceptional. I've never seen Shiro more impressed, or more worried."

"Really?" Keith blinked, surprised.

"Yes, truly. We all were very touched- Shiro and I especially. It was a great comfort to me to know that you were helping him."

"That's very sweet, Lulu," Lance said softly. "He'll probably deny it but I was a clingy, annoying, pain in the ass. He compared me to a toddler."

"A toddler? I don't know that term..." she looked confused.

"A baby that has just started to walk and talk," Lance explained, "notoriously demanding, irrational, and prone to emotional extremes."

"But definitely cuter than a preteen," Keith supplied.

"Aww Babe... did you just call me cute?" Lance cooed playfully.

"I think it is pretty much assumed that I think my boyfriend is cute," he answered. Lance grinned, his heart doing a funny little skip when Keith called him that and he fought the urge to giggle.

Allura did not. Her face lit up and she tittered daintily, "boyfriend?" Her eyes darted to Lance's and he nodded, "oh this IS exciting! I am so happy for you both!" Reaching out, she poked Lance in the shoulder, "and you were SO SURE that he had no interest whatsoever! You should have heard him Keith , 'it's KEITH, he barely considers me a friend on a GOOD day!' He was so worried if he told you how he felt you'd avoid us all and he didn't want you to lose the team because he ruined things. Tsk, tsk, all those wasted months-"

"Months?" Keith blinked up at him, a decidedly evil grin on his face.

Lance was starting to panic. They'd nailed down the boyfriend thing literal minutes ago and there was stuff that Allura knew that was likely to send Keith- with his trust issues and loner nature- running for the Blade of Marmora so fast he'd leave a Keith-shaped cloud in his place like in a cartoon if she let the wrong thing slip. What she'd already said was bad enough! "Hey now- private conversations!" he said playfully, "and now that I think about it, you never DID tell me who your favorite Paladin is!"

"Yes, I know I didn't," she laughed, "but relax, my favorite Paladin will always be my father."

Chapter Text

"Until she's had a few drinks," laughed Keith, "then it is whoever she is talking to."

"What?" she looked confused.

"Do you not remember that?" Lance asked, "the night we all went out- at one point you were telling all of us we were your favorite Paladin. It was adorable."

"Very cute," Keith agreed, "not as cute as you ordering Pidge to go pee with you, but still very cute."

"I ordered Pidge to what?" she went pale.

"Lulu, how much do you remember from that night?" Lance laughed. Somehow they'd all started walking together, heading in the general direction of the common room.

"I THOUGHT I remembered everything," she said softly, starting to look very worried.

"Do you," Keith's voice was impish, his face even more so, "remember how you LEFT the bar?"

"Now that you mention it... no..."

"Oh quiznak," Lance blurted out, "that was... a sight..."

"Shiro CARRIED you," the sheer glee in Keith's voice was remarkable... he actually reminded Lance of Pidge. "Over one shoulder. You were NOT happy- telling him off in Altean hitting his legs and back."

"You were not a fan of leaving," Lance agreed. Allura was shocked, and more than a little chagrined, but she wasn't mortified or humiliated, as far as Lance could tell. Keith was relaxing more by the minute now that they weren't talking about such personal things. So, Lance didn't feel any need to try to steer the conversation away from the topic at hand.

"Pidge has some video from that night, you should get her to show you," Keith suggested.

"Oh my god, Anbustitor!" Lance laughed, "you'll get a kick out of that one, Prunesplish."

Allura sighed, "oh, not you, too, Lance. That nickname is atrocious!"

"But you gave that one to yourself!"

"I don't think that's true. Allura SAID it first, but Pidge was the one that declared it her new nickname," interjected Keith.

"Ohhh yeah, she did, didn't she?" Lance chuckled, giving Keith a squeeze as they walked.

The common room was empty but they could see that one of the Altean holo-programs had been paused, there was a bowl of snacks laid out and a half finished pouch of water on the table, so whoever had been here was likely to return any moment.

"Oh! I recognize this," Allura chirped, "this is a serial that Shiro has been watching." She perched on the far edge of the couch, "you'd like this one, Lance- one of the characters is an entertainer, so there are many scenes with dancing."

"Shiro is watching a show about dancing?" Keith asked.

"Oh, no, the program isn't about dancing. It is about a young man who is cursed to have every new person who enters his life to fall in love with him for a phebe and he is compelled to make them happy or else he falls into a deep slumber. It is based on an Altean tale for children about a young Prince."

"So, what happens to the people after the time is up?" Lance was curious, this sounded like some kind of fairytale.

"It depends on the individual. Some move on, some become helpers, many stay. Part of the humor comes from him trying to manage his time and obligations."

"Oh my god," Keith breathed, "are they all exceptional in some way and beautiful?"

"Yes! Do you have a program like this on Earth?"

"It's a harem anime!" Keith laughed, pulling Lance over to the couch to sit with him, "Shiro found an Altean anime!"

"Do you think HE knows that?" chuckled Lance.

"Does he kno- Am I someone who would know about harem anime just from my day to day life? No, I am not. Adam was hooked on all kinds of anime, Shiro got sucked into them all the time... Matt, too."

"Shut UP! That's freaking hilarious!"

"What is a harem anime?" Allura waved to get their attention.

"Basically it is exactly what you described, but it is a cartoon," explained Keith.

"Cartoons are made by making hundreds of drawings detailing tiny movements and scenery changes, taking a still visual recording of each of them, and then showing the images in order very quickly," Lance explained to Allura.

"That seems like a lot of work for an entertainment recording- do you not have performers?"

"It's just a different kind of entertainment," Lance said leaning back and flopping his arms across the back of the couch.

"There are people who make their livings just recording the voices for cartoons," Keith added.

"Earth's culture is so fascinating," Allura mused.

"Earth doesn't just have one culture," Shiro said from the doorway. "What's going on here?"

"We're socializing?" Keith responded, smirking at Shiro as he curled into Lance's side.

"Why are you dressed like that?"

He looked so... perplexed, it was hard for Lance not to laugh. Really, he could UNDERSTAND why Shiro was confused. The guy had been watching his space anime, snacking away, just chilling and then he got up to pee or whatever and came back to... this. Keith and Lance in Altean clothes, being 'coupley' and hanging out with Allura. It had to be a bit of a head trip.

"Lance and I were looking for dance wear some time ago and he kept a selection of Altean clothing," Allura offered helpfully.

"And I borrowed some," added Keith, "watch'ya watchin'?"

"An Altean serial," Shiro answered, walking around the room so he could drop into the center of the curved couch without shimmying past anyone. "But, Earth has many cultures. Young planet... it hasn't fully amalgamated yet. Different traditions, physical appearances, spiritual beliefs, languages- all of it."

"Yeah, like... I'm Cuban," Lance said cheerfully, "but Shiro's Japanese, and Keith is Korean."

"Those are your ethnic backgrounds, yes?" she confirmed.

"Yes, but there is more to it than that," Shiro said.

Chapter Text

"Man, Coran should be here for this, he loves this kind of thing," observed Lance, "so, there's the obvious things like physical appearance and language, but it deeper and more subtle than that, too. Like.. Christmas- I told you about Christmas, right?"

"Yes, the gift giving and feasting and the children's story of the backwards thief," she smiled.

"Backwards thief?" Keith asked, tipping his face up to Lance's.

"He breaks into homes but instead of taking things of value, he leaves them behind," Allura explained.

"Yeah," Shiro said slowly, "that's... actually pretty accurate."

"Right, so MOST Earth cultures have some kind of celebration that falls around the Winter Solstice. For my culture it is Christmas- and it has a bunch of traditions relating to a religion called Christianity. In Cuba we focus on Noche Bueno and have a big feast and open gifts at Midnight."

"Really?" Keith asked, "cool. Dad and I always opened our Christmas gifts after church on Christmas Day... the couple of foster homes I was at did gifts at some point on Christmas day. The group home didn't really do anything."

Shiro reached out and mussed up Keith's hair, waves of affection and concern rolling off of him and making Lance smile. "We did a secular Christmas back at the Garrison- that's one without any religious connection, just the social traditions. One gift for each of us from Santa and then one gift from ourselves. Neither of us are Christian, but it was the dominant religion in the area... and then when Keith moved in, we did a small family Christmas, just the three of us."

"That all seem lovely, but very inconsistent," Allura laughed. "So, you and you are Chriss-shuns, but you are not?"

"I don't really believe in anything," Keith said, "but my Dad was Christian, not really devout though."

"Faith is pretty important to my family," Lance added, "but I don't agree with everything that we are 'supposed to' believe... I believe in God, but I'm not completely buying that the teachings we get are all that accurate."

"I am Shinto- it is a Japanese religion," Shiro glanced at Keith, smiling softly, his emotional imprint skewing more to nostalgia and wistfulness now, "and Adam is Jewish, which is the religion that Christianity grew out of- but there are many differences. Jews celebrate Hanukkah around the same time as Christmas, and Shinto focuses more on the changing of the year."

"Man, I miss the latkes Adam used to make at Hanukkah," Keith sighed, "and the sweet potato kugel."

"The guy could cook, that's for sure," Shiro agreed, a little smile tugging at his mouth and just like that, Lance got hit with a wave of emotion strong enough to make him blink and nearly reel back.

His eyes flew to Allura who was sitting stock still, her fingers clenched in the cushion of the couch and her eyes wide. Love, hurt, anger, regret, loneliness, sorrow, pride, worry, and a few emotions he couldn't even name bowled him over, and from the looks of it, they were doing the same to Allura. Holy shit- Shiro was usually MUCH more locked down than this! Vaguely, he remembered Pidge saying something about picturing the particle barrier around the Lions and he tried that. He envisioned Red with the glowing hexed dome, at rest. Wading through the flood of emotions from Shiro, he imagined the same kind of dome encasing him, keeping him away from feelings that weren't his own. Shiro was very private. He didn't feel right about getting so much incredibly personal information from such a casual piece of information. Shockingly, it helped. It helped a lot, actually.

"Lance?" Keith's voice sounded so far away, "hey- Lance, are you alright?"

"Yeah," he said, shaking his head, "haven't been around people in a while, that's all."

"What's going on?" Shiro asked, worry crowding out a lot of his spillover.

"You," Allura said, he voice thready, "feel things very deeply, Shiro."

"Quiznak, the empathy," muttered Keith.

"I'm fine," he tried again, "really.. I am. It was just... a LOT all of a sudden."

Shiro blushed, which was weirdly adorable, and looked sheepish... which didn't do anything to negate the adorableness. "What happened?"

"Adam," Keith guessed, "you thought about Adam."

Lance nodded and Allura spoke up again, "usually you send out mild emotions- fondness, worry, love for the team, frustration, regret... lots of different things, but all combined into kind of a hum- the way all the different moving parts of an engine add up to a hum. Maybe you are angry and so that is like a knocking in the engine, or you slept well and woke in a good mood and so the hum is a different pitch. This was different, this was a surge of many, many emotions, without warning."

"Like an air horn," Lance supplied, "harmless, but definitely grabs attention."

"And you both... felt that?" Shiro asked, sitting back when they nodded. "Well... this is going to take some getting used to."

"It's not a one way street, at least," Lance offered, "I mean, I know it sucks that you're feelings aren't completely private anymore... but Allura and I send OUT emotions, too. So, we aren't getting any information that we aren't sharing as well, if that helps at all."

"Given where your arm is at the moment, I'm not sure how comforting that is to me, in specific," Shiro said dryly, pointing out how tightly Lance was hanging on to Keith.

Lance's cheeks burned- he hadn't REALLY thought about just what he would be projecting with this new relationship with Keith to the others given the relatively close quarters.

"Oh yeah," Shiro said, "definitely sending out emotions, too- been a while since I felt that particular brand of teenage mortification."

Keith, who was apparently decidedly more evil than Lance had ever suspected, cracked up laughing.

"Oh... dear... yes, that may become an issue," said Allura softly, "I will... arrange for there to be training programs available to you on how to fine tune your shielding, Lance... and might I suggest we find you new quarters in a different wing? To afford everyone a bit more privacy?"

"Yeah, I think that might be wise, Princess," Shiro muttered, "what kind of range are we dealing with?"

"I am unsure, I would say no more than a room or two? Stronger emotions would reach further." Allura sighed, "there is still much I do not understand about this, and Lance knows even less. It may take some time to properly accommodate everyone."

"I'm sorry, Shiro," Lance said, his voice soft, "I really wish I could avoid eavesdropping on your feelings."

"Lance, stop. You had no say in this... and honestly, it's not all THAT different from how we bond with our Lions. I trust you, kid."

Chapter Text

Allura disappeared to talk to Coran with the intent to find Lance new quarters as quickly as they could, since his current quarters were fairly close to Shiro's- and Keith's were even closer, so that ruled out bunking with him temporarily. Although, to be honest, the scowl and jumble of conflicted emotions from Shiro at the mention of that as an alternative was very closely bordering on funny. He really seemed to be at a loss for how he was supposed to react to Keith dating a teammate.

Lance had no doubt that he was going to be cornered by their leader in the next few days to get the big brother chat, but now that he actually knew where he and Keith stood, he wasn't nervous about it anymore.

Well, not too nervous.

At least, not scared.

Okay, maybe a little scared, but no longer TERRIFIED, and so that was good.

Great.

Awesome.

Of course, Allura leaving meant they were left hanging out with just Shiro- which wasn't automatically a bad thing, but he'd started to notice that even though the pressure on his head was a bit stronger, being in a room full of people, or even just having a couple of people around seemed to kind of diffuse the emotions. It wasn't quite as easy to pinpoint who was feeling what without making an actual effort. Which created at least some semblance of privacy.

Granted, right now, Shiro seemed to be feeling mostly affectionate irritation at Keith who had started bugging him to put the show back on. He was oddly reticent to do so, so Lance, being his curious self, couldn't resist. "Shiro? Is there something... inappropriate about the show?" he smirked, "something our tender young eyes shouldn't see?"

Shiro narrowed his eyes, radiating suspicion, "no. Not that I've seen yet, anyway."

Keith decided to jump on this train of thought, and the glee on his face made something in Lance go gooey. It was rare to see Keith so lighthearted, although he was starting to suspect, based on the wariness he was picking up from Shiro that it wasn't a NEW trait, "you realize that Pidge isn't around, right? I doubt there's suddenly going to be anything on there that Lance or I haven't at least SEEN before."

"Goading me is not going to work, Keith," Shiro replied, reaching for his snacks.

"Allura said she thought I'd like this particular serial," Lance said cheerfully, Keith shifted closer to him, resting his head on Lance's shoulder, "I guess one of the characters is an entertainer and there are a bunch of like dance sequences."

"Some," Shiro said cautiously, "the Altean dances remind me a little of those old Bollywood movies."

"Yeah, that makes sense," he relaxed back against the couch, playing with Keith's hair, "Allura's shown me some step combos when we are dancing." Keith nuzzled his shoulder and he smiled, dropping a little kiss on the top of his head before he continued. He was a very tactile and cuddly person by nature, and he loved when Keith was in this kind of mood. "I can see how there would be similarities."

Shiro kind of shook his head and sighed, "fine, I'll put it back on- BUT! I am not answering a million questions about who is who and what is happening, Keith. This is how I unwind, and if you are a pest, I'll make you suffer for it."

'Make you suffer for it?' Lance nearly laughed, that sounded so UNLIKE Shiro and so very very much like Luis that it was disconcerting. He was really getting a kick out of getting to see this side of Shiro and Keith's relationship.

"What are you going to do?" Keith shot back, "cook?"

"Listen-"

"No... BAKE! That's even worse," Keith shifted on the couch, half-heartedly kicking Shiro's leg with his heel.

Shiro turned to Keith, his expression steely, but his eyes glinting, "for every story you have about me, I have two about YOU... and I suspect Lance's opinion matters a lot more to you than it does to me... so think carefully about how you are going to handle this."

Keith glared, "you wouldn't DARE..."

"No?" Lance had never really considered 'mischief' an emotion before, but given the waves of it rolling off of Shiro at the moment, he was officially changing his mind about that. "Why don't you try your luck there, Booster?"

"SHIRO!" squawked Keith, punching him in the shoulder.

"Booster?" Lance chuckled, "is that a nickname? Is it because you were so tiny?"

"NO," he snapped, glaring at Shiro, "you haven't called me that in ages."

Shiro held up his hand, his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, "not the full story but it's part of why it stuck."

"Awww, that's adorable," Lance grinned, "maybe that should be, like, your radio call sign?"

"Don't you start, too," grumbled Keith, but Lance could see the smile he was fighting to hide. "Just put your stupid show on. I won't ask questions."

"I won't be a pest," Lance said, "but if you could give like, little intros to people when they show up, that'd be awesome." He flashed Shiro a wobbly smile.

"Your siblings," Shiro said, "they're older than you, right?"

"Yeah?" Lance wasn't sure where he was going with this.

He laughed, "relax, Lance- I was just thinking you must have had a sibling that violently objected to being pestered when they were watching something."

"Oh yeah! Luis," he laughed and stretched, "sooooooooooo many purple nurples- it was his go-to move... and he plays guitar, so his fingers are like..." he made little claws out of his hands "arrrrrgh!"

Shiro cracked up, nodding as he laughed and reached for more snacks. Lance grinned at him and dropped his arm back around Keith- who was staring up at him. He settled his hand on Keith's hip and smiled at him. Those big, expressive violet eyes always made his heart skip a beat, and this time was no different. He felt like he was falling. Like, the first time he'd gone cliff diving at Javira Waterfall and his heart had been in his throat and his stomach had been doing flip flops and he was so terrified and excited and happy he'd felt like he was going to split apart at the seams. "What?" he whispered, completely lost in that gorgeous face, and how perfectly Keith fit against him, and how his whole being felt like it was just... buzzing.

"Nothing," Keith said, reaching up to trace his fingertips along Lance's jaw, "just like how happy you look when you talk about your family."

Lance blushed, his cheeks and ears burning, "oh... okay... Thanks. You'd like them."

"Maybe," Keith half-shrugged, and closed off a little, confusing Lance a bit. "You gonna start the show, Shiro? Or just stare at me and my boyfriend?"

Shiro's eyebrow quirked at Keith, and he started the projection but a moment later his eyes shifted to Lance, studying his face, radiating something Lance couldn't identify.

Chapter Text

They managed to get through three episodes of the serial before Keith started bugging Shiro about it. It started pretty mildly, with Keith occasionally asking Shiro to explain some minor point or getting his opinion on a specific character. Shiro did an admirable job of not reacting for the first dozen or so questions, but Lance could feel his irritation climbing.

Keith was definitely doing it on purpose though, even without being able to read his emotions, Lance could tell that much from the glint in his eye and the overly neutral tone of voice he used when asking questions. They'd moved around on the couch over the course of the afternoon and currently Lance was sprawled out, legs hooked up over the back of the couch, with his head and shoulders in Keith's lap.

He'd figured out that Keith had a bit of a tell. He was actually a big fan of the tell, because it combined a couple of things he really liked. Whenever he was about to bug Shiro, he'd run his fingers through Lance's hair (which he was a total sucker for) and give him a little smirk (which was ridiculously sexy). So, he knew it was coming, and even though he couldn't see Shiro's face because of his spot in Keith's lap, he could hear him and read his emotions well enough that he wouldn't feel like he missed out on any of the brotherly pestering.

"Geez, Shiro," Keith said, "how many of these people are living in this guy's house now?"

"Umm... ten? I think," Shiro answered distractedly, "but like three that are just there to try to break the curse."

"Right- the historian, the priestess, and the ummm..."

"The linguist," Shiro supplied, still focused on the show.

"Right, the linguist. Thank goodness they are all at the top of their fields in super helpful careers."

Lance could feel the shift in Shiro, even if he couldn't hear it in his voice, "well it is fiction, so the writers have the chance to do things like that if it serves the story."

"Oh. My. God," Keith breathed, "I was going to give you a hard time about being predictable- but you don't even see it, do you?"

"See what?"

"Dude, you are watching a harem anime. You are like SUPER into a live action, alien harem anime!"

Shiro reached out and shoved Keith playfully, "anime was Adam's thing, not mine."

Keith laughed, "yeah, he was the one who went looking for it, but you get sucked into it- just like Matt!"

"Noooo- Matt wrote an algorithm to predict who Akira would marry at the end of- shit... this really is a harem anime..."

Keith cackled, "only you would cross galaxies and still end up getting caught up in watching a style of show you claim to hate, Shiro!"

"I don't 'claim' to hate them, I DO hate them," he argued, "I don't know how I end up getting sucked into them!"

"Hey guys has anyone seen Al- what the heck is going on in here?" Pidge pulled up short, waving her hand at Keith and Lance.

"I got this," Lance leaned up a little, "you see Pidge, sometimes when two people really-"

"Not that, you idiot," she rolled her eyes, "I SAW your neck, remember, chew toy?" I was talking about the CLOTHES! Where did you get those clothes?"

"His neck? Chew toy?" Shiro asked, giving Keith a very stern look. Keith just smiled serenely at him, "yeah- I know that face, Booster- the innocent act doesn't fool me."

"Oh! There's like bins of clothes in one of the storage rooms. I grabbed a bunch when Allura and I were looking for stuff that would work for dancing." Lance shrugged, laying back on Keith's lap just as Keith caught his hand, lacing their fingers together.

"There are bins of fucking clothes-"

"Pidge! Language!" Shiro scolded.

"They are NOT that much older than me, Shiro!" Pidge argued pointing at the boys.

"Not about age," he countered, "it's about not wanting Colleen Holt blaming me for the fact that her baby has a potty mouth now. No offence, but your mother is not someone I want to antagonize."

"Fair point... oh, man, I am soooo grounded when we get back," Pidge sighed, turning on Lance, "there are BINS full of clothes and you didn't think to tell us? I could have been wearing actual PANTS when it gets cold, instead of being stuck in these shorts and freezing my quiznak off?"

"Better," chuckled Shiro.

"I can show you where they are stored, if you want. Some of the stuff is really out there, though. I have pictures of some of the funniest stuff," Lance dug out his phone and pulled up the images. He scrolled through WAY more pictures of him and Keith at the bolt-hole than he thought he'd taken. On impulse he set the one of the two of them in face masks as his lock screen, because Keith just looked so adorably put out- like a wet kitten or something. "Here," he held his phone out to her, "no scrolling BACK, but there's a bunch of pics of us goofing around with the clothes."

"Just you and the Princess, right?" Pidge said grumpily, "because I will be seriously peeved if Hunk neglected to mention this to me, too."

"Yeah, it was just us, calm down," Lance laughed. Keith sank his fingers into Lance's hair, tickling the back of his neck and catching his gaze. Lance smiled softly and turned his head to press a kiss into Keith's wrist, right over his pulse.

"Yeah, yeah- enough with the cutesy, you are showing me this storage room like yesterday, Lance," Pidge insisted.

"But- I'm watching a show," he protested.

"You are? Okay then... tell me ONE thing that has happened in the last ten minutes on that show," she crossed her arms and glared at him.

"Umm... the uh... there was an argument... between... crap I can't remember anyone's names. The one with the orange cheek marks and the one with the floofy hair... about... I wanna say, food?"

"Shiro? Did that actually happen in the show?"

"Yes and no- I know what he's talking about, but it was almost an hour ago."

"FINE!" Lance relented, sitting up, but clearly irritated, "I'll show you where the stupid clothes are." He kissed Keith's cheek, smiling at him, "I still have to train, too... and I really should do that before I get distracted again. See you at dinner?"

"Sounds good," he answered, smiling back.

"Clothes!" Pidge barked, pulling out her phone, "and I am texting Hunk about this, too. Quiznak, I cannot believe you didn't tell us there were BINS of clothes. BINS!"

Chapter Text

It was late- stupid late- when Lance heard Keith muttering to himself in the hallway, trying to locate Lance's room. He was still up, because he'd promised Keith he'd be there to talk when he was done hanging out with Shiro. If it hadn't been for the promise, he'd have crashed hours earlier.

The door slid open and Keith literally fell into the room. "Oops," he said, trying to regain his feet, "your door is FASSST."

Lance chuckled, "I guess it is- I've never thought about it. Need a hand?"

"I can do it," Keith grumbled, his face scrunching up with irritation and stubbornness. "Just gotta wait for the floor to stay still."

"Right. Obviously the floor is the problem."

"Yeah. 'Zactly," Keith nodded but managed to stand, "tada!"

"Oh man... you are shitfaced," he shook his head, "is Shiro as drunk as you are?"

"Pssssh, m'not that drunk," he answered, scowling at the Altean clothes he was still wearing. He pawed at the tunic top like he was trying to find the zipper. "Shiro's drunk... I'm jus'buzzed." He either remembered that the tunic was a pullover, or gave up on finding the zipper, grabbing the back of the shirt's collar and pulling it over his head and promptly getting stuck. His hands flapped helplessly trying to get some kind of purchase on the bunched up fabric. "M'stuck."

"I see that." Smiling fondly, Lance stepped up, helping his boyfriend shed the shirt. "Better?" Keith's hair was a mess, sticking out from static and who knew what else, but he looked so adorable that Lance couldn't resist kissing the tip of his nose. He smiled, his purple eyes bright and glossy, face flushed from the booze, and uncharacteristically, he looked open and relaxed and just.. happy and there was something completely irresistible about that.

He nodded, "thanks, Lance... are you in jammies?" He looked so confused. "What about the dresscode?"

Lance laughed, "it's late, babe. I pulled these on after my shower. I haven't gone to bed yet- dresscode is still in effect."

"Oh, ok... good," he patted Lance's cheek softly, "hi."

"Hi." Had Keith been this damn cute the night they'd all gone drinking? His own memory was fuzzy, but he didn't think so. "Did you have a good night?"

He screwed up his face, clearly thinking, "kinda. It was fun... and then it was sad... you're so handsome."

"Thanks, babe," he replied, steering Keith to the bed, "so are you. Want me to help take your boots off?"

"Ohhhh good idea! You're smart, Lance," he nodded as he dropped onto the mattress. "I don't tell yu that'nuff."

"That's okay. You don't have to. You listen to me," he answered softly, moving to pull off one of the boots, "more than the others. You ask my opinion, you listen to my feedback. So... I know you think I'm smart."

"Good. That's good. Shiro is so drunk. Soooo drunk," he nodded, lifting his other foot.

"Yeah? Is he safe by himself? He's not going to like pass out in the toilet and drown or something, is he?" Lance was getting a little concerned, because if Shiro was so drunk that Keith, in this state was commenting on it then... holy shit, that was very drunk.

"S'fine," Keith said with a wave of his hand, "I put him in a pod."

"You did?" Oh man, that would have been a sight to see. Maybe Pidge could pull up security feeds or something. "Why didn't you get in a pod, babe?"

"Missed you," he said and his voice sounded so soft that Lance turned to look at his face. "Haven't seen you since dinner. Too long."

He dropped the boot and lay down beside Keith, "you missed me?"

"Mmhmm," Keith nodded, "being around other people is weird. I got used to it just being us."

"Yeah, it's going to take a few days to adjust," Lance agreed, running his hand through Keith's hair.

"M'gonna miss the big Galra bed," he sighed.

"It was pretty comfy... but we don't need that much space. We sleep all tangled up together anyway."

Keith rolled onto his side, facing Lance, "you are super snuggly in your sleep."

"Yeah, I know," he smiled sheepishly, "Pidge haaaates it. I almost smother her ONE time and she just will no-" Keith's mouth on his stifled the rest of his rant.

Keith moaned, pushing Lance onto his back and settling his weight over him as he deepened the kiss. Lance shivered, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend and yielding to the scorcher of a kiss happily. By the time Keith lifted his head, Lance was breathing heavily and his whole body trembled, "mmm... wow- love kissing you, sugarplum."

He smiled, "love that dumb nickname... shit... shouldn't've said that..."

Lance laughed, "you love it, huh? Don't worry- I already figured that much out, so it's not some kind of big reveal."

"You did? How?"

"Just... your face when I say it," he smiled, tucking some of that impossibly soft hair behind Keith's ear. "I pay attention to you. You aren't as hard to read as I used to think."

"Still don'want the others to know," he insisted, dipping his head to nuzzle Lance's throat.

"Mmmhmmm," he purred, his head craning back. "It's just for us... I know that..."

"You always taste so good," Keith mumbled, dragging the tip of his tongue up Lance's throat and catching his earlobe between his teeth, making Lance whimper.

"Babe?" he breathed, trying to hang on to his focus, "you are drunk... very drunk..."

Keith just nodded, his mouth now thoroughly occupied with sucking and biting new marks into being all along Lance's throat. Lance shuddered under him because, Jesus, how the hell did Keith make that feel so. damn. good?

"Keith?" his voice was thready, needy, "Keith, babe? Hey... look at me..."

Keith lifted his head, meeting Lance's eyes as he licked his lips- which was just... sinfully appealing. "What, cupcake?"

"You are very drunk, babe," Lance tried again, smiling softly, "and you are still dressed. We need to get you to bed."

"Bed? Ohhhh... dresscode," he nodded solemnly, but totally ruined the effect with the sexy little smirk that blossomed on his face halfway through the nod.

Lance chuckled, Keith was just the most hilariously lovable combination of cute and sexy tonight. "Want some help getting to bed?"

"I can do it," he insisted, rolling off of Lance and sitting up in a surprisingly graceful move for someone so drunk- even if he did wobble for a second at the end of it. He pulled the little sleeveless shirt over his head and tossed it across the room. "See?"

"I see," he answered, eyes roaming over all that freshly bared skin. God, Keith really was a gorgeous guy. Most of the time, Lance looked at him and just saw KEITH- all the features and personality traits and memories blending together to make the wholly unique person that had captured his attention and wormed his way into his heart. Every now and then, though, he would do something, or say something and Lance would have a flash where it felt like he was looking at him with fresh eyes- the way a stranger would, and he was struck by just how absolutely and objectively BEAUTIFUL his boyfriend really was.

Chapter Text

Keith laughed, "you look like you want to eat me up right now, Lance." He twisted, reaching across Lance and planting one hand on the mattress beside him. Giving Lance a slow smile that was pure sin, he leaned close enough for his lips to brush against Lance's as he spoke. "Do you? Want to eat me up?"

A whimper caught in Lance's throat and he forced himself to swallow. "Soooo bad," he confessed, wanting stark in his voice.

"You can, you know," Keith murmured, lips still barely touching Lance's, "I'm all yours..."

And then they were kissing again. He didn't even know who had started it, but he knew for SURE that Keith's little 'I'm all yours...' with his voice sounding so... and his face so... and the way his breath warmed Lance's lips... Yeah... allll that was going to be heavily featured in his fantasy life for-fucking-ever.

Somehow, Keith was straddling him, rocking temptingly in his lap. His hands were cradling his face, fingers splayed through his hair as he kissed him- all hot and hungry. Lance's hands were gliding over the strong muscles of Keith's back, pulling him closer, holding him tight.

Keith was like the tide, wrapping around him and lifting him up; primal and powerful and bursting with something irresistible. It would be soooo easy to let himself get swept away. Sooo easy to close his eyes and follow that swell.

But.

But, Keith was drunk. Very drunk... and Lance KNEW he'd had an emotional night

For all that Keith hadn't yet done anything new for them, Lance suspected that if he followed his boyfriend's lead, they would definitely explore new territory- and as much as he was looking forward to that, he wanted them to both be sober and fully aware when they did.

If the PLAN had been for Keith to come back to his room and drunkenly jump his bones, and he wasn't totally sloshed, then he might feel differently but...

His very sexy, brand new, boyfriend was crawling all over him and acting like a wet dream come to life and Lance SHOULD be in his bliss... but, even beyond the fact that Keith was way too drunk to really know what he was doing... there was something about this that was niggling at Lance.

He slid his hands over Keith's ribs and up to his shoulders, pushing him away. "Keith," he gasped, struggling to calm himself down.

Keith blinked at him, his expression dewy, eyes blazing with passion, and licked kiss swollen lips- the very image of temptation. "Llllannnce," he mewled, moving to kiss him again but Lance held him fast. Lance was starting to think his boyfriend was some kind of incubus- it was unreal how sexy he could be.

"Alabao, Keith... you are killing me," he groaned, "you are drunk, babe."

"Don't you want me?" Keith asked, his expression vulnerable.

"Yesssssss..." God, give him strength. "You have no idea how bad, babe," he pledged, "but not like this. Not with you this drunk."

"I wanna make you feel good," Keith whispered, sending a shiver up Lance's spine. "I just wanna feeeeeel good... you make me feel soooo gooood..." He rolled his hips, grinding into Lance's hard on and making him whimper, "you make my brain shut up... don'wanna thinnnnk anymore..."

Bingo.

There it was.

THAT's what had been prickling at him. "What don't you want to think about, sugarplum?" he asked softly, moving his hands to cradle Keith's face tenderly.

"Adam," he said after a moment. "Adam and Shiro... and the Garrison... just... all of it."

"Talking to Shiro was that rough?" he asked, brushing Keith's hair back from his face.

"Worse," he let out a shuddery sigh.

"Alright, let's get into the actual bed and then you can tell me about it if you want... or I can help you get to sleep- the way I did after you had the bad dreams. Okay?"

Keith sort of... deflated, suddenly looking very young and very raw. "Yeah, okay. That was nice."

Lance kissed his forehead sweetly, "I got you, babe. C'mon, time to get comfy... and you should probably drink some water."

"I miss slurpees," Keith announced suddenly as he shakily stood up, "they were so yummy... half Blue Raspberry and half Wild Cherry... like layered? Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee best!"

"I always liked the Dr. Pepper ones," Lance replied, holding Keith steady while he shucked his pants.

"Shiro always got the coke ones," he said distractedly. His pants had gotten hooked on his foot and he was shaking his leg trying to get free of the fabric. "I never understood those... like... WHY do they have soda flavors?" Lance tried to help with the pants and got growled at for his trouble, so he backed off, shaking his head at Keith's drunkenness. "But zzz better than Adam's unholy banana and pina colada combo!" He gagged dramatically.

"Hoooookay- yeah, don't do that fake gag thing while drunk," Lance advised, "been tanked with Hunk enough times to know that it WILL make you hurl- and babe, I'll clean it up, cuz I'm good like that- but I really don't wanna, so let's try to avoid the hurling, kay?"

"Everything makes Hunk hurl," Keith pointed out, finally shaking free of his tangled pants. "Ha! Take that! Stupid Altean clothes!"

"Sweet of you to assume it was Hunk doing the hurling," Lance chuckled, "so, we'll just go with that and not ruin your image of me."

"Issa nice image," Keith supplied helpfully.

Lance steered him toward the en suite bathroom, wanting to make him drink some water before they crashed for the night. "Well, that's good, since you are dating me."

"Not dating," he corrected, "I'm yer boyfriend." He stopped and smiled sweetly at Lance then giggled, "you are my boyfriend. That doesn't seem real."

"It really doesn't," he agreed, tipping his head down to kiss Keith, "no clue how I got so lucky."

Chapter Text

Keith made a slightly perplexed face and looked around, "why are we in the bathroom?"

"We are getting you a glass of water," Lance explained, smiling, "so your head isn't quite so bad when you wake up."

"Ohhhh," he nodded, "good idea!"

Lance poured him a glass of water and handed it to him,"don't chug it. Little sips, got it?"

Keith rolled his eyes but nodded, "I know how to drink water, sharpshooter."

"Alright, good to know," he couldn't help but grin at him. Keith was the cutest drunk he'd ever seen. "How much did you drink tonight, anyway?"

"Ummm... Shiro had a bottle of... green stuff... " he sipped the water, "an'we shared... so.. like half?"

"You are so going to regret that in the morning, babe," he cooed, "are you sure you don't want to go into a pod?"

"Noooo," Keith slipped his arms around Lance's waist, "I'll go in the pod after I let Shiro out. Wanna sleep with you."

"Sounds like you've put some thought into this," he sighed, tugging Keith closer and resting his chin on top of his head, "and far be it for me to turn down having Keith Kogane in my bed tonight."

Keith snorted, "you say that like I'm important or something."

Lance tipped Keith's face up to his and met his eyes evenly, "because you ARE. You are important- especially to me. Now, c'mon sexy- it's late and that bed is comfy and warm... and I kinda miss trying to breath through a face full of your hair."

That earned him a really cute scowl and a fake punch to the shoulder. "What? You have a lot of hair- and it is really soft and fluffy!"

"Then don't complain about it," Keith pouted, adorably.

"I wasn't complaining, babe," Lance laughed, kissing him quickly, "I said I missed it, didn't I?" He collected the glass and refilled it, "bed. Let's go." He herded Keith back to the bed and set the glass aside for Keith to find when he woke.

Keith shed the last dregs of his clothing and crawled under the blankets, Lance slipped out of his own clothes and joined him.

"You're so hot," Keith murmured, flattening himself against Lance almost immediately and kissing his collarbone.

"You're so drunk," he teased through the shiver Keith's lips triggered, "but I am very glad that you appreciate the razzle dazzle of Loverboy Lance."

"Why are you like this?" Keith groaned, but he snuggled closer.

"Just part of my charm, babe," he replied, trailing his fingers up and down Keith's spine and reveling in the goosebumps that chased the touch. "You wanna talk about the stuff with Shiro and Adam now?"

Keith sighed, "I just had to break Shiro's heart all over again." He sounded so lost and remorseful it made Lance's chest ache for him.

"I'm sure it isn't as bad as you think, babe," he whispered, running his fingers through Keith's hair, "and Shiro deserves the truth- whatever that is. I mean, I don't know the details, but keeping him in the dark isn't helping anyone, right?"

"He thought... we'd be okay. He thought that we'd like be sad for a bit and move on... but it wasn't like that. It was awful. Adam... see they said it was pilot error, right?" He sniffed, "and Shiro was the pilot... so they were saying he screwed up. He killed them all... and Adam- they'd broken up RIGHT before he left. I blamed Adam. For hurting him, distracting him, sending him on a mission with a broken heart and not enough sleep for ages and just... devastated- you know?"

"You thought the pilot error was because of the break-up?" Lance asked softly. Shit. It made sense, but that was one hell of a bomb to go off in a grieving household.

Keith nodded, "Adam did, too. He never SAID it- neither of us ever SAID it, but it was just there... all the time... no matter what. Just sitting there this like fog of blame. And Adam was a wreak. He loves him. They love each other. So much. Like, you can SEE it- they are that couple... he was a mess. He couldn't DO anything. So, I had to... just... deal with all the shit- the bills, food, all that stuff."

"That must have been really hard," he soothed, kissing the top of Keith's head.

"It was okay for a bit- kept me too busy to think. Then we started fighting. Like all the time. I was so mad at him for ruining everything. He was, too, I think. Mad at himself... but he was mad at Shiro, too. He wasn't supposed to go- he was sick, they didn't think he was strong enough... but he FOUGHT to go. He fought to leave us behind... and he didn't come home... and... I... HATED him... I hated Shiro... and he was being tortured..."

Keith dissolved into tears, burying his face in Lance's chest and shaking helplessly. Huge sobs racked him and he seemed so, so, so young. Lance held him and stroked his hair, his back. He dusted little kisses over his forehead and wiped his tears and snuggled him close. He cooed to him in Cubano- soft, nonsense words of comfort he remembered from his childhood.

Eventually, the sobs gave way to little whimpers, and hiccups and heaving breaths and Lance sang quiet little lullabies and folk songs- anything that came to him, really. He let Keith fall apart and cry himself to sleep, and he just held him and comforted him, knowing that there was nothing he could do or say to make any of it any BETTER, but sensing that Keith really needed to let all this stuff out.

He did for his boyfriend what Keith had done for his teammate when he'd taken Lance to the bolt-hole- because when you loved someone, you took care of them when they needed it. He had no idea how much of this Keith would remember in the morning, but as sleep claimed him, long after Keith's breathing had settled down and he'd passed out, Lance knew that he'd do it again as many times as needed.

Chapter Text

Keith woke to a vicious hangover, soft lighting, an empty pillow and a note. Groaning, he blinked blearily at the note waiting for his eyes to focus. Lance's handwriting was surprisingly neat and easy to read- he never would have pegged his boyfriend as the 'good penmanship' type, and it certainly wasn't calligraphy or anything, but it was... nice. He found himself smiling at the way he'd dotted the i in Keith with a little heart- it was dorky and cheesy and adorably Lance.

The note itself was pretty straightforward:

Keith,

Coran needed my input on potential rooms, so I had to sneak out. I have my phone so text me if you need me. Drink the water, and if you are still hungover get your sweet ass to a pod!

XXXOOO

Lancey Lance

PS. You are officially the world's most lovable drunk! 10/10 on the cuteness scale.

His memory of the night before was admittedly hazy, but he couldn't really think of anything he'd done that was particularly 'lovable'. Of course, in many ways, the workings of Lance's mind were still a mystery to him so he didn't really think too much about it. Gingerly, he rolled over, locating the water his boyfriend had left for him and sipping at it slowly. His stomach rolled, but it wasn't too bad. The headache, on the other hand. God, it felt like his skull was cracked open.

If they could be guaranteed a quiet, calm day, he'd just wait for the hangover to go away on its own, but Voltron didn't have that luxury. They could be called out at any time, and so, spending an hour or two in the pod was definitely the best plan. He grabbed his phone to text Lance and was surprised to see a message from Pidge. He smiled when he saw that she'd named the conversation "Delinquent Duo"- a reference to the night they'd all gone drinking. It felt nice to have a joint nickname with one of the team that didn't have anything to do with Voltron, or fighting.

Pidge: Hey- I've had to put that cloaking project on the back-burner while I worked on those blocker crystals

Pidge: think you could come to the workshop and help out again

Pidge: we made good progress last time

Keith: Sure

Keith: I'll find you when I have some time

Pidge: Perfect

Pidge: also- change your password

Pidge: I had to search out your phone through the Castle then hack it to text you

Pidge: and give people your number- GEEZ

Keith: you could have gotten it from Lance or Shiro

Keith: no need to hack anything

Pidge: just change your password

Keith: okay okay- I'll change it

Keith: see you later

It felt strange to be in Lance's room without Lance being there. Stranger still to be sitting naked in Lance's bed, alone. Just waking up without Lance tangled up around him was already disconcerting- not so much because he wasn't there, but more because Keith had gotten SO accustomed to it, SO quickly. The bed felt oddly huge, despite being significantly smaller than where they'd been sleeping for weeks. The whole room felt- hollow, almost without Lance's larger than life personality, and Keith was starting to think that Blades missions were about to become difficult in whole new ways once he left the Castle of Lions again.

He picked his phone up again and scrolled through the various selfies and pics he'd taken of Lance and of them together during their time away, smiling to himself despite the hangover. He flopped back onto the pillows and opened up a new text to his boyfriend.

Keith: Awake now

Keith: thx for the note You're a dork

Keith: a cute dork

Keith: but still a dork

Keith: xxxooo 2u2

Keith: thx for the water too

Keith: still hungover headed to the pods soon

Lance: you think I'm cute :)

Lance: that's my takeaway here

Lance: I should be set up in the new quarters by the time you are out of the pod

Lance: new bed to break in later ;)

Keith: you WOULD skip right over the dork part

Keith: told Pidge I'd help her out later

Lance: I have to do empath training sims

Lance: worst super power ever

Lance: find me when you are done with Pidge?

Keith: sounds good

Keith: I should get up

Keith: get dressed

Keith: go to the pods

Lance: yeah- you should

Lance: and thanks for the reminder that you are nekkid in MY bed while I am talking to Coran

Lance: things just got real awkward

Lance: worst

Lance: super

Lance: power

Lance: ever

Keith: without it we would still be 'rivals'

Keith: there wouldn't have been a text from Shiro for you to see

Lance: okay, so, it's not 100% terrible

Lance: just like 90%

Keith: you will get the hang of it

Lance: of course I will, I am awesome

Lance: and handsome

Lance: and talented

Lance: and charming

Keith: and modest

Lance: yeah that too ;)

Lance: gtg

Lance: find me when you are done with Pidge

Keith: k

Lance: xxx ooo

Keith: you said you had to go- stop messaging me xxxooo

He stared at his phone, stunned at what he'd very nearly sent. It was way too soon for I love yous. WAY too soon. It had been a DAY! What the hell was wrong with him? He quickly deleted what he'd typed before he accidentally sent it or something and dragged his ass out of bed. Getting dressed was rather unpleasant- all that bending and twisting was a nightmare for his hangover- but he managed not to hurl everywhere or give up on the plan and crawl back in bed, so he was calling it a win. Flinching from the bright lights of the hallways, he made his way to the chamber that housed the med pods intent on recovering from whatever the hell he'd been drinking with Shiro the night before.

Chapter Text

"Sorry, again, for making you wait," Lance stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket. "Keith got back late last night, and he's still conked out- I didn't want to wake him, so I turned off my alarm...I'm sorry, I should have been ready when you were."

"Ah, young love," sighed Coran, his expression wistful as he led the young Paladin to a section of the castle he hadn't seen much of before. Tendrils of melancholy and grief threaded through the nostalgia and love that emanated from him. Lance recognized this, this was how Coran felt whenever Alfor was mentioned. The balance of emotions shifted and changed from time to time, but it was always those four feelings at the forefront. Sometimes the grief was razor sharp and left him feeling like his soul was bleeding- a decidedly weird sensation, especially since it was caused by someone else's emotions. Occasionally, the love would be like a flash flood, one second he'd feel it lap at his feet and the next he'd be fully immersed, gasped for air and struggling to survive it. Melancholy and nostalgia were always together, he'd noticed, he'd never experienced one without the other, coiled together into threads and ropes that wove other emotions together.

Lance opened his mouth to protest, to shy away from the label, but stopped himself at the last second. He knew it was pointless to argue with his empathy broadcasting everything he was feeling. If Coran felt his emotions and saw them as young love, there wasn't much he could do to change his mind. He felt what he felt, and he was starting to realize that the same emotions could be read differently by different people. He knew Coran was thinking about when he'd last felt the way Lance was currently feeling, and he knew what was coming, too. Coran would find something else to talk about for a few minutes and then he'd casually bring up some bonkers story from his past that seemed totally random and unrelated, but that featured Alfor in some way. Lance had noticed the pattern since the whole empath power-up thing had happened. It was sweet, and kind of sad how unfailingly discreet Coran was about the late King, especially since he really didn't HAVE to be with anyone that was currently on the ship. None of them knew King Alfor as anything but an AI they'd had brief access to. The only people that knew him were Allura and Coran. Even beyond the walls of the Castle of Lions, King Alfor was more like earth's King Arthur than a 'real person' to virtually everyone. A legend from thousands of years in the past. Little more than a fairy tale. But, to Coran and Allura, he was very real, and his loss VERY recent. It was heartbreaking that they both kept so much of their grief to themselves. Mourning was much easier when the weight of it was shared.

"Now," he was saying, "the rooms in this wing are larger than any that the current Paladins occupy, although not as spacious as the Princess' quarters. They were primarily used for visiting dignitaries and so are farther removed from the common areas of the ship and there is a slightly greater distance from them to the Lions. Given your... current situation with number 4, I thought you would appreciate more space."

Lance smiled, "thanks, Coran, that's very considerate of you."

"Yes, well, the well-being of our Paladins is important," he huffed, "I once resided in this wing, myself, so I can assure you, despite the additional distance, it is not the slightest bit isolating." Another surge of emotion came from him and Lance shifted his weight knowing that a story was coming. "In fact, the privacy can be quite useful. There was one night when the Princess was... oh my, only a few phebes old. Queen Mellenor was ill- nothing serious, of course, but she needed her rest, and the Princess was simply distraught at being kept from her mother. Alfor and I took turns walking these halls with her, trying to get her to sleep. Eventually, we were so tired we put her in a hovering laundry basket and slid it back and forth down the hallway to each other until she settled down. More often, though, Alfor, Blatyz and I would use these hallways to improve our stealth and close quarters tactics without fear of stumbling upon civilians or bothering anyone. Especially handy when the training decks were occupied. "

"Maybe don't mention that to Keith? Or Shiro?" Lance laughed, "because that's the kind of thing that he and Shiro would decide needs to be a regular part of our training."

Coran laughed at that, his big, booming voice echoing in the hallway. "Fair enough, number 3." His eyes lit on one doorway and Lance felt his heart constrict. That must be Coran's old quarters.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Coran?" he said gently, "I know its not really my place, but... Allura's an empath, she understands. You should... talk to her. About Alfor, I mean."

His step faltered for an instant, but he recovered quickly, "I speak with the Princess about King Alfor often. Ah! Here we are- this is the particular spot I was thinking of for you." He gestured to a door and then unlocked it with his tablet.

The door hissed as it slid open and Lance felt the air shift as the vacuum seal was broken. "Oh, wow," he breathed. Instead of a single room with a bed built into one wall and an en suite bathroom across from the door like he was used to, he was looking at a sitting room with a little kitchenette. Two doors led from the sitting room- presumably to a bathroom and a bedroom.

"Oh good, you like it," Coran said, stepping into the room. "So, this button opens a compartment for storing outerwear here by the door. This panel activates the Castle intercom system so you can contact the Bridge... or any of the common areas, really. There is comfortable seating for three in this configuration, or you can activate this," he pressed a button on the back of the couch and the furniture unfolded, "for additional sleeping space."

Lance was floored, "this is awesome- but it's too nice! I just need a room like the one I have, only further away from everyone. If anything, the others should get quarters like these and I can stay in my room!"

"Don't be ridiculous," Coran laughed, "this is the most modest suite in this wing that is configured for your species' comfort, and it would be a nightmare to try to relocate everyone. No one will begrudge you a couch and a food goo dispenser, dear boy. Especially since you will likely be sharing the space with another for a good portion of the time."

Lance's phone buzzed, "speak of the devil. That's Keith."

"Keith is the devil?" Coran asked, clearly perplexed.

"What? Oh! No," he laughed, tapping out his replies to Keith as he spoke. His fingers flew over the little keyboard, and Keith's responses were rapid-fire quick. Gotta love the speed of whatever kind of network Pidge had created for them. "nononono- it's an expression from Earth. The whole thing is like, 'speak of the Devil and he shall appear'... so, it's like talking or thinking about someone kind of summons them. It doesn't make a lot of sense, I think it had to do with old superstitions or something. It's just something we say when you refer to someone and then they show up or call or text or whatever."

"Ahh! Like the Rivonflazonions ability to sense when they are being remembered! Wonderful. Wonderful. 'Speak of the devil', I like that!"

"Yeah. Sure... just like the Rivooflaby- ummm..." He cleared his throat, shifting. Keith was still in bed. He was texting Lance from Lance's bed. Where he was. Naked. Naked in Lance's bed. Probably with those soft- just woke up- eyes, and the endearing chaos of a bed-head mullet. Damn. That was suuuuch a nice image, and this was suuuuuch a bad time to have it stuck in his head. Coran made a little noise that could have been surprise or humor, or... something... more... uh.. personal... and Lance's face burned with the force and suddenness of the blush that bloomed, heating his skin.

"Yes. Well. As I said," Coran began, his voice cracking and making him clear his throat, "given the situation and why you have a need for additional privacy, I doubt any of the others will take umbridge with your new living space."

Lance coughed, the blush getting WORSE somehow, "yep. Yeah. This works. I like it."

"Right-oh," Coran rallied, "through this door is the hygiene chamber- it is slightly larger than the one you currently have and it features an additional option for bathing as well as more storage."

Lance poked his head into the room, "a tub?! I have a TUB!"

"Yes, that is an accurate description," Coran nodded, "you seem pleased."

"Yes! Very pleased," he gushed, "I LOVE baths!"

"Good," he smiled, making the tips of his mustache tip upwards, "there is a second door, here, that connects directly to the sleeping chamber. He stepped back into the sitting room and triggered the other door. A large bed sat in the middle of the room, the head of it set into the wall the way that the entirety of Lance's current bed was. There were nightstand-like shelves on either side and one entire wall was filled with closet space, shelving and drawers.

He'd always thought of his quarters as a kind of dorm room, like he'd shared with Hunk back at the Garrison. A temporary space to sleep and store his stuff while away from home. This- this was different. This felt like... an apartment or something. Three rooms. Personal food prep area. Big bed. Privacy. There was a kind of permanence to these quarters that held an emotional weight.

Everywhere he looked he could see and hear a kind of ghost of the future. Keith's bayard on that nightstand. Lance's jacket on that hook. Their toiletries scattered across the counter in the bathroom. Boots and sneakers in a pile by the door. Keith's shower singing wafting through that door. Rowdy, contentious games of crazy 8s on that couch. Keith's sudden bursts of laughter, his snorts of amusement. Reluctant selfies and tickle fights and kisses that defied the laws of time. This could be a home. That was scary and amazing and exciting and kind of sad all at once.

"I will let Allura know you've made your choice," Coran said quietly.

"But this is the first spot you've shown me," Lance answered.

"I know what coming home feels like," Coran's voice was quiet, and Lance could feel the ache that dimmed his boisterous volume.

"Yeah, nah- I try to respect privacy and all that, but I'm still an empath," he said suddenly, turning to Coran, "and I can feel that, so you are getting a hug." He pulled Coran into his arms, squeezing him tight. "You are allowed to mourn, Coran. You don't have to do it all in isolation. Talk to Allura. Talk to Shiro. Talk to any of us- all of us."

Coran hugged him back for a long moment and then stepped back, tugging his jacket into place and picking right back up with the official business. "Will you need help relocating all of your belongings?"

Chapter Text

Lance chuckled, "I arrived with literally the clothes on my back, Coran. I haven't exactly gone on a shopping spree since then. I think I can manage to move my stuff without help, but thank-you for asking."

Coran made a dismissive motion with his hand, "well, then. I do believe that we are finished. That was very efficient work!"

Lance laughed, "did you really think I would turn this place down?"

"You very nearly did," Coran pointed out, "you argued that you should remain in your single room and all the other Paladins should be given new quarters."

"I just don't feel right having nicer digs than they do," he sighed, "but if this is the best- and most modest- option, I am thrilled with it." He blinked, "Allura's here. It is so weird that I can do that now."

"Lance? Coran?" The Princess poked her head into the bedchamber, "oh good! You like it."

"Of course I do- it has a TUB," he gushed, "I wasn't expecting anything so... extravagant."

"You and water," she chuckled, "I should have known that would have been the selling point."

They laughed together, and some part of him still expected to feel that... THING... they used to have. That sense of being filled up with fizzing, bubbling, happy CONNECTION until it felt like it was lifting him up. The laughter petered out weakly when that didn't happen and they were each reminded that it would never happen again. He rubbed at his chest, just below the little crystal. It was so strange being around Allura now. They still got along. She still brightened the room for him just by being in it. He even still felt that little rush when she smiled at him... but all those little things felt rickety and delicate and weak compared to what it used to be like. Hollow and tinny and... diminished- and now there was this LACK that had become almost tangible. And it was so weird to think of the absence of something as a solid thing, but that's what it felt like. It felt like something important had been scooped out of him and the edges where it had been were scarred or hardened somehow, making it impossible to ignore that there used to be something precious in that spot. That made him sad. It made HER sad, and he hadn't ever wanted to make Allura sad. He'd never been this out of sorts with her, and to remember all the reasons it had to be this way tore at him.

She dragged in a shaky breath, "right. I wanted to tell you that I've set up those visualization exercises for your empathy in the files directory for the training headbands. We should each be spending an hour or so a day working on those."

"Sounds good," he said softly, trying to muster up an encouraging smile. "Thank-you for getting that all... you know... ready, and everything." Coran was still close enough that he could feel his emotional imprint, but he'd left the room without drawing attention to himself at some point. No doubt to give them some privacy- which was sweet of him, but not the most helpful decision. Without someone else to interact with, there was way too much opportunity to dwell on what might have been.

"Of course," she answered, "we're still team mates... and friends, I hope."

"I'll always be your friend, Allura," he promised her, "no matter what. Nothing could change that."

"Good," her smile was a bit wavery, but it was real, and that made him feel a bit better, "I feel the same way about you."

"Um... listen," he took a breath, "I feel like I should warn you about Shiro. He and Keith hung out last night, and they talked about some pretty emotional stuff. I didn't see him or anything, and I really don't know what kind of state he was in, but if you bump into him, it might be... rough. So, if you can do that particle barrier shielding thing, it would probably be a good idea."

"Is he alright?" she asked, "I'm getting a lot of worry from you."

"Yes? No? I'm not sure- I haven't seen him myself... but you know how you were telling me about the role of the Blue Paladin..."

"Is to work with the Yellow Paladin to protect and nurture the bond between the Paladins and the Lions," she finished for him.

"Right- I think Shiro is going to need that. I don't think I'm a good option for this, otherwise, I'd reach out to him, but with me being with Keith now," he sighed, "it has to do with stuff from back on earth. Keith was pretty upset about the conversation, because he hates upsetting Shiro, and since Keith is talking to ME..."

"Shiro isn't likely to risk putting you in the middle. I understand," she nodded, "I am guessing this has something to do with Adam?"

"You know about Adam?" he asked, surprised.

"Yes," she replied, fondness was rolling off her in waves, so warm and kind that it made him smile, "I don't know very much, but Shiro has mentioned him to me. When you all first arrived, he was struggling with insomnia. We'd often spend some time together on the bridge talking about our histories and learning about our respective planets."

"I didn't know that... but, I'm glad. I worry about how isolated you two are sometimes," he rocked on his feet absently, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "I don't want to betray Keith's confidence, but I think I am okay to say that Shiro didn't really have an accurate idea of how Adam and Keith reacted to being told that everyone on the Kerberos mission were killed. From the little bit I know, he's probably going to need a friend."

"Well, he has one in me," she replied, her voice resolute, "and he was a good friend to me while you were away, so, hopefully, he will allow me to do the same for him."

"While I was away?" his head cocked to one side and he met her eyes, "I thought that you didn't have to deal with all the withdrawal stuff."

"I didn't," she answered, "but that didn't mean I wasn't worried about you. ESPECIALLY knowing how vulnerable you were likely to be and that you were alone with Keith. I was very concerned that something bad would happen and you'd return broken-hearted. Plus, I missed you. Even before we became romantically involved, you were a good friend to me and I valued your company. You don't realize how... big... your presence is on the team."

"Awwww, Lulu!" he pulled her into a hug, tears welling in his eyes, "I really missed you, too... and you are the sweetest- worrying that I'd get my heartbroken by someone else when I was dating you."

"I still don't understand that term- we never went on a single 'date' as you described them to me," she snuggled into the hug, her arms tightening around him. He could feel the slow shift as the hug gradually transformed from comforting to a painful reminder of how things used to be. So he wasn't surprised when she pulled away. And he wasn't surprised when he kept her face canted away from his. And he wasn't surprised when her voice wobbled when she said, "I will try to speak with Shiro. Thank-you for letting me know what's going on."

"Anytime, Allura," he answered, his own voice rough with emotions he knew she could feel, "and... about... us? Me and you? Things will go back to the way they are supposed to be... and it will feel like enough. Right? Because I want that. I want that friendship back."

"Me, too," she breathed, "I want that back, too. We'll get there, it will just take time... and honing our abilities to keep our emotions to ourselves."

"That's a powerful motivator to make use of those headbands," Lance replied, aiming for a light-hearted tone.

"Yes," she took a deep breath and smiled at him, "it is, isn't it? I should go. I'll see you at lunch?"

"Yeah," he flashed her a smile, for sure. We all gotta eat."

Chapter Text

Pidge really was kind of frightening when the tech didn't do what it was supposed to do, Keith reflected... and he was someone who had faced down some objectively frightening shit in his lifetime, so he would know.

"I just don't UNDERSTAND," she seethed, "it should be WORKING. All the code checks out, all the wiring is good. Why isn't it doing what it is supposed to do!?"

"Maybe... try turning it off and then back on again?" Keith suggested nervously.

She leveled a truly terrifying look at him, "yes, Keith- I haven't already thought of doing a hard reboot on the tech... like it is a phone."

"Ooooooohkay!" intervened Hunk, "we are taking a break from the work, getting a snack, doing something else for like half and hour, and then coming back to it. Fresh eyes and all that."

"That's not going to work Hunk," Pidge argued, "we need to get this working..."

"Fresh eyes," he repeated, putting his proverbial foot down.

"Paladin pad?" suggested Keith, "you can stick a picture of the faulty tech on Hunk's dartboard and throw pointy things at it. I find stabbing problems pretty helpful." He smirked, "granted, my problems are usually Galra that are trying to kill me, but I think the theory stands on its own merits."

"That... has some potential," Pidge relented with a sigh.

"The video game system is still set up in there," Hunk cajoled, "and I can make us something yummy to snack on..."

"Alright. Fine. Time to change gears and come back with fresh eyes."

"If cloaking was easy, the Galra or the Olkari would already have figured it out, Pidge," Keith pointed out as they left the room. "You'll get it... but it's not going to be easy. You've got to keep reminding yourself that you are forging new ground, so there are going to be setbacks, right?"

"Yeah, I guess," she sighed, "I'm just... it feels like it is RIGHT THERE, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do. You'll get it," he smiled at her, "you will. I have total faith in you."

Pidge tipped her face up to his, her big, brown eyes blinking owlishly at him as she studied his face. "Thanks, Keith, " she responded with a small smile, before punching him in the arm. "Look at you being all cheerleader-y and supportive," she laughed.

"And... talky," Hunk added, "Galra Keith is chatty, too. Who knew?"

"I'm not Galra Keith, Hunk," he groaned, "I'm just KEITH, I didn't change just because I found out that I am part Galra."

"Yeah," Pidge agreed, triggering the door to the secret hang-out space Hunk had created for them.

He was struck by a memory of the last time he'd been here, sipping on tea and eating throat-numbing candies while Lance fussed over him and told him stories about his family. He smiled, reflecting on how far they'd come in such a short time.

"Mmrph," Pidge rolled her eyes, "check out the dewy grin. I think we know what's gotten into Keith to make him so upbeat and talkative- LANCE!"

"What? No," he shook his head, "I wasn't even thinking about Lance until, like, right this minute."

"Oh my GOD- Pidge! Is Keith BLUSHING?!" Hunk gasped, getting right in Keith's face.

"Knock it off," Keith said weakly, knowing that his face was blazing.

"Awwww, he IS," cooed Pidge before cackling, "it's like bizarro world around here lately!"

"Yeah, usually it is Lance turning beet red at random moments," Hunk chuckled, "or Allura- have you ever noticed that she blushes like, a lot, and at really weird things?"

"Yeah, she does, doesn't she?" Pidge responded.

"Maybe the mice are a bunch of pervs, and she's the only one who knows because none of us can understand them?" Keith wondered aloud.

"I can see that being a possibility," Pidge agreed, "I mean, mice are rodents- and rodents are kind of famous for being big ol'horndogs."

Hunk looked completely scandalized, "guys! No! The mice are so cute and sweet!"

"You are seriously too attached to those mice," Pidge said, laughing as she powered up the video game system.

"Says the girl who came back from a junkyard asteroid with a collection of space caterpillers and trash sculptures of the whole team."

"Sculptures? What sculptures?" Keith asked, confused.

"They weren't sculptures, they were mock-ups... for brainstorming purposes and they were very helpful... but that's not the point," Pidge responded, "the point is that it is entirely possible that the mice, as cute as they are, have filthy little minds and randomly mortify the Princess."

Hunk huffed, "you know what? I'm not going to argue with you about this. The mice are innocent little creatures of cuteness and you will not change my mind! Ii am going to go make us some snacks and you guys can just... move on from this subject completely."

Pidge shook her head but stayed quiet until he was literally halfway out the door, when she yelled, "pervy, kinky, filthy little mice!"

Without even looking back Hunk lifted his hand, flipping her off as the door slid shut. Keith had to chuckle at them, they had such a weird but kind of cool friendship. Idly, he wondered if they had any idea how lucky they were to have someone like that- especially to have someone that got them like that out of the handful of people in the Castle.

Chapter Text

"Grab a controller, Emo-boy," laughed Pidge, "it's video game time... and uh... maybe don't mention to Lance that I called you that?"

"Emo-boy? You call me that all the time," Keith said, dropping down onto a pillow beside her and picking up a controller. "Why would that even come up in conversation?"

"Just, don't okay?" She loaded up the game, waiting for the character selection screen to show up.

"Sure, whatever," he answered, shaking his head, "not real clear on why it matters, but sure."

"Okay- so I figure you want a stompy up close fighter, so I'm gonna grab this long range guy with some healing. Sound good?"

"Yeah, fine," he laughed, "you get that this is just a game, right?"

Pidge slowly turned her head to level the most unnerving stare at him. "It's never 'just' a game, Keith. If you fuck my score on this game, I will make you suffer."

"Quiznak, I cannot believe that 'Manic Matt' is the chill sibling," he playfully flinched away from her, "fine, I won't fuck your score. Jeez!"

"Oh god, I'd forgotten he used that dumb name as a gamer tag," Pidge laughed, "hey- before Hunk comes back, I wanted to talk to you about something."

"I already said I'd help you with the cloaking thing as much as you need while I'm here, Pidge," he sighed.

"Not that... it's about Lance. Well, you and Lance..."

"I'm not giving you dirt on Lance."

"Okay, first- RUDE," she rolled her eyes, "and second- completely unfair, I 100% deserve good dirt on Lance after working my ass off on that quiznaking crystal... But that's not what I meant. I know you and I aren't exactly the tightest, but... sooner or later, you are going to Keith or he is going to Lance, or you are both going to do it at the same time... and he'll go vent and bitch to Hunk, and Hunk will make him see sense... and I figure, you probably won't want to talk to Shiro about that kind of thing... so... I mean, I totally GET how much of a pain in the ass Lance can be, but I"m also not afraid to tell you when you are being a dickhead... So, if you... you know... need to vent or whatever... you can come to me."

"So... just to be clear... you are, pre-emptively, offering to hear about my... relationship issues?" he eyed her quizzically.

"Well, within reason," she snarked, "I don't need mushy details, or want to know any of the nasty sex stuff- unless I can use it to humiliate him somehow."

"Given that you just ruled out both the emotional AND physical aspects of a relationship, I'm not sure what I'd be able to talk to you about."

"Stop being an ass on purpose," she muttered, not looking away from the video game as her fingers flew over the controller buttons, "you know what I meant. I'm not the best at the emotional stuff, either, but I do know how to listen, so anytime you need to talk... god damn it, Keith... would you kill that thing already... It is LITERALLY the entire point of the game!"

"You think I'm not trying!" he hissed, mashing buttons, "he keeps hitting me with slow before I can get my special off... sonofa... HA! Dead!" He held up his fist for Pidge to bump, which she did. "And thanks... I appreciate it. Not really much of a talker, but still appreciate it."

"Keith- if you were a big talker, I wouldn't have offered. I would have like, given you a way to hail Matt or some shit. He's got that gossipy streak, he'd eat that shit UP."

Keith snickered, "man, Shiro has no clue just how much you cuss when he's not around."

"Well, I have to watch my language around him," she replied, laughing, "can't be a bad influence on the six year old. Where the FUCK did that mob come from?! Ohhhhh no, you don't... you mother cunting twatwaffle! Eat arrows!"

"How is this thing so FAST?" he muttered, brow furrowing in concentrations as he helped Pidge kill the pixelated enemy on the screen.

"Why do I play this game?" Pidge grumbled, "as soon as I start I fucking HATE everything. DIE already you asshat!"

"Whatever attack you just did, do it again- he's down to like 10% health. We've got this," Keith encouraged, "we... just... need... to... YES! Got'em!"

"Awww yeah," she crooned, "nice work, Kogane. Not bad, not bad, at all. I take it back, I fucking love this game."

"I have snacks!" Hunk's sing-song startled Pidge, making her jump.

"Quiznak! Hunk, how are you so damn quiet? You are a big guy, logically, you should make more noise when you walk!"

"Ooooh... sorrrry," he mocked, "did I make you miss a coin drop on your game?"

"YES!" she snarled.

"Mmmhmmm, thought so. It's a coin, Pidge. Breathe through it." He looked at Keith, shaking his head, "she gets soooo grumpy when she plays that game."

"Sorry bud- I think grumpy is just her default setting," Keith replied, "shit! Pidge, in the trees!"

"I see it. I see it... hang on... stupid fucking sniper... THE FUCK!? You are NOT taking me down with fucking poisoned arrows you dumbass 16-bit piece of... HA! SUCK. MY. LADY. COCK! Suck it! Suck iiiiiiiiit!"

Keith gaped at her, "what the fuck?"

"Yeah- that's a new one. It's been her favorite for like, two weeks now. She even got RYNER saying it!"

"Oh, good god- do NOT let Shiro hear that one! I don't think he'd survive it. In fact... just... don't ever play this thing with him."

"Like I'd say that around the SIX-YEAR-OLD," she cackled, "oh god, we haven't even started giving him a hard time about that yet and still, it has already brought us so much joy."

"By 'us', she means 'her'," Hunk clarified.

"Just... soooo much joy."

Chapter Text

Stupid empath sims. Stupid headbands. Stupid visualizations. Stupid, stupid, stupid empathy wrecking his fucking life. Like, it wasn't already messed up enough to begin with! Why was this so damn hard? All he wanted was to be able to keep his feelings private and let the people around him do the same thing. That shouldn't be so difficult. Allura was doing fine. Why was it so hard for him? He paced around the room, trying to shake off some of his frustration and worry. He'd been at this for over an hour and he felt like he was WORSE at holding the stupid image steady than when he started!

This was important. Just as important as his sniper training. Just as important as working out. Just as important as learning how to melee fight. Just as important as bonding with his Lion. He was able to focus when he was honing all those skills, why couldn't he do it now?

He wanted to fucking hit something. His hands clenched and unclenched and he realized suddenly that he genuinely DID want to punch something. Tension kept building in his arms and shoulders and he caught himself starting to shift his weight as if he was about to throw a punch. Training options at the bolt-hole had been seriously limited and one of the few alternatives had been a heavy bag. Over the time they'd been there, he'd gotten used to pummeling on that thing anytime he'd gotten stressed out. Somewhere along the way, it must have become a new coping mechanism.

Okay. He could work with that. He could just switch gears for a bit and come back to the empath stuff. He crossed to the little panel that controlled the settings for the room and tinkered with it until he got what he needed, then pulled out the appropriate gear from the supply closet by the door and suited up, so to speak. Rolling his neck and shoulders, he started venting his frustration at the empath sim on the heavy bag. Each solid contact seemed to anchor him a little, each punch ridding him of a bit of tensions. Before long, he was simply enjoying himself. Enjoying the effort, the jolts and impacts, the repetitions, the play of his muscles. He'd never been a gym junkie, but there was something so visceral and rewarding about this. Maybe it was just that his life now involved a CERTAINTY of fighting, and getting better at fighting without weapons might have a direct impact on his likelihood of survival in a way that hitting the gym back on Earth didn't. He wasn't sure. But this was working and he was a smart enough boy to know not to fuck with something that was working. He'd set a timer for a varga, thinking that would pretty much exhaust him, but he was surprised to discover that he felt like he was just hitting his stride when it went off.

Reminding himself that this was intended to be a break/change of focus from the empath sims that he REALLY needed to get a handle on, he stepped back from the heavy bag. His breath came in little huffs, but he wasn't winded, just kind of pumped up. He shed the gear, stretching his arms, shoulders and back as he returned it to the supply closet. Then he changed up the sim programming again on the control panel. It was kind of strange to think that until he'd started dancing with Allura regularly, he'd avoided interacting with the control panels and and data nodes. Now, it was second nature... and it wasn't even that he could read the Altean, although he had started being able to recognize the occasional word. No, it was more that he could puzzle out the various options based on how the menus were structured. Getting to know Allura and Coran better had helped the Altean systems make more sense to him, and it was showing up in odd ways.

The heavy bag zipped out of sight and the still, dimly lit settings for the empath sim shifted into place. He sighed, grabbing the stupid headband and rubbing at the little crystal that as part of him now. Doing these exercises made it heat up. Not uncomfortably so, but it was definitely noticeable... and he didn't like being reminded of it, and why he needed it. Empathy was a pain in the ass... and he might be just the tiniest bit bitter that it had turned a promising FRIENDSHIP with Allura into some kind of infatuation high, and now whenever he was around her things were WEIRD and it felt like he had some kind of hollow spot in his heart. Just maybe.

He sat on the floor and donned the headband, taking a deep breath and doing his best to follow the prompts. Picture a bubble, envision it encasing him, imagine it filling with power, stopping emotion from passing through it in either direction. Repeat.

Over.

And over.

Again.

Now this... THIS was exhausting. How messed up was that? Sitting still and making pretty bubbles with his brain was wearing him out. His brain felt tired. His limbs felt heavy and it felt like a huge effort just to breathe. He had no idea how long he'd been sitting on the floor imagining things, but he felt like if he had to do one. more. time. he'd pass out.

Time to call it. Blearily, he dragged himself to his feet and dismissed the simulation, dropping the headband into the basket in the supply closet on his way out of the room. He pulled out his phone and opened a text to Keith.

Lance: Babe

Lance: empath training kicked my ass

Lance: not up to being around the others right now.

Lance: lunch with me in my new quarters?

Mullet: ru ok?

Lance: yeah

Lance: remember trying to form Voltron with the headbands?

Mullet: yeah

Lance: it was like that but exhausting

Mullet: u sure you don't want to nap?

Lance: maybe later

Lance: want to get settled in and cleaned up and eat something first

Lance: plus I want to show you the new digs

Mullet: alright

Mullet: I'll grab some food and bring it over

Mullet: where am I going?

Lance: East wing first corridor 4th door on the left

Lance: I'll add you to the door access when I get there

Mullet: sounds good

Lance: k c u soon

Chapter Text

Hunk had been a bit concerned when he'd heard that Lance wanted to eat lunch in his new quarters because 'lunch' had been served hours ago. That concern had led to him insisting on making up a picnic basket worth of real (albeit alien) food for the two of them to enjoy. Then, as Keith had been heading to join his boyfriend, Coran had stopped him. It took three different and equally convoluted stories about the social niceties of various alien cultures, but eventually Keith had figured out that the 'home heating tokens' Coran was proffering in a second basket were intended to be a housewarming gift for Lance.

That whole thing had started a lively conversation between Hunk and Coran about the new quarters- that Lance had apparently tried to reject because they were too nice. Hunk was so touched by that that as Keith slinked away, he was pledging to come up with a housewarming gift of his own. That guy had the biggest heart, like, ever. Keith suspected that Lance would end up getting something from everyone by the time the dust settled. The few details he'd heard had seemed nice, though. More space, more privacy... definitely good things.

East wing.

First Corridor.

Fourth door on the left.

Damn, it really was quiet down here. He knew that he unused rooms were kept vacuum sealed for a variety of reasons, but he'd never really thought about how that would impact the ambient sound of the castle itself. It was so silent, the quiet was tangible, but oddly comforting. It wasn't a creepy silence at all. Just, peaceful and still. The fourth door on the left slid open almost the instant that he stopped in front of it.

He stepped into a little alcove that opened into a sitting room that contained a couple of almost empty floating baskets. Lance must have used those to move his small stash of belongings from his old room.

"Keith? Is that you?" he called from another room.

"Yeah, it's me. I come bearing gifts," he answered, "this place is really nice!"

"I tried to tell Coran that it was too much," he answered, stepping into the room. He was wearing the blue housecoat and lion slippers that had been waiting for him when they arrived and drying his hair with a towel. "But he said this was the most modest of the options... and it has a TUB." His grin was infectious.

"So, knowing you," Keith laughed, "you took a bath before you were even fully unpacked?"

"Listen," Lance insisted, "I needed one. I worked up a sweat doing a training sim."

Keith eyed him skeptically, "empath training is different than I imagined."

"Probably not," Lance answered, leaning in to kiss Keith's cheek softly, "what's with the baskets?"

"One is food from Hunk, the other is a housewarming gift from Coran. You smell like a cupcake again," he couldn't help but smile at him, his love of water was really adorable.

"Presents? For me?" his whole face lit up, "awesome! Okay- set those down and I'll give you the ten cent tour. This is the living area- that couch folds out into a bed. I have my very own food goo dispenser- oooh! There's a closet over there... and I keep finding little cupboards and stuff hidden in the walls and trim. Bathroom is through that door- with tons of counter and storage space and a TUB... an honest to god tub. It's HUGE, too!"

"How huge?" Keith asked, poking his head through the door.

Lance slipped his hands around Keith's waist as he stepped up behind him, hooking his chin over Keith's shoulder. "Plenty of room for both of us, if that's what you are thinking... and like 3 feet deep."

"Decadent," purred Keith, turning his head to nuzzle Lance's cheek.

"Coran thought I would appreciate the extra room since I'd be sharing the space so often."

"He did, did he?"

"He did. Not much gets past good ol'Coranic, " he laughed.

"Alright, show me the rest," Keith slipped his hand into Lance's as they stepped apart.

"All that's left is the bedroom," Lance chuckled, leading Keith into the sleeping chamber, "there's a door there that connects to the bathroom, too."

"That's a big bed," he observed mildly.

"Mmmhmmm, bigger than the one at the bolt-hole," Lance agreed, "not that we really need the space- we did just fine last night in my old bed."

Keith smiled, his expression hinting at the decidedly carnal path his thoughts were taking, "I'm sure we can find ways to enjoy the extra space, cupcake."

Lance blushed. God, he loved when he could make Lance blush like that. It was absolutely irresistible. Tugging on their joined hands, he crowded in close to kiss Lance properly. Taking his time with it, he wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and held him close as he deepened the soft, tender kiss. Lance moaned and yielded, parting for him and meeting Keith's questing tongue with his own. He felt Lance's hand tangle in his hair, keeping him from pulling back until they'd both gotten their fill of the kiss, and the feel of those long, slender fingers brushing over the back of his neck made Keith shiver and growl softly.

Lance nipped at his bottom lip in response and the hand that wasn't tangled in his hair coiled around the small of his back and pulled him tight against Lance's taller frame. Keith gasped, his fingers digging into the strong muscles of Lance's back and just like that, the sweet, tender kiss transformed into a frenzy. Those fingers in his hair fisted, pulling at the soft strands and making him moan as something pulled tight and hot deep within him and he surged into the kiss, sucking Lance's tongue into his mouth and kissing him like his life depended on the contact.

He was exquisitely aware that nothing but the thin, silky fabric of the housecoat separated him from Lance's delectable coppery skin as his hands roamed over his boyfriend's back and shoulders, finally settling on his hips- because, damn he'd never found hips sexy before but he sure as hell had a thing for Lance's- his thumbs rubbing against the tempting little hollows that dipped alongside the narrow hipbones.

"God, Keith," Lance breathed, pulling back from the kiss with a reluctance that was palpable. "Mmm… that definitely makes up for not being able to give you a good morning kiss."

"Mmmmhmmm," Keith agreed, nuzzling and kissing a path along Lance's jaw.

"Lunch," Lance murmured, craning his head to one side and letting his hand drift down to knead at Keith's ass, "we should…. hmmm… eat lunch… before- ohhhh God, right there… mmmm… Lunch." He stepped back, breaking the erotic spell they'd been weaving. "Food, then fun," he said shakily, "I'm starving."

Chapter Text

"You're starving," Keith echoed, voice rough, face incredulous. His eyes darted to the big bed and back to Lance's face. He was… serious? Really?

"I really am," he said sheepishly, "feels like I haven't eaten all day."

Keith sighed, shaking his head. "Get dressed, I'll see what Hunk packed up for us. What time did you eat breakfast?"

"I… umm… skipped breakfast. Coran showed up, and then I switched rooms, and then I hit the training deck. I'm really looking forward to lunch with you," he dipped his head down, pressing a sweet little kiss to the curve of Keith's throat.

"You haven't eaten anything at all today?" Keith clarified, "that's why it FEELS like you haven't eaten all day... because that's what actually happened?"

"Yeah. See? Starving," he smirked, "otherwise I would sooo be making use of that big bed with you…"

"Lance," Keith shook his head again, "dinner is in like 2 vargas. You missed lunch, too. Like I said, get dressed, I'll deal with the food."

"I don't have to get dressed," Lance argued, "it's just us. Unless…" his eyes glinted mischievously, "you find me too…. Distracting… like this…"

Keith rolled his eyes, Lance didn't need the ego stroke that admitting he found the fact that he was wearing nothing but a thin housecoat that was held in place by one, single, solitary little bow at his hip… his very tempting hip… EXCEEDINGLY distracting would give him. "How do you put so much effort into checking up on EVERYONE else and forget to eat for an entire day?" he grumbled, turning away and heading to the sitting room, where he'd left the basket from Hunk, "c'mon, let's get some food in you."

"I didn't forget," Lance protested, trailing after Keith, "I just lost track of time."

"How though?" Keith asked, shaking his head, "what were you doing that overrode eating?"

"It was those stupid empath sims," Lance grumbled. "They are harder than you'd think. I got so frustrated I took like an hour to just wail on a heavy bag, and then came back to it."

"You took a break from training to train before you got back to training?" Keith laughed, "not even I do that!"

"I have incentive, okay?" he muttered, "worst super power ever, remember? I had to relocate to a completely different wing of the castle because of this stupid empathy thing."

"Hey," Keith stopped, turning to cup Lance's jaw in his hand, "stop being so hard on yourself about the empathy. It's just ONE part of who you are. Don't let it define you."

Lance paused. Keith understood what he was dealing with in a way none of the others could. He'd been the one to see him through the worst of it. He'd been the one to see the risk first hand. He knew what it was like to suddenly discover that there was a huge part of yourself that you'd never even known about. Allura was an empath like him, but she'd always been aware that empathy existed. He hadn't. Just like Keith had never known that there was even a remote possibility that he might be part alien, until he found out he was. KEITH was the one who knew what it felt like to have your sense of identity rewritten by something beyond your control- something that you'd never even thought was real. "Thanks, babe," he said gently, "I needed to hear that."

Keith smiled, leaning in to kiss Lance softly. "Anytime. Now, let's see what Hunk came up with for our… picnic?"

"Ah, man… I miss real picnics," Lance sighed, especially ones at the beach. Beach picnics are the best. Food, sun, surf, music… that's like a perfect day, right there."

"Ants, blowing sand, sunburn, mosquitoes, sand in your food, sand in uncomfortable places, windburn…" Keith teased.

"LIES!" laughed Lance, tickling Keith's ribs playfully- which earned him a light-hearted swat and a soft giggle.

"I love how much you laugh when it is just us," Lance sighed, slinking up behind his boyfriend and wrapping his arms around Keith as they walked.

"You tickled me," he pointed out, "not a lot of other people do that… because… you know… I have a KNIFE."

"Psssh, your knife doesn't scare me," he snorted, "and let me believe it is because I make you happy."

"Well, there is that, too," he said mildly. "You going to stay wrapped around me while you eat?"

"I mean, I COULD," Lance mused, "you could sit in my lap and we could feed each other tidbits and be all cutesy…."

"That's a bit much, don't you think?" he laughed, "let's just sit on the couch and eat like normal people."

"Spoilsport," Lance pouted.

"Me? You were the one who called time out on a very promising make-out session because you forgot to eat for the better part of the day," he countered.

"Ouch, babe. Ouch. You wound me," Lance covered his heart with his hands dramatically, pantomiming a fatal injury.

"Uh-huh," Keith said dryly as he pointed at the couch, "sit." He opened the basket from Hunk and started pulling out containers filled with exotic alien foods that Hunk had managed to coax and wrangle into things that suited human dietary needs and palettes. "Man, some of this stuff smells amazing! He's a freaking miracle worker! Oooh- it's that stuff that tastes like banana pudding!"

"You are like the only person I have ever met that likes banana pudding that much," Lance laughed.

"What? Banana pudding is delicious and seriously underappreciated!" He smirked, "but if you don't want your share…."

"Hey now- I never said THAT! Gimme," he gestured with his hand. "I'll eat my share first, or I am betting I won't get any."

"Have you seen how much food he sent? You wouldn't even miss it," Keith shook his head, but handed the container of the pudding-like stuff to Lance.

"He did kind of go overboard on the food," Lance laughed, "at least I have a spot to store the leftovers now! One of those cupboards is like a mini-fridge!"

"It is? Cool- yeah, Hunk was worried, I think, and you know how he gets when he worries. So much food!"

Chapter Text

"So, you like my new place?" Lance asked after a moment of sorting through containers and sampling some dishes he didn't recognize.

"Yeah… I mean, it's not like any of us have a lot to like, personalize our spaces or whatever, but this is nice. You definitely have the most space of all of us."

"Not really- Coran has like five rooms, and Allura's bedroom alone is as big as this whole place," Lance said.

"Is it now?" Keith asked, his voice flat.

"Oh yeah, she's got like a sitting room, this massive bathroom, a dressing room, a kitchen set up and small dining room, a study," he opened a container of some kind of stew and grabbed a spork, trying a bite. It was tasty! "This is really good, you want some?"

"You have it, I already ate," he said mildly, busying himself with the last few items in the basket. "Sounds like Allura has a really sweet set-up."

Lance paused mid-bite, his eyes sliding over to Keith, whose expression was completely blank. Unnaturally blank. Uh-oh. "She's a princess," he pointed out. "Royal suites yadda yadda yadda."

"Mmmhmm," Keith agreed neutrally, pulling out a couple of beverage pouches, "you want water or juice?"

"Either is fine," he answered, his head cocking to one side as he tried to puzzle out whether Keith was upset, or just uninterested. "She pretty much grew up on this ship, you know."

"Uh-huh," he answered, handing his boyfriend a water pouch and sitting on the couch a few feet from Lance. "You mind if I have one of those muffin-y things?"

"Nope- knock yourself out, babe." He watched Keith as he leaned forward and grabbed the baked good and a juice pouch. "Are you… mad at me?"

"No," he answered, turning to give him a small smile, "I'm not angry or mad. It's fine. I'm fine."

"See, you SAY that- but I'm not sure I am buying it," Lance said cautiously. "It really feels like something is bothering you…"

"Lance, you didn't do anything wrong and I'm not mad at you," Keith sighed. "Okay?"

"Yeah, you said that about being mad… but something BOTHERING you might not mean you are mad. Is something bothering you? Are you upset that I mentioned Allura?"

"Allura is one of like half a dozen people on the ship, it's pretty unrealistic to think she's not going to come up in conversation, Lance. I don't expect you to pretend she doesn't exist."

"Right… but you went like suuuuper cold when I brought her… ohhh… nope. It was when I mentioned her bedroom," he scrunched his nose up adorably, "that whole territorial thing again?"

Keith huffed, his eyebrows furrowing as his cheeks colored, "it's stupid. I know it's stupid…" he rolled his shoulders, "it's none of my business and it's before anything happened with us… but… it is like when you didn't smell right. But, I'm not mad, and I already knew you guys were sleeping together anyway."

"Sleeping together?" Lance echoed, "I mean- yeah, I slept in her room a couple of times and she slept in mine once… but… Keith- did you think I was having sex with Allura?"

"It's not really any of my business, Lance," he said, pushing his hand through his hair, clearly agitated, "you guys were together- I don't really need the details. I don't really WANT the details."

"Oh my god," Lance breathed, "you DID! Does everyone think that? Because, that is NOT true! Allura and I- that didn't happen. Not even close."

Keith turned to face him, "you really don't have to say anything, Lance. Whatever did, or didn't happen with you and her is nobody's business but yours and hers. Like, I KNOW that… even if it doesn't seem like it."

Lance reached out and caught his hand, "hey- it's okay. I get what you are saying. You aren't asking for anything, but it's okay- really. If it helps with the whole 'galra are territorial with their lovers' thing then I can reassure you. I saw her room because she was upset when Pidge was injured and blaming herself and I went there to talk to her… and yeah, she and I slept in the same bed a few times, but I have never had sex with Allura. I swear. That wasn't even something that was on the table."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, she is a PRINCESS, babe," he smiled, "Alteans don't look at sex exactly the way we do, but there is still a certain expectation of Princesses on their wedding nights… and Allura is acutely aware that she might have to commit to a political marriage at some point for the sake of the coalition. She's not having sex with anybody until she's married."

"Seriously?! That's so… archaic!" Keith shook his head, stunned.

"She was born 10,000 years ago," he laughed, "she's allowed to be old fashioned. But yeah. I knew right from the start that sex wasn't going to happen with her. I was fine with that. Does knowing that help, at all?"

"Weirdly… it kind of does," he answered, visibly relaxing.

"Am I allowed to be flattered that you get all growly at the idea of me having sex with someone else?" Lance asked flirtatiously, his eyes sparkling as he peeked up at Keith's face through his lashes.

"Flattered?"

"Well, I mean- if you were an asshole about it, I'd be pissed," Lance replied, "but you were trying so hard not to let on that it bugged you and you kept saying how it was none of your business and stuff… so, yeah. It's kind of flattering that you care enough about me to be bothered, but respect me enough not to be a possessive jackass about it. I mean, we can't control how we FEEL, right? We can only control how we ACT. Am I making sense? I feel like I'm not making sense."

"You're making sense," Keith assured him, squeezing his hand, "and yeah, I care about you."

"Good," Lance leaned in to kiss him softly, then brush his nose against Keith's, "because I care about you, too."

Chapter Text

“Eat your food,” Keith reminded him with a smile, “before you pass out or something.”

"Annnnnnnd there goes the sweet mood," Lance muttered.

"Untrue," Keith argued gently, "I want you to eat because I am worried about you going so long without food… because I care about you, cupcake."

Lance beamed at him, something in those deep blue eyes making his heart trip all over itself again. "Well, when you put it THAT way," he cooed, running his fingers through Keith's hair softly, "how can I deny you? Have the muffin-y thing. I'm really liking this stew stuff- which means, if you know that there is something gross in it, don't tell me."

Keith laughed, "our life is so weird. I think, when it comes to food, we are just going to have to life by the mantra 'trust Hunk' and leave it at that."

"It's a good mantra," Lance agreed around a mouthful of stew, "this is freaking delicious."

Occasionally, Keith wondered if Lance had any idea how irresistibly adorable he could be when he wasn't even trying at all. Like, right now: hair sticking off in all directions at once as a result of Keith's hands in it when it was still wet; wearing a housecoat just because he needed a robe, and not because the color of it did something magic to his skin and eyes, or because the fabric clung to his lean frame just so and made the most enticing noise when it slithered across itself and pooled temptingly; eyes dancing with humor and sincerity; lips curled softly in a smile that shone with genuine happiness; elegant hands flying as he spoke, sometimes too caught up in what he was saying to fully finish the food in his mouth (which SHOULD have been kind of gross, but managed to just be cutely enthusiastic)- none of it contrived, or exaggerated to catch and keep attention. Just, Lance, being Lance- at ease and content and his authentic self.

"What?" Lance asked, "do I have something on my face?"

"Other than your face?" Keith teased, "no."

"Then why are you looking at me like that?"

He smiled, shaking his head. "No reason," he whispered, leaning in to kiss Lance's cheek softly. "You wanna see what Coran gave you while you eat?"

"Yes! PRESENTS!" He looked like a eight year old, he was so excited to get an unexpected gift. Keith filed that information away for later, planning on making good use of it. He grabbed the second basket, setting it on the floor and removing the cloth that served as a make-shift lid. "Oh my god," Lance cooed, eyes going wide when he saw the collection of bottles and jars and tubes, "is that… toiletries?!"

"Looks like it," answered Keith, chuckling, "because OF COURSE Coran would give you a basket of soaps and lotions and skin cream, and OF COURSE you would think it was the best gift ever."

"Hey now," Lance levelled a look at him that was simultaneously smug and absolutely filthy, "I seem to recall getting lots and lots and lots of very intense compliments on my skin from a certain person in this room… how good it feels, how good it smells, how TASTY it is…"

Keith felt his face heat and he had to actually put effort into NOT licking his lips at the reminder of how Lance's skin felt, smelled, and tasted when he was in his arms. "Eat your stew," he grumbled, which made Lance break out in a crowing laugh. "Yeah- keep it up, see how much attention your skin will get from me if you do…"

"Awww sugarplum," Lance purred, blinking at him, "don't be like that…"

"Quiznak, you are impossible," he muttered, his expression softening, "eat your food… open your gift… I shouldn't need to remind you to do these things. Maybe I'm the distracting one?"

"Keith! Babe! Mr. Fussypants! Are you FLIRTING?" Lance gasped dramatically.

"Nope," he replied easily. "Just making an observation." His eyes glinted, "if I decided to flirt, you'd know. Trust me."

"Okay, well now I'm intrigued," Lance said turning to face him.

"Be intrigued while you check out Coran's gift and feed yourself," Keith replied, sitting back in his seat.

Lance made a show of taking a big bite of stew, rolling his eyes. It reminded him of the day Lance had fussed over his sore throat and made him tea. He smiled at the sweetness of Lance's actions, and because they had come so far since then. He'd been so devastated by the relationship between Lance and Allura, only admitting to himself that he was in love with his teammate when his heart utterly shattered. Lance had seen the fallout, and without knowing anything about the why of it, he'd stepped up to take care of him… because that was just who he was. Lance couldn't stand to see someone suffer- not when he could help them in some tiny way. Keith was starting to think that for once, his heart wasn't a complete and total idiot when it came to loving someone.

"Now what?" Lance asked, "you just went all… I dunno."

"You rolled your eyes, it made me think of when I did that to you the day I had the sore throat," he answered, "and I was thinking of how sweet you were, all worried."

"Hells yeah, I was worried," Lance responded, "you sounded like you'd been gargling glass! I was ready to blast Shiro for playing whatever dumbass card game could do that much damage to someone."

Keith snorted, "that would have been real interesting. Probably best that you didn't get all up in Shiro's face that particular day."

"What? Why?" Lance asked, confused.

Keith shook his head, "nothing- just he hadn't slept and wasn't in the best mood. For someone who was so pumped about getting toiletries, you haven't paid much more attention to Coran's gift."

Lance wasn't buying his answer, Keith could see it on his face. Those expressive eyes narrowed on him and some of the relaxed openness of his expression turned… brittle. Shit. He sighed, "ok, fine… That wouldn't have gone over well because of the whole protective big brother thing."

"Shit- that was… right after you got back, wasn't it?" Lance's eyes softened, "well, that would have been weird- me pissed at him for some dumbass game that ended up hurting you and him pissed at me for dating Allura and hurting you. Strangest fight ever."

He could just let that be the end of it. He knew Shiro would be totally fine with Lance thinking that if it meant protecting Keith's privacy. But Shiro deserved better… and Lance deserved the truth… and Keith cared about both of them too much to let that potential misunderstanding stand. Damn it all to hell, this was going to be unpleasant, embarrassing, but he'd told Shiro he'd made the decision to trust Lance with the truth, and that had turned out well. Time to sacrifice his pride and follow through on that decision.

"There wasn't any card game," he said softly, shifting to grab another muffin-thing. "That was a lie to get out of the common room… away from you and Allura."

"A lie? Then… what the hell happened to your throat?"

Chapter Text

"I fell apart. I went to Shiro's and just fell apart, and I kept him awake all night… because I couldn't stop crying. You and Allura- it more than just bothered me. I was a wreck… and I really don't want to talk about this any more than that. But," he rubbed at the back of his neck, in that way he did when he was uncomfortable, the gesture so like Shiro's it was downright eerie, "you deserve the truth about it… and you shouldn't be mad at Shiro, he was just being a good brother."

Lance felt something deep inside him lurch at the weight of that knowledge. He knew how much crying it took to do that to someone's throat. He knew how HARD someone had to cry to destroy their voice like that. He'd seen his siblings go through it a couple of times. It didn't happen from crushes. It didn't happen from seeing someone you kinda sorta might be interested in, get involved with someone else. It happened from the big hurts, the deeper feelings. For Keith to have sounded like that, to have kept Shiro from sleeping for an entire night. Holy shit- no wonder Shiro was so worried about them being alone at the bolt-hole! He couldn't stand the thought of being the reason Keith had hurt so badly.

Unable to do anything else, he reached out and caught Keith's hand, tugging him close, "we don't have to talk about it. But… I made you cry? Keith… I…" He could just tell that his face was so soft, and sad, regret etched in every line.

"You didn't do anything wrong, Lance," Keith reminded him, still avoiding his eyes, "you had no idea... "

"Yeah... okay… fine, I mean that's all true but, Keith… I made you cry. I hurt you- like really hurt you. That's not nothing," he cupped Keith's face and kissed him tenderly, wishing he could undo every tear somehow. "I am so sorry I hurt you- even if it was without knowing I was doing it. That's the last thing I ever wanted."

"I know that, cupcake," Keith whispered, resting his forehead against Lance's, which he took as a very good sign, especially when paired with the sappy nickname, "you aren't cruel or mean-spirited. You're kind."

Lance smiled, because, in terms of compliments, that one, from that person ranked pretty damn high. He slid closer, ignoring the table full of food and the basket full of goodies in favor of his boyfriend- because he was not dumb enough to miss just how important it was that Keith had told him the truth about his throat, and then responded to his apology with something other than downplaying or dismissing the hurt. He kissed Keith again, taking his time and keeping the contact soft and reverent- wanting to show him just how much it meant to him that Keith had opened up to him like that.

He felt Keith's breath hitch a split second before he opened up to him and Lance leaned into the kiss, pressing Keith back into the couch as he swept his tongue out to tease the parted lips and slip past them. One arm braced his weight against the back of his couch, his other hand slid into Keith's hair, nails lightly skimming against his scalp. Keith sighed into the kiss, his arms wrapping around Lance's back and holding him close. God, he was so gone for this guy! He couldn't believe he had ever been confused about what Keith stirred in him, because it was just so strong.

The kiss seemed to stretch into forever, pulling little sighs and gasps from both of them. It stayed so soft, and sweet, and tender, and… important, somehow. When Lance finally lifted his head, because he couldn't resist the need to look into Keith's eyes any longer, he felt like he was floating.

"Wow," breathed Keith, visibly dazed and looking like some kind of fallen angel. His cheeks were flushed slightly, his lips a little kiss-swollen, his dark hair fanned out against the back of the couch, and his eyes were soft and warm and unguarded. He smiled up at Lance, his expression almost shy.

Lance traced his fingertip along Keith's brow and along his cheekbone, the touch impossibly gentle, "mmmhmm… wow is right." He dipped his head down to press sweet little kisses along Keith's jaw. "I never want to hurt you, babe… you mean way too much to me," he whispered into his ear. "Way too much…"

Keith didn't say anything, but his arms tightened, and his breathing changed, and Lance felt him tuck his head into the curve of Lance's shoulder, so he knew that Keith had taken his words to heart.

"C'mon," he purred, nibbling at Keith's earlobe between words, "food can wait a bit longer… let's go check out that big bed…" He half-expected Keith to give him grief about eating lunch and opening Coran's gift, but turned out they were both on the same page. He stood and held his hand out to Keith, who followed suit. Neither spoke, but Lance started walking first, his fingers loosely hooked on Keith's backing into the bedroom, unable to tear his eyes away from his boyfriend's handsome face. A small, smitten smile turning up one side of his lips when they reached the bed and he untangled their fingers to skim his hand up Keith's side, tucking under his shirt to brush against his skin. That tiny little touch made them both shiver, and then Keith's hand was cupping his face, and his was cradling the back of Keith's head and they were kissing again.

Still so soft. Still so slow. Tender and romantic and careful- in all the best ways.

By the time they fell to the bed, still embracing, they were naked and Keith was breathing his name in his ear like some kind of mantra. Lance peppered his face with soft, slow, little kisses- reverent and adoring. "So gorgeous," he whispered, kissing first one closed eyelid and then the other, "love the way you look at me…" He stroked the back of his fingers down the length of Keith's arm, "especially when we are alone… your eyes… Tienes los ojos más bonitos del mundo."

Chapter Text

Keith shivered, his head craning back on a sigh, and Lance kissed him again. He kissed him like he could somehow take back the hurts he'd caused, albeit inadvertently. He craned up into Lance's kiss, the eagerness making the Cuban's heart skip a beat. Lance's fingers played in Keith's hair, traced the shell of his ear, skimmed down the line of his throat and shoulder, finally splaying over his hip and pulling him close.

"Love how strong you are," he breathed, trailing kisses along Keith's jaw, "wish you didn't have to be… but I love that you are." He nibbled lightly at the cords of muscle in Keith's throat, making him gasp and tremble, "wish you never HAD to be so strong."

He lifted his head, smiling tenderly at Keith, "dios, your face right now… how are you even real?" He caught Keith's lips in another kiss, some of the gentleness and awe replaced by a growing hunger for him. It was just enough to spur Keith out of the languid spell he'd been under- simply basking in Lance's attentions and soft praise. The kiss deepened and Keith's arms twined round Lance, rolling them both onto their sides and tangling their legs together.

Lance loved the feel of Keith's hands on his skin- warm and strong and needful. Keith was always so damn warm- it was kind of irresistible. His touch left a trail of heat in its wake, the skin tingling and sensitized. The pressure didn't seem to matter- everything from the barest brush of fingertips on skin to passionate clutches, and all the millions of variations in between- it all garnered the same kind of response. Currently, Keith was grabbing and kneading the long, lean muscle of his thigh and he felt like that alone could melt him into goo. Add in that slow, hungry, ardent kiss and it was no wonder why his breath had grown ragged and he felt like he might combust from the sheer heat Keith was giving off.

He loved him. He was so in love with him. So consumed by the depths of his feelings for Keith that, at times, like now, he felt like he would wither and die if he had to deny it. The words seemed to constantly be in his mouth, right on the tip of his tongue, ready to leap from him and make themselves heard. But it was too soon. He'd loved Keith for so long. He'd stayed silent for so long. But being together was new. New and fragile… and it was too soon to say those words, but it wasn't too soon to demonstrate them.

"Keith," he rumbled into the kiss, the name falling from his lips amid broken gasps and sighs and little moans of pleasure as his hands found their way into that soft black hair, clutching and twisting and slipping through the strands. Slowly but surely, their breathing synced up, creating a rhythm for the kiss as it swelled and shifted, heat gradually infusing it until they both burned. Little by little, their movements aligned, hips and arms and legs moving in concert as they touched and rolled and pressed closer.

It started to feel like a dance- but better- some kind of instinctive choreography taking over. When his head tipped back on a shuddering groan, Keith's was ducking down to suck a mark onto his throat. When his spine arced in response to a delicious shiver that raced through him, Keith was pulling his hips tight to him so they didn't lose any contact. When his leg stretched out, toes curling back on a hungry whimper, Keith's thigh was tucking up tight between his legs, grinding Lance's erection into the strong muscle. When Keith craned back, Lance was already moving to drag the flat of his tongue over that pale, smooth skin. When Keith caught his own bottom lip between his teeth on a whine, Lance was stroking his face and sinking his teeth gently into his shoulder.

"Holy shit, Lance," Keith purred, threading his fingers through the hair at Lance's temple, and whimpering when Lance's fingers grazed the back of his neck, "can't… get enough of you…"

"M'all yours," Lance whispered, the words heavy with emotion, lifting his blue eyed gaze to Keith's violet one, "m'not going anywhere…"

"Mine," breathed Keith, his eyes dark and heavy lidded, brimming with intensity. "Alll mine…"

"Mmmhmm," he smiled then, shy and vulnerable, lacing the fingers of one hand with Keith's and lifting the joined hands to his lips. He dusted hot little kisses over their entangled hands, nipping at Keith's knuckles.

"Like that you're mine…" and then they were kissing again, letting that building hunger sweep them away.

"Mi sol," he breathed into the kiss, so consumed by his need and his emotions that he was starting to lose his grasp on English. "Tu me vuelves loca… Te necesito…"

"Lannnnce," Keith groaned, a fine tremor rolling through his body, "you are killing me with the Cubano, cupcake… too fucking sexy.."

Lance blinked at him, not immediately making the connection and blushing when he did. "Was going more for romantic than sexy," he whispered, tipping his head to suck a little purple love bite into being on Keith's collarbone.

"Both," Keith gasped, shivering as Lance's mouth went to work, "it's definitely both… sexy… AND… romantic… holy fuck…"

He lifted his head, smiling at the mark he'd left, and then at Keith, dipping his head back down to dust kisses over Keith's throat and shoulders, "god, babe… what you do to me…" He nibbled along the lines of his collarbone, pressing a reverent little kiss into the tempting hollows the bone made in that creamy skin, "mi sol… center of my universe…"

Chapter Text

Keith had never experienced anything like being with Lance when he got all tender and poetic. Honestly, it hadn't happened all that often- the first time he'd really noticed it was the day Lance had flirted and cajoled and tempted him into bed for the entire day- but it had happened a few more times before they'd returned to the Castle. He could never REALLY predict when it would happen, either. Sometimes he could see it coming… a little… there would be little clues like him being extra complimentary, or he'd catch Lance giving him long, sleepy smiles, or he'd be especially cuddly. Other times, it seemed to come out of nowhere and when that happened, Keith had no idea how to cope.

It wasn't that it was a bad thing- the exact opposite, in fact. Keith loved it. He ate it up. He craved it- even when the long gazes and whispered words made him blush and squirm and not know where to look or what to say. Keith had tons of experience with sex- more than he liked to admit, really- but the whole 'boyfriend' thing? Significantly less experience… and that experience wasn't exactly great, either.

He didn't know how he was supposed to react when Lance started getting… emotional. All sweet and tender and complimentary. It seemed weird to be thanking him mid-kiss, and he didn't seem like he was EXPECTING thanks. But, like, some of the things he said, especially when he left English behind… they were kind of amazing. And they made Keith's heart feel, like, too big, somehow?

And so, a lot of the time, when Lance was like this, Keith ended up going quiet- because he didn't want to miss any of those whispers. He didn't want to miss the way Lance's voice changed, or the look in his eyes, or the tiny shifts to his smile. He wanted to hoard every little detail of those moments deep in his soul, because he'd never felt anything like the way they made him feel before. Sometimes, the whispers made it hard to breathe. Occasionally, they made his eyes sting.

It was hot- SERIOUSLY hot- but it kind of felt like some kind of code he didn't know how to decipher, like there was a message he wasn't getting. He didn't want to wreck it with questions, because… damn, he'd never felt as good, as something, as he had when Lance had called him 'mi sol' or when he'd kissed his eyelids. But, he wanted to make Lance feel the same way and he didn't know how.

Lance was good with words, but Keith wasn't. He knew that. So, if he wanted to make Lance feel the way Lance was making him feel right now, it couldn't be with softly murmured compliments. And he did… God, did he ever want to make Lance feel this… because this was incredible.

"I love having you in my bed," Lance was saying, in Cubano, low and slow and husky. He HAD to be doing it on purpose at this point, exploiting Keith's reaction to hearing him speak his native tongue. He smiled seductively before kissing his way back up Keith's neck, his lips and breath hot against his skin. Keith mewled, basking in the sweet words and quiet intensity.

"Lannnnce," he groaned, catching his face between his hands, drawing him close for a hungry kiss. He wasn't great with words, but he was pretty good with body language. He pushed Lance onto his back, taking the lead. The kiss ramped up and Lance made a soft noise deep in his throat that did good things to Keith.

It was his turn to take the lead, and he relished the opportunity. He feasted on the kiss, one hand cupping the back of Lance's skull and holding him just the way he wanted him, the other skimming over all that coppery-gold skin soaking up the contact. He poured everything he felt for Lance into the kiss, into his touch. He let it blaze in his eyes. He wasn't poetic or romantic like his boyfriend. The only words he had to express how he felt were ones that he couldn't risk saying just yet. So, he did his best to give Lance the message without the words.

He broke the kiss, only to catch Lance's bottom lip between his teeth and tug gently, smiling at the little raspy intake of breath it triggered. His head dropped, lips and teeth finding their way to the slender column of Lance's throat, where he would happily spend years kissing and suckling and tasting the smooth, sensitive flesh- just because it seemed to drive Lance completely out of his mind with pleasure and satisfied something primal in Keith.

Before long, Lance was squirming under him, his heels kicking helplessly at the bedding while he whimpered and trembled and babbled nonsense at him. The Cuban's hands clutched at Keith's hair, only to release him and fling wide as teeth sank into the skin. They grabbed at the blankets, twisting and yanking on soft, panting moans while Keith drew yet another hickey into being. They clawed at his shoulders as he whimpered, "bésame… bésame… bésame… bésame…" over and over like a prayer, and when he did kiss Lance, as requested, they buried themselves in his hair again, clinging to him.

Chapter Text

"Lance," he breathed into the kiss, trying to lift his head and finding it difficult because Lance was holding him exactly where he was with those fistfuls of hair. It might have even hurt, he was clutching so tightly… if it didn't feel so fucking amazing.

"Lance?" he tried again after several more minutes of kissing him breathless.

"Babe?" Kiss.

"I… mmm…" Kiss.

"I wanna…" Kiss.

Eventually, he'd get around to saying all of it. He was reasonably sure of that. He moaned, rolling his hips, feeling Lance roll his own in concert. A shiver raced through him and he made a hungry sound, relishing the friction of their bodies moving against each other to ease some of the frustrated ache.

"Ohhh god," he groaned, "Lance… babe… I… wanna…" He lost the words again. They were stolen out of his mind by the way Lance's mouth was moving against his, the feel of his tongue exploring, teasing, tasting him. Replaced by a tiny, needy whimper. He'd never enjoyed kissing anyone as much as he loved kissing Lance. He just… Loved Lance. He loved him… and that made everything so much better.

His thumb rubbed that irresistible little hollow on the inside of Lance's hipbone and he felt a shudder roll through that long, lean frame, making him smile into the kiss. He replaced his thumb with his fingertips, following the sensitive little eddy down to palm Lance's erection. Lance's spine bowed, pulling their lips apart as he trembled and moaned Keith's name.

"Lance," he murmured, nibbling at that long, elegant throat, "I wanna…" he curled his fingers around the stiff length, "taste you… okay?" They hadn't done that yet, for all their naked making out. Keith had been careful about letting Lance set their pace… he suspected that Lance might be a little nervous about giving head, and he was big on reciprocating attentions. But it was something that Keith really enjoyed doing, and he wanted to make Lance feel as good as all those sweet words made him feel. "Just me," he whispered, covering him in sweet little kisses. "I want you in my mouth…"

"Holy shit, Keith," Lance moaned, his whole body shaking under Keith's hands. He lifted his head, staring into Keith's' eyes, and the look on his face was… just… It made Keith's chest do that thing where he felt like his heart was too big to beat properly, too big to breathe around. That thing where it felt like something inside him was going to burst.

"Yeah?" Keith asked softly, a hint of a smirk on his face, his fingers starting to move slowly over the straining cock in his hand.

"Yeah," Lance nodded on a groan, his hips thrusting up into Keith's hand, "fuck, yeah… mi sol..."

Keith smiled, shifting his weight to kiss a hot, hungry path down Lance's chest, taking the time to pay special attention to each flat, dark nipple until Lance was kicking at the bedding again and his babbling had no English in it whatsoever. Then he traced out each rib with the tip of his tongue, occasionally sucking purple marks to the surface, making Lance whine and thrash. He fucking loved how responsive Lance was.

Finally, he settled himself between those long legs, peeking up through his lashes at the wanton sight Lance made all sprawled out on the sheets, marked up and glistening with a thin sheen of sweat, his face and chest flushed dark with arousal. "God, you are so fucking hot," Keith rumbled, his voice raw with desire. Unable to resist those delectable hips, he took a moment to pay them proper attention, smiling when his tongue made Lance whimper his name and start off a new litany of endearments.

"Mi sol… Mi sol… Mi sol… Mi sol…" he said it on each short, panting breath, and every time it fell from his lips, it sent shivers down Keith's spine and made his heart skip a beat.

He pressed a chaste little kiss to the tip, drawing the little bit of slack of his foreskin into his mouth and flicking his tongue over the delicate and sensitive skin. Lance bucked and hissed his name, making him smile. Keith wrapped his hand around the thick shaft, pulling his hand down to the base and exposing the swollen head while it was still encased in his mouth. Lance groaned, deep and loud, and Keith could feel the cock in his mouth swell even further.

He took his time, using his tongue and lips to explore every little line and curve and swell, being ever-so-careful of the little fangs he knew had popped into being somewhere around the third kiss. His hand set a slow, steady rhythm, the grip just barely tight enough not to be teasing. He loved the taste of Lance's skin, especially now, that thick, heavy weight on his tongue, pressing against the roof of his mouth, edging close to the back of his throat, every last one of his taste buds savoring the flavor of his boyfriend.

"Keith," Lance mewled, hands twisting where they still had a death grip on Keith's hair, "mi sol, mi sol… Keith… dios…"

It had been awhile, so Keith didn't want to rush this. He moaned softly, loving the way Lance was reacting to him. The soft sound got an immediate response from the tall, lithe guy on the bed, his feet flexing and pointing, and helpless little whimpers falling from his lips. Keith relaxed his throat and changed his grip, letting himself slide deeper. He swallowed around the fullness, muscles working over the length of him, making Keith's breath hitch and stutter while he adjusted.. And once he had, he did the same thing again. Inch by slow inch, he worked his way down the length of Lance's cock, breathing through his gag reflex until it faded and his nose was buried in the dark, brown curls at the base.

Lance was breathing his name, over and over, an awed litany of pleasure. A prayer of desire. His hands released the soft black hair to thread his fingers through its length, his short nails teasing Keith's scalp, making him moan and tremble.

Chapter Text

He fell into an easy rhythm, taking his time to enjoy Lance like this. He kept glancing up to watch Lance's expressive face contort and relax with pleasure. Occasionally, ocean blue eyes would lock onto his and he felt like time stopped. He'd draw back until Lance would almost slip free of his mouth before whorling his tongue over the sensitive head and sucking gently, keeping him in place until he sank back down over the hard length again.

Before long, Lance's hips started to roll to meet him- a slow, smooth glide that pushed deep into his throat and made him moan. His moans triggered shuddery little mewls of hunger in Lance and that spurred Keith on. His mouth and throat thoroughly occupied working over Lance's cock, he let his hands wander over Lance's strong legs- tracing out the sculpted muscles, the long bones, the dips and hollows of all that tanned skin, all the way up to those impossibly tempting hips and back down again.

He reveled in the breathless, mindless babbling of his name and Cubano endearments that fell from Lance's lips, interspersed with the most delicious gasps and whimpers and moans, and the occasional surprised curse when he hit a sweet spot or timed some caress just right. He basked in the way that Lance was coming undone under his attentions, the little tremor that he felt start up in the fingers that clutched reflexively at his hair, the way he couldn't quite manage to keep his legs still, how his hips and hands started pushing and pulling in an instinctive attempt to increase the tempo.

In response, he eased off, ever so slowly allowing Lance to take over- the fists in his hair and hips in his hands setting the pace, angle, and depth. Within moments Lance was face fucking him and it was amazing. Hard, fast, deep and relentless. He had to pay attention to his breathing or he'd choke, and he didn't want anything to distract Lance from taking his pleasure. His eyes roamed over all that copper skin, etching every line and shadow into his memory. One hand moved to cup and cradle the soft weight of Lance's balls, the soft contact dragging a hissed, "dios, Keith, mi sol," from him. The other reached down to his own aching cock, tugging strongly, the sensation making him moan around the cock in his throat.

He could tell, in so many ways, that Lance was utterly lost in what he was feeling. He'd done that. Lance was unraveling before his eyes in the best way imaginable because of his touch, his hands, his mouth- because of him. Just the thought of that made his blood burn in his veins in the best possible way. It made his chest ache in that good way. It made his head swim and his cock jump and his skin tingle.

Lance was getting close. He could tell by the stutter to his hips. The snap at the apex of his thrusts. The way his balls were starting to pull tight and tuck up close to his body. The change in his breathing. Lance was right on that edge… and knowing that drove Keith to the brink himself. Soft, needful sounds- little squeaks and whimpers and long, shivery moans- escaped from him every time Lance slid out of his throat and he lost himself in sucking and working his throat around that cock on every stroke forward.

Then the hands were out of his hair and those gorgeous eyes flew open, locking on his own. "Keith… I'm… gonna…" Lance panted, biting at his own lips, "dios… so… close…"

He was giving him the chance to pull away he realized, but that was the LAST thing that Keith wanted. He needed to taste him. NEEDED to bring him over that edge and feel him empty himself down Keith's throat. Keeping his gaze fixed on those impossibly blue eyes, Keith pressed close, pushing down that length until his nose butted up against the pubic bone, making it clear that he had no intention of stopping.

"Alabao, mi sol, mi sol.." and then his head snapped back, eyes closing, mouth opening on a silent cry, and Keith watched as Lance tipped over into a climax that shook his whole body, his hips bucking into Keith's mouth for a long moment. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and it sent him careening into his own orgasm as he swallowed hungrily and made a mess all over the sheets of the new bed.

Dazed and breathless, Keith let Lance slip free of his aching throat and rested his head on Lance's thigh, smiling as he watched Lance's face relax into afterglow.

"Holy shit," Lance whispered on a ragged breath after a moment, one arm flopping across his forehead, his other hand playing with the hair at the nape of Keith's neck. "Holy shit, Keith… that was… you are…" He peeked down at Keith and smiled, "c'mere… you're too far away…" The hand in his hair moved, finger-walking over his shoulder and tugging at his upper arm.

He made a noise that might have been a laugh, but he moved, crawling up the bed to drop bonelessly onto a pillow beside Lance. "Hi," he whispered, brushing Lance's bangs back from his sweat-damp forehead.

"Hi," Lance whispered back, gathering him close and wrapping his arms around him. His hands stroked over Keith's back and he dusted soft, affectionate little kisses over his face. "That was amazing, mi sol," he breathed, "you're amazing…"

Keith blushed, still unused to such open affection. "That one's sticking, isn't it?" he asked, smiling at Lance, "as a nickname, I mean…"

"Oh yeah," Lance declared, pressing their foreheads together and staring into his eyes, "mi sol… my sun… center of my universe… that's definitely sticking. Unless… do you hate it?" He looked so unsure and vulnerable all of a sudden.

Keith shook his head, a tiny movement, because he was feeling protective of every point of contact between them, even the forehead press. "I don't hate it," he answered softly, "I kind of love it."

That was apparently the right opinion because Lance positively glowed with happiness, which made Keith need to kiss him. He slid his arm around Lance's waist and held him tight, kissing him soft and sweet, all lazy afterglow-y affection and sated bliss.

When the kiss broke, Lance was grinning at him, "the new bed is officially broken in."

He rolled his eyes, "smartass."

"What? You gonna try to tell me it isn't?" he laughed, hugging Keith.

"No- you definitely need clean sheets and I think you knocked like five or six pillows to the floor… so it's definitely broken in," he replied, nibbling at Lance's throat and triggering a low moan, "god, it is sooo sexy how you react to me…"

"Yeah?" he breathed, craning his head and offering his throat up to Keith's lips and teeth.

"Oh yeah," Keith purred, "seeing you writhe around when I had your cock down my throat was the hottest thing ever."

Lance shivered and his breath hitched, "I could argue that seeing your mouth wrapped around me was hotter… you didn't have the view I did… and holy shit, babe… that was unreal."

"Agree to disagree?" laughed Keith.

"Gonna have to," agreed Lance easily, "because there's no way in hell I'm calling anyone in for a tie-breaker opinion on this one."

Keith's laugh faded into a possessive growl and he kissed Lance, all aggression and passion, the kiss ending as abruptly as it started, "definitely not. My eyes only."

"Right back at'ya, sugarplum."

Chapter Text

Lance was positively buzzing with happiness, the frustration of his lack of progress with the empath sims all but forgotten. It was hard to think about anything but the gorgeous guy in his arms, and the languid sleepiness that followed that very intense experience. He knew that Keith was immune to his empathic abilities, but there had been moments there where he could have sworn they were creating some kind of feedback loop, because it had just been so intense, so… intimate and powerful.

He played with Keith's hair gently, dusting his forehead with kisses and getting rewarded for his attentions with a breathy, contented little sigh and Keith snuggling closer. He felt like he could stay right where he was forever and be content. He smiled down at his boyfriend, debating whether to bring up the new quarters again. His first attempt had gotten completely derailed, but he didn't want Keith to think it was just pillow talk. It was a tricky balance, wanting to make sure Keith knew he WANTED him here with him, without being too eager and scaring him off. Spooking Keith was still a definite risk.

"Babe?" he said softly, because he had absolutely no self-control, apparently. Keith tipped his face up to his, and dios, he was so beautiful right in that moment that Lance nearly forgot what he'd been about to say. He was absolutely unable to resist brushing a tiny, delicate little kiss over those perfect lips, still a little rosy and kiss-swollen. "With the new quarters… being so far from your room… are you still cool with the sleeping arrangements?"

Keith blinked at him, and not that long ago, he would have thought that his expression was neutral, but now he knew better. Now, he knew the subtle changes to watch for. His eyes flared slightly, brows drawing together a tiny amount as his gaze flicked around Lance's face, trying to read his expression, looking for some clue about whether this was some kind of trick, or whether he could trust Lance enough to take the words at face value. It stung, a little, but he knew it was more of a conditioned response than a distrust of him, personally.

"Trying to keep me away from the big comfy bed?" Keith teased after a moment, and Lance felt something in his chest relax. "Ohhh… noo… it's the TUB," Keith giggled, eyes dancing with mischief, "you get a tub that doubles as your own personal little pool and you want to horde it away from your doting boyfriend. You and water McClain… I should have known…"

"My doting boyfriend, huh?" Lance grinned, overjoyed that Keith had trusted his intentions. He leaned down to kiss Keith sweetly, "I like that… so, you don't want to change the sleeping arrangements?"

"I don't want to change the sleeping arrangements," Keith repeated, sliding his hand over Lance's chest to trail down his side and settle on his hip, "we sleep in the same bed when I am here. Always. We follow our dresscode regs. Everything we agreed on. We just do it here, so you aren't in range of the others and we all get to keep some privacy. Yeah?"

"Yeah," Lance answered, "so… you should probably move your stuff into this room, too, then, right?"

"Lance?" he shifted again, propping himself up on one elbow to regard Lance levelly. "You're asking me to move into your new quarters with you?"

"Seems silly for you to be shuffling back and forth between here and your room," Lance pointed out, "you know, if you are going to be sleeping here every night… and there really is PLENTY of room for your stuff… for us."

"You're sure?" Keith asked, "it's kinda fast…"

"You don't have to if you don't want to, babe," Lance said softly, "no pressure. I know you are used to having your own space… but… yeah, I'm sure. I tried to bring it up earlier, but we went kind of off-topic. I want you here, with me… if you want to be."

Keith smiled at him, hesitant, but before he could speak, Lance kissed him again, quickly, and then said, "listen. Don't give me an answer now. Take some time. If you warm up to the idea, let me know. If not, don't say anything and we'll just see how everything goes. I meant what I said- no pressure. I'm not going to be hurt or anything… as long as you are in this bed with me, naked, every night, I am more than happy. Deal?"

He relaxed, grinning at Lance, "deal. I'll be here. I really love how insistent you are about the na-"

"Shit!" Lance yelped, "someone's coming. I can feel them… we need to get dressed, like now."

"Who's coming?" Keith asked, scrambling out of bed and snatching his discarded clothes up off the floor.

"I dunno yet… not Allura, because the crystal isn't doing its thing. Not Coran… this area makes him… like maudlin."

"What? Why?" he asked, clearly finding it weird that an abandoned hallway would make Coran maudlin.

"Alfor," Lance answered, trying to remember which drawer he'd put his clean clothes in. "I think it is Hunk. All warm fuzzies and concern."

"Makes sense," Keith answered, yanking his pants on and grabbing his shirt. "He was talking to Coran about housewarming gifts last time I saw him."

"More presents?" Lance asked, finally finding the drawer and pulling on a shirt. "Definitely, Hunk, go answer the door. You're more dressed than me. Where the quiznak did I put my PANTS?"

"Fine," Keith grumbled pulling his t-shirt over his head and heading out of the bedroom. He triggered the bedroom door to close behind him as he left the room and the fancy schmancy CHIME that Lance's new quarters came equipped with went off to let them know there was someone in the hallway.

"Oh my god! I didn't know I had a DOORBELL!" Lance hollered from the bedroom, weirdly excited by that little detail.

Chapter Text

Keith stumbled to the little cubby and triggered the door. Lance had been right, Hunk was standing there. Judging by the box he was carrying, Keith had been right about the housewarming gift, too. "Hey Hunk," he said, "c'mon in."

Hunk had the strangest look on his face, "ummm… this isn't a bad time, is it?"

"No?" Keith replied, "if it was, would I have told you to come in?"

He cleared his throat, and looked like he was struggling not to laugh, "Keith, man- we've been on this crazy space adventure for a long ass time now- and I have NEVER seen you without your boots on. Dude, you're barefoot… and you aren't wearing your funky little pouchy-belt-thing… and your shirt is on backwards… and inside out… I mean it's pretty obvious I interrupted something." He dissolved into giggles, "I can come back later…"

Keith felt his entire head blaze with a blush, and he desperately wanted to slink into the shadows. "No," he sputtered, "you didn't… it's not… we were… you didn't interrupt anything…"

Hunk's giggles escalated to full laughter, "oh my god, Keith, you should SEE your hair right now."

"Just… Just come in already," he muttered, shoving his hands through his hair as he pivoted away from the door.

"Where's Lance?" Hunk chuckled, following Keith into the room, "oh my god! You guys didn't even finish LUNCH?" The laughter got the better of him, he had to set the box down as he doubled over and held his sides. "Sorry," he gasped after a moment, "sorry… s'not about YOU… it's… just… oh my god… "

"Geez, someone's in a good mood! My head is BUZZING," giggling, Lance chose that minute to join them, pulling up short at the sight of Hunk wheezing with laughter, and flinching at the mortified glare he got from Keith, who just pointed at their guest. "Okay- what's happening?"

"He's been like this since I answered the door," Keith grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Hunk? Buddy… I think I missed the joke," Lance prodded.

"You… didn't… even… eat… lunch…" Hunk gasped out between peals of laughter.

"You sent a LOT of food, man," Lance pointed, a huge grin on his face, eyes dancing with glee, even though he was clearly confused. Keith could clearly see the conflict between Lance's emotions and Hunk's in the play of expressions on Lance's face.

"Jenny…" Hunk wheezed wiping at his eyes, "the… Jenny… thing…"

Lance's eyes flew open and he cracked up, "oh my God! I'd forgotten all about that!"

"Yup," muttered Keith, sarcasm dripping from his every word, "the 'Jenny thing'. Obviously. That completely clears up any confusion."

Still giggling, Lance cupped Keith's face and rubbed his thumb along his jaw. Almost against his will, Keith could feel his irritation and embarrassment start to drain away. "Old story… Garrison days," Lance managed, "Hunk was my roommate, remember?"

"Yeah?" He wasn't really sure what any of that had to do with him answering the door, or with the uneaten food.

"So, I know all the dirt on Lance," cackled Hunk. "Including the time he got dumped when he forgot about the naked girl in his bed because I cooked."

Keith looked from Hunk to Lance and back again, "what?"

"You really had to be there to see why it's funny," Lance said weakly, "there was this huge fight-"

"During which she STAYED naked," Hunk interjected, "man, I had no idea where to look. I was sitting like RIGHT THERE, and she was stomping around and squealing, she was so mad. Not a stitch on."

"She was always kind of dramatic," Lance offered.

"And Lance- who was FIFTEEN at the time- was arguing with her, but STILL EATING the whole time," Hunk said, shaking his head.

"I was hungry," Lance said, shrugging, "the food was going to get cold."

"She said something like 'if you don't find me more appetizing than that, I don't know why I should even stay'... and dude, even *I* knew that was supposed to be his cue to get up and go into the bedroom with her…so, what does good old 'loverboy Lance' do? He looks at her and says, I shit you not, 'but… Hunk cooked…'."

"She didn't like that," Lance had the decency to look sheepish.

"Dumped him on the spot. Didn't even bother getting all the way dressed again. Stormed out in her coat and shoes with her clothes hanging out of her purse. Told half the floor he was gay."

Keith's eyebrow quirked up, regarding Lance levelly, "okay?"

"Hunk cooked me lunch today, babe," Lance said gently, giving him one of those smiles he couldn't quite make sense of, "and I let it get cold…"

"Oh," he managed, his cheeks burning at the realization.

"Yeah," he grinned at Keith and tugged him into a hug.

"Doesn't explain why he started laughing at the door though," Keith pointed out after a moment.

"That was mostly surprise," Hunk confessed, "and laughing at Lance for being clueless."

"Clueless?" Keith asked.

"Look!" interrupted Lance, "Hunk brought me a present!"

Hunk happily ignored Lance, "Keith, man, if you had any idea the number of farrrr too detailed rants about your mullet I have had to smile and nod through, you'd have laughed your ass off, too. When you opened the door, your hair was INSANE- I was his roommate long enough to recognize that particular hairdo-"

"Okay!" Lance yelped, the color draining from his face as his ears turned red, "moving on to the PRESENT!"

"No," Keith chuckled, "this is getting interesting…"

"Hunk- I'm invoking bro-code," Lance said hastily.

"Sorry, man," he said to Keith with a shrug, "that's all I can tell you."

"Bro-code?" Keith echoed, incredulous, "seriously?"

"Like you didn't pull the same stunt yesterday when you PUNCHED Shiro after he called you by an old nickname," Lance pointed out, evenly, "I lived with Hunk most of the year from the time I was 14 until we ended up here, and we've been friends since we were kids. It's not the same as you and Shiro, but it's also not THAT different."

Keith rolled his eyes and shook his head, "alright, fine. Bro-code. Did you want me to clear out so you guys can hang? I know it's been ages…"

Hunk shook his head, "nah man, you don't have to go anywhere. You guys just missed dinner, so I figured I would drop by before it got too late to hang out. This place is REALLY nice, by the way."

"Thanks," Lance grinned, relaxing and dropping onto the couch beside Hunk, "I have an actual TUB!"

Hunk laughed, "well, that explains why you vanished on us!" He twisted his head to look at Keith, "I swear he'd live in the tub if he could. Almost as obsessed with baths as he is with the beach."

"NOTHING replaces the ocean," Lance insisted.

"See?" he chuckled, "he's going to be a prune from here on out. Just you watch."

Chapter Text

"You don't need to tell me," Keith laughed, pointing to the two mostly, but not fully unpacked hampers, "he didn't even finish unpacking before he took a bath!"

"Hey!" protested Lance, "I needed that bath, I'd been training!"

"But you didn't need it so much that it kept you from starting to unpack?" Hunk sounded so confused.

"Babe," chuckled Keith, "you make no sense sometimes."

"So weird to hear YOU talk like that," Hunk observed.

"Like what?" Keith asked, sitting beside Lance.

"You called him babe."

"Oh," Keith shifted uncomfortably.

Lance wrapped his arm around Keith easily and pulled him close, "it's not as new to us as it is to you. I don't think either of us even think about it most of the time."

"Yeah, I know," Hunk looked sheepish, "I'm sorry… I didn't mean to make things… awkward. It's a good kind of weird… Really. I'm happy for you guys."

"He really is," Lance confirmed, leaning in to nuzzle Keith's cheek.

"I didn't think he was lying," Keith grumbled, snuggling closer because somewhere along the way, he'd discovered that snuggling close to Lance helped him feel better. "I'm just not used to… this…"

Lance chuckled, kissing his cheek, "you were pretty comfortable being all cuddly and affectionate around Shiro yesterday."

"Yeah, but that's Shiro," he answered, not sure how to explain WHY it was different. It just WAS.

"Yeah, Shiro- the guy you had JUST warned me was likely to pull me aside for the whole 'what are your intentions' conversation," Lance muttered, "oh! And Allura! Waaaaait… were you all snuggly and cute BECAUSE Allura was there?" His eyes narrowed adorably, "was that… a territorial thing?"

Keith laughed, shoving Lance's shoulder playfully, "is that seriously the first time that occurred to you? It happened literally RIGHT AFTER the whole conversation about the territorial thing! How was that not your first thought?"

"Because I am cuddly," Lance protested, "and so are YOU, even though you pretend you aren't. I got used to cuddlebug Keith back at the bolt-hole. It just felt you were being normal."

"Relax, Lance," Keith laughed, catching his face and kissing him softly, "it didn't have anything to do with Allura being there. Promise."

Lance smiled, his eyes going all soft and deep in that way that made Keith feel like he was drowning, "alright. I believe you, mi sol."

"You guys are adorable," Hunk sighed, "soooo, what ARE your intentions? I mean, if you were expecting Shiro to ask, you must have an answer ready."

"You're asking me?" Lance confirmed.

"Yeah- I guess I COULD ask Keith, if you wanted me to," he shrugged.

Lance laughed, "you could TRY, but you wouldn't get very far. Trying to get an answer out of him yesterday was like the Voltron cheer all over again!"

"This again?! It doesn't make any sense! It's so much faster to just say Voltron!" Keith insisted.

"SEE?!"

"Besides," Keith huffed, "we settled all this stuff. First contact, remember?"

"First contact?" Hunk asked, looking confused.

"Like, next of kin for the Blades," Lance explained.

"Gotcha…" Hunk nodded, smiling so big it looked like he was about to hurt his face, "so like official and serious and stuff, then?"

"Yeah," Keith answered, slipping his hand into Lance's, "official and serious and stuff."

"I don't know what you were grumbling about," Hunk said to Lance, "that was pretty easy."

Lance gaped at him, "Keith! What was that?! It took like a million questions to get that out of you yesterday!"

"That was yesterday," he answered with a shrug.

"Oh. My. God," he growled, but there was no heat in it, even though his blue eyes flashed with irritation, "you are impossible! You know that, right? You're lucky you are so cute!"

"Again with the cute thing? Really?"

Lance rolled his eyes dramatically, "finnnne… You're lucky you're such a cute BADASS! Better?"

He smiled, getting a kick out of how over the top his boyfriend was being, "yes, much better."

Lance shook his head, turning to Hunk, "you are seeing this, right? He is such a little shit sometimes!"

Hunk laughed, joy leaking into the sound, "oh yeah, I am definitely seeing this. Not sure I'm seeing what you think I am, though."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Lance asked, his eyes narrowing.

"I think he's on my side," Keith said through a huge grin, bumping his weight into Lance's side gently. This was… kind of fun. This whole 'banter' thing. Lance and Hunk acted like this a lot… and Pidge was a part of it as often as not… but he mostly shied away from it, not really trusting himself to know where the lines were, not always feeling welcome to participate.

"I'm not on anybody's 'side'!" insisted Hunk. "I'm just saying that my perspective isn't the same as Lance's."

"So, what's your perspective, then?" grumbled Lance, his expression dangerously close to a pout.

"That it's kind of cute that you guys still bicker over stupid shit," he answered, "and you're complaining, but you are smiling your ass off, and… I dunno… I haven't seen you act this much like yourself in ages."

"Like myself?" Lance echoed, his brow creasing.

"Tactile. Affectionate. Upbeat and energetic and engaged," he answered, "you've been kind of… faded for a while now. I chalked it up to homesickness and stuff, but I was starting to worry, and then the thing with Allura seemed to help, a bit- you were happier but you seemed… different somehow. Now?" He gestured at Lance, "it reminds me of how you'd be after you got back from being in Cuba with your family. Like… recharged or something."

"That sounds like a good thing," Keith said softly, giving Lance's hand a squeeze, his thumb rubbing at the soft, warm skin.

"It's definitely a good thing," Hunk confirmed, his expression serious.

"Thanks man," Lance said pulling Hunk into a side hug, his other hand still hanging tight to Keith's, "now, let's see this present! Gimme!" His face was alight with happiness. Keith loved how expressive he could be, it made it a bit easier to figure him out, even though they tended to see things and react to situations in very different ways.

Chapter Text

"It's nothing fancy," Hunk warned, handing Lance the small box.

"I don't need fancy, man," Lance laughed, "I didn't even need a gift. I already feel bad about being the only one getting a room upgrade."

"Well- don't," Hunk scolded, "we all know you weren't angling for a bigger space. "If staying here means you don't get that pinchy look on your face as much, I'm all for it."

"Pinchy look?" Keith asked, his eyes narrowing as he noticed that Lance was neither commenting on that, nor was he meeting Keith's eyes.

"It's nothing," Lance said softly.

"Pinchy look?" he repeated, this time pinning Hunk with his gaze, "what pinchy look?"

"Ummm… I just noticed that he'd get this… expression… when he was around all of us. Like… it almost looked like he had a headache, but any time I asked, he insisted he was fine."

"Because I WAS fine, it's not a headache. It's nothing." Lance insisted, bumping his nose against Keith's cheek softly, "it is absolutely nothing to worry about."

"Then what is it?" Keith asked, nerves making his voice shake. He'd never been more scared than he'd been when Lance's vitals were fading and no one could figure out why. He'd been AS scared in the past, but never MORE scared.

"Shhh," Lance soothed, nuzzling his face and letting go of his hand to cup the back of Keith's neck tenderly, "mi sol… it's nothing… just didn't realize how much I was picking up from everyone and it was tiring to be around too many people at once. I didn't even know what it was before we left for awhile and came back."

"You're SURE?" Keith asked, his hand moving to rest on Lance's knee, squeezing softly.

"I'm sure," he insisted, "I've been paying attention… AND I've been working my tail off on those empath sims, right?"

"Yeah," he sighed, "you have."

"So, it's nothing to worry about and it is going to be even LESS of a concern as I get better with the whole shielding thing."

"Okay- BUT if it doesn't get better, promise me that you'll tell Coran and Allura? So they can make sure everything is okay? You are still just learning about this and you don't really know what the red flags are."

"Deal. I promise I will tell them if I notice that it is getting worse or if it doesn't get better as I get more control."

Hunk cleared his throat, obviously reminding them that he was still in the room. "If it helps, I can promise to keep an eye out, too. Speak up if he seems off… that kind of thing."

Keith nodded, one of the things he hated about the whole empath mess was how insidious it was. He'd noticed that something was OFF among the team before they were down in those mines, but no one else seemed to- and Lance and Allura were completely oblivious, despite being the ones in the most danger from it. So, it was possible that Lance wouldn't even be aware of it, and that could impact Hunk, as well, but just knowing that Hunk had noticed it before and was willing to TRY to safeguard Lance made him feel better. He trusted Hunk, but he trusted Hunk's friendship with Lance even more… and now Keith would be watching for signs of it himself.

"Thanks, Hunk," Lance smiled, "I always feel safer when you have my back. We all good, babe?"

"Yeah," Keith answered, "we're all good. Open your gift already."

His expression brightened and he turned his attention back to the box in his hand, untangling his fingers from Keith's to open it. "Oh… wow, Hunk," he breathed, "this is awesome."

"We had a sheet of this funky glass that was given to Allura by one of the delegations. We couldn't figure out what to do with it for ages, then Pidge discovered that different frequencies of lasers created different colors in the glass. After that, it just took a little tinkering and I could make you something like your old bulletin board. I had to stick with mostly pictures from my phone or Pidge's though. So… umm… there's one of all of us after the first Voltron Show… and the selfie I took of me and you the time we tried to figure out some way to make flan and it exploded all over us." He chuckled, "and there's you and Shiro that time you made a checkerboard out of tape on the table and used washers and bolts as the pieces. Umm… oh, Allura sent me this one of you guys in stupid hats! Here's you and Coran arguing about something on the star maps- you looked like you guys were going to throw down over it and I had to snap a pic- look how pissed Coran is!"

"I can't even remember what we were fighting about… which route to take for a mission or something, I think?" Lance chuckled, "this is amazing- oh man! Is that from the time Pidge screwed with the gravity settings so we could make hovering skateboards?"

"Yup- right before she broke your arm in the last race. Man, that was a blast… up until you got hurt."

"Pidge broke your arm?" Keith asked, incredulous.

"It was an accident," Lance laughed, "someone on the bridge noticed the gravity anomaly and fixed it and we both crashed. Just a little fracture, like an hour in the pods to fix it. No big deal."

"And then, this is the picture Pidge took of you guys all tangled up in the Paladin Pad, with your orange nose and ears."

"This is amazing Hunk," he cooed, "it's perfect, seriously. I know exactly where I want it to go. Be right back."

Chapter Text

"I think he likes it," Keith observed dryly as Lance hopped up and headed into the bedroom.

"Good," Hunk answered, "I figured he would. He's so sentimental. His old bulletin board back in our dorm was COVERED in pictures of family and friends, postcards, movie tickets… all kinds of stuff. He likes the reminders, I think."

"Yeah," Keith replied, smiling gently, "he does. His phone is the same way- FULL of pics and videos of his family back home and stuff. Back at the bolt-hole, he'd pull up a picture of some sibling or cousin and then tell me like 10 stories about them."

"Big heart," Hunk said with an affectionate smile.

"The biggest," Keith agreed easily.

Hunk turned to face Keith then, his expression serious, "you break it and I will gut you."

"What?!" What was happening right now? He'd never seen Hunk go so… hard. Actually, no, that wasn't true. He'd seen it before- when Shay was in danger and the team was dealing with Rolo and Nyma.

"I mean it. You're my friend, and my leader, and my teammate, and I'd take a bullet for you. But Lance? He's like a brother to me, and that makes me the only family he's got out here. So- think of me as his version of your big-brother Shiro when it comes to this stuff. If you break his heart, like really bust it up, by doing something stupid or treating him like shit or cheating- any kind of asshole move... I. Will. Gut. You. Like a fish. We clear?"

"I'm not going to do any of that stuff," Keith protested, "do you really think I WOULD?"

"No," Hunk answered, "I don't think you would. You're a good guy… I know you are a good guy, Keith. But it needed to be said, so I said it."

"Did you say this shit to Allura?" Keith grumbled.

"Nope," he answered, "didn't have to. She couldn't do the kind of damage you could."

What the heck was THAT supposed to mean?

"Hey babe?" Lance called from the bedroom, "you left your phone in here. Looks like you have a message from Shiro." He tossed Keith the phone from the doorway, "Hunnnnnk? Did you give him that 'break him, I break your legs' speech? The mood in here is all messed up."

"I didn't say one word about breaking any legs," Hunk promised, "right Keith?"

"Nothing about leg breaking," he confirmed. Nope. He'd seen Hunk gut a fish. That was a much more effective threat. "Why would you think that Hunk would even want to break my legs?"

"Just- there's this like… dark… kind of protective feeling coming from Hunk."

"Empathy," Hunk muttered, "eventually, I will remember that you have that. Okay, fair enough. There were no threats of leg breaking… but I did say that I was the closest thing to a big brother that you have out here."

Keith nodded, "he told me to consider him your version of Shiro." Speaking of, he tapped away at his phone, opening the message from Shiro.

"Hunk!" Lance gasped. Keith couldn't tell if he was angry, or touched, or just surprised.

"Man- do you KNOW what Veronica would do to me if she found out I DIDN'T give him that speech?" Hunk's face was pleading, "you know I can't handle it when she's mad at me. She's MEAN!"

"My big sister is NOT mean! She's just… intense… and Cuban." Lance looked horrified.

"Fine! Not mean… just scary. Veronica is SCARY."

"Okay, yeah," Lance relented, "she's fucking terrifying."

"Should I be worried?" Keith chuckled.

"Yes." They said in unison.

Keith blinked, stunned. He had NOT been expecting that response.

"Remember me telling you about how scary my Meemaw can be?" asked Lance, not really giving him a chance to reply, "Veronica takes after her- but she's smarter, and younger, and has access to the Garrison- meaning weapons AND information."

"When we get back to earth, Veronica is the McClain you want to win over. If she likes you, she will MAKE the rest of them at least be civil, even if they don't."

"And if she doesn't like me?" Keith asked, worry lacing his voice. He didn't have a great track record for first impressions with McClains.

"She'll like you," Lance said softly, his smile making his eyes crinkle, "now that I really think about it, she'll like you a lot. What's Shiro saying?"

"He wants to know if I want to hit the training deck with him," Keith answered, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I probably should- I didn't do any training yet today."

"You didn't?" Lance shook his head, "okay- who are you and what did you do with my boyfriend? Because Keith Badass Kogane doesn't skip training."

"I didn't SKIP it," Keith argued, "I just haven't done any YET today. The day is not over."

"Hold on- does this mean… that as of this moment, I've done more training today than you?" Lance's voice was practically bubbling with glee.

He sighed, shaking his head. Leave it to Lance to find SOME way to turn this into a competition. "Yes, I guess it does."

"You heard that, right, Hunk?"

"I did."

"You're being ridiculous," he pointed out, "this isn't a contest."

"You know what I've noticed?" Lance's voice was teasing, "you only argue that things aren't a contest when I'm winning."

"You're winning? At… what?" he asked.

"Life," he answered easily, "I don't know if you've noticed, but I've got the best friends, this sweet new set-up, and…" He crossed the remaining distance between them, his eyes going dark and intense, "the hottest boyfriend in the universe… who is going to be in MY bed… NAKED in just a few vargas."

Crap. He was flirting. Keith blushed crimson and rolled his eyes, but he managed to rally, "the universe, huh?"

"Yup. The entire universe," he leaned over the back of the couch to brush his lips across Keith's, feather light and teasing, "love making you blush."

"You are such a cheesy flirt," Keith sighed returning the sweet little kiss before shaking his head.

"S'just the truth, Mullet," he answered. "Now, let Shiro know you're on your way and get going. I want you in top form if we have to suit up… and I can hang with Hunk and finish unpacking."

"You should probably brush your hair and fix your shirt," Hunk offered helpfully.

It had just started to fade, but now the blush was back in full force. Fucking awesome. "Yeah… thanks for the reminder, big guy," he mumbled as he replied to Shiro's message and stood. "Alright. I'm going to head out. I'll be back later tonight."

"Do I get a proper kiss good-bye?" Lance asked, pouting.

He rounded the couch and let his eyes rake over Lance's long, lean frame. His smile was predatory, his eyes smokey as he moved closer. Shooting his hand out, he curled his fingers into Lance's waistband and licked his lips slowly, then caught the bottom one between his teeth, letting it slowly drag itself free of the bite. Peeking up at Lance through the thick fringe of his lashes, he watched his boyfriend go pale, then bush, and swallow noticeably. That was his cue to yank Lance forward, catching his weight against his chest and shoulders, his free arm snaking around Lance's lower back and holding him tight and flush against him. "You want a 'proper' kiss, or a 'real' kiss?" he breathed, "cuz a real one isn't all that 'proper', and a 'proper' one is kinda boring."

"A real one," whispered Lance, those blue, blue eyes glued to his lips, "mmhmm… definitely a real one."

He didn't even answer, just leaned forward and kissed him, pulling out all the stops and feasting on Lance's mouth until they were both breathless and his skin was tingling.

"Don't forget to unpack, babe," he said gently before releasing Lance and heading to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

Lance stood there for a moment, dazed, until Hunk's soft chuckle brought him back to himself. He scowled, his cheeks burning, "did you see that? Smug! Why is he being so smug?"

"I saw," Hunk laughed, "I saw him completely shut Lance McClain up with a single kiss. Given how much you talk, I think smug is a fair response."

"Hey!" he squawked, "what's with the sass? You've been spending too much time with Pidge!"

Hunk laughed harder, "haven't got a whole lot in the way of options for who to hang out with. I flipped her off today though."

"You?" Lance snorted, "you flipped PIDGE off? I don't believe you!"

"It's true," Keith said. He'd fixed his hair and clothes and was back in his boots, ready to go meet Shiro. "I saw it. She was being rude about the mice." He grabbed his jacket and veered in his path slightly, taking a tiny detour to catch Lance's hand and press a kiss to his cheek, "I'll only be a couple of vargas with Shiro. Not as late as last night."

"And sober this time," Lance teased, "I'll be here. Now scoot- he's waiting… and if you are late, he'll blame me."

Keith laughed, pulling away and heading for the door, "I wouldn't let him, but I'm going."

The instant the door slid shut behind him, Hunk spoke up, "sober this time?"

"He and Shiro had a few drinks last night," he explained, flopping onto the couch beside his oldest friend, "Keith was completely plastered when he got back."

"Ahh okay- so… you wanna start with how all this happened in the first place? Or why you are giving off waves of fear?" Hunk said levelly.

Lance pulled up short. Hunk had never been one to let him shy away from uncomfortable subjects or keep things bottled up. He knew how quickly that kind of stuff festered for Lance… and he knew him well enough to know when he was doing it- even without the empathy broadcasting his emotions. Still, for some reason, Hunk's question surprised him. "I think I fucked up," he said after a moment.

"Fucked up, how, exactly?" The question was gentle, patient.

Lance cringed, "I… kind of… asked him to move in here."

"What?" Hunk shook his head, "oh man… buddy… that's… just, so fast."

"I know, I know, it gets worse… it was like… after…" his eyebrows hiked up towards his hairline and he glanced pointedly at the bedroom.

"Oh Lance," he sighed, "seriously?"

"Dude- I SAID I fucked up! I already know that- I just don't know how bad I fucked up."

"Well, what did he SAY?"

"Ummm… nothing much. He made sure I meant what it sounded like I meant, and then I told him not to answer me. I said there was no pressure and it was okay if he didn't want to, but that the invitation stood… and then you got here, pretty much."

"Well… he wasn't ACTING like someone who was getting ready to bolt from an overly clingy romantic," pointed out Hunk. "He seemed pretty chill and affectionate, actually. So… I dunno… maybe it WASN'T a fuck up? Maybe he like, is on the same page as you?"

"An overly clingy romantic? Geez, thanks, Hunk. I feel soooo much better now," he grumbled, shifting uncomfortably on the couch.

"I just meant that if you spooked him, that might be how he saw the situation, Lance. C'mon, you know I know you better than that! And… I swear, I think everything is fine. I don't think he would have been acting the way he was if you had fucked up as bad as you seem to think you did. He was pretty solid on the whole 'official and serious and stuff' decision- and I KNOW you aren't someone who pushes for more than the other person is offering."

"Yeah… I guess," Lance sighed, plucking at the seam of his jeans.

"You guess… Bud, maybe you guys should dial back the sex for a few hours and have an actual conversation? You need to talk to him."

Lance glared, "okay one- there's no sex. Not yet. We're going slow with that part. I mean, we've done STUFF, but not… you know… everything. And two- we talk. We have conversations. Real ones… like- I told him about how my grandparents got together, and he told me about the first time he got his heart broken. And… just… a bunch of stuff. We talk. We talk a lot, actually."

"Are you having the important conversations?" Hunk prodded, "or just the easy 'getting to know each other' ones?"

"I think getting to know each other is pretty important, Hunk."

"Does he know you've never really been with a guy before? Other than a few interrupted make-out sessions during the Voltron Show? Does he know HE'S the whole reason you figured out that you are bi in the first place? Or how much you tortured yourself about that when you were trying to figure it out? How about how bad it messes you up when he goes off on missions with the Blade? Have you talked about any of that stuff?"

"Kind of?" Lance went back to fiddling with his jeans. "I mentioned finding it really hard when he was away- that's what led to the whole First Contact thing. I told him that I was really good at distracting myself from thinking about my sexuality on Earth and that I did a lot of soul searching in space. I mentioned driving you nuts when I was figuring out the bi thing, and the polyam thing. I don't really want to tell him he was the catalyst- not just yet… feels like too much pressure. He's known about me not having much… um… hands on… experience with guys pretty much from the first day he kissed me."

"He kissed you? Huh… that's not really how I thought that would go down- especially after Coran said that your emotions were going to be pretty much out of control and extra intense."

"You thought I would jump his bones," Lance chuckled, thinking back to the days and weeks leading up to that message from Shiro, "there were times I was really tempted- especially in the mornings before everything kind of came crashing in again. But, no- mostly I was really pissed off, or really worried, or like sad and clingy. None of which are my best looks. I can't even really remember much of the first week or so… just like fuzzy glimpses and stuff. I remember enough to know I had to be kind of a nightmare... but he was... I dunno... just so kind, and patient, and... It's hard to explain."

"Woah," Hunk breathed, "and I thought those champagne bubbles you got from Allura were intense. What you are pumping out right now is UNREAL."

"Right? It's just… SO MUCH," Lance sighed, his voice dreamy, and he just knew that his emotions were flooding the room like a fast tide, "and like, I thought I was gone for the guy BEFORE all this stuff, and I mean, I totally was. But... this..." His voice faded, and when he spoke again, it was tiny and shy, "Allura said I was in love with him... ages ago... she felt what I felt and that's how she described it. That's how she described it BEFORE. Is there something stronger than 'in love'? Because I feel like that would be what this is."

Chapter Text

"Pretty sure 'in love' is as strong as it gets, bud," Hunk said, patting his knee comfortingly. "I'm happy for you, but, man, you need to stop stressing yourself out and just enjoy this."

"I know," he shook his head, "mostly I am- it's just the whole thing with moving in here… I started freaking out a bit. He's so skittish… I don't want to spook him. You know what he's like."

"I dunno, Lance- he didn't seem all that skittish when he was here… and he seemed pretty, happy, I guess? when he was hanging out with me and Pidge earlier. Like he'd had a couple of drinks, but he was sober- just I don't know… relaxed? Cheerful? Chatty, for sure. He was definitely talking more."

"I'm telling you, I think he just gets kind of overwhelmed," Lance insisted, "when we were at the bolt-hole, before anything happened between us, he was talking about stuff- like he told me stories about Blade missions, and life at the Garrison, and stuff about when he was really little. Like, did you know he was home-schooled until he went into foster care? And he can be really funny- especially when he's talking about Shiro. Like, after a few days of me being halfway functional, instead of a total mess, it was actually pretty cool."

"Holy shit, Lance, if the Galra weren't immune to your weird feelings magic, we could just like drop you into the middle of everything and get you talking about Keith and peace would be declared in less than an hour." Hunk shook his head, "remember when I had to get my wisdom teeth out and they gave me the REALLY good meds?"

Lance laughed, "the ones that Kyle from next door kept trying to convince you to sell to him? Man, you were so freaking happy. You were calling everyone marshmallows!"

"Because they were sweet and soft and squishy," Hunk explained. "Right now, I feel like I'm back on those meds- without the fuzzy-headedness. Just that floaty, happy, feeling. It's going to be such a trip forming Voltron with you feeling like this."

"If we're forming Voltron, I won't be feeling like this," Lance pointed out, "I still have a full range of emotions, bud. Even when Allura and I were spiraling out of control, I still got angry and sad and worried and stuff. I really doubt I'll be all- how did you describe it? Floaty and happy? Yeah, I'm not going to be all floaty and happy in the middle of a firefight!"

"Yeah- that would be really freaky now that I think about it," Hunk giggled, "sorry… not used to the weird high."

"Sorry- I can try to shield if you want, but I'm pretty shitty at it."

"Nah, this is cool, you don't have to do that. Soooooo… I get WHY you didn't say anything over text… but I kind of have to know the story here."

"You are as bad as my sister," cackled Lance, giving his oldest friend a shove. "Almost as bad as Allura, at least you didn't squeal!"

"Allura SQUEALED?! Oh man, I would pay money to see that! She wasn't mad?"

He shook his head, "it's hard to explain… she was just… happy, excited. Me and Keith? Totally unrelated to me and her in her mind."

"Like how I can love burritos and it is totally different from how I love chocolate cake," Hunk nodded.

"Yeah- I guess that works. Not really important right now, anyway." Lance shifted on the couch, twisting to face Hunk, one ankle resting on his knee. "You wanted details, right?"

"Yup," Hunk confirmed, "because I've been rooting for you guys, but there have been sooo many times when I was SURE and then just… nothing…"

"What? Like when?"

"Like- singing to each other the night we all went drinking and then ending up all tangled together in the morning? Seriously how did NOTHING happen that night? The whole time you guys were like, circling each other. Oh! And just… ANY time you guys start arguing and you get right up in each other's faces. And how you are both ALWAYS staring at the back of each other's heads."

"Ok, bud," he laughed, "you are starting to sound like Veronica talking about her telenovelas!"

"You two are like a freaking telenovela," he countered, "do you know how many bets I've lost? Too many! Whatever- dish."

"Where do you want me to start?" Lance was starting to realize just how much he'd missed hanging out with Hunk like this.

"The beginning seems like the best choice," teased Hunk.

"That's the thing- I'm not really sure where the beginning IS. There were a bunch of little things- like having to share a bed… and I was SUPER clingy at first, so we just slept all tangled up, we still sleep all tangled up… and a few times, I'd wake up and he'd like pet my hair and shush me, still asleep- like he'd been doing it all night. Or, like we'd play crazy eights and get super intense, and it would be a blast. Stuff like that… like, little by little it was like he started to trust me more or something."

"Awww that's adorable," he cooed, "and I can only imagine how clingy you were, because you are like a freaking monkey once you are asleep NORMALLY!"

"I get cold easily," Lance muttered, giving Hunk a shove, "but the big shift was… Oh! It was the day I told you guys Shiro's birthday!"

"What?! That was AGES before you guys came back! I can't believe you didn't say ANYTHING!"

"It didn't really feel real- I mean, I knew it was really happening, but I was afraid that if I said anything, I'd jinx it or something. Plus, I wanted to talk to Allura first."

"Oh… yeah… that makes sense. So, what was the 'big shift', then?"

Lance smiled, remembering that morning, how shocked and scared he'd been, that little thread of hope and disbelief… and how it all changed into something so amazing, so fast. "I accidentally saw a text that wasn't meant for me. It made me think that maybe my whole unrequited crush... just... wasn't. So, I kinda cornered him, and straight up asked him if he was into me."

"Seriously?! That worked?"

"Ummm… not quite. He didn't answer- not until I admitted that I'd been head over heels for him for ages. And I said I wanted to kiss him, asked if I could," he shrugged, "and then I didn't have to, because HE kissed ME."

"That's SUPER CUTE," Hunk gushed, "and not how I figured things would go with you two. I was sure it would be one of those angry 'kiss you to shut you up' kinds of situations."

"Nope. Nothing like that at all… we actually haven't one of those moments- which is kind of odd, now that I think about it."

"You haven't gotten mad at each other since then?"

"Oh no, I got pretty pissed yesterday when he thought I would just not tell Allura anything about what happened with him… but that was different, somehow. We just ended up talking it out and by the end of THAT we were a couple."

Chapter Text

He tossed the black bayard to Shiro, who caught it easily. "Told'ya I didn't get 'rusty' that fast," he said, bracing his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. They'd run through more sims than he wanted to think about. Shiro was fine with stepping up as the Black Paladin, but he still wanted Keith to take over as leader someday and so for the time being, it was almost like they were sharing the mantle.

"Look at that," Shiro teased, "you actually kept up with your training while you were gone."

"Of course I did- I AM aware that my ability to fight keeps me ALIVE, Shiro," he rolled his eyes, "it's not like it's a hobby."

"I know… I just thought you might be distracted," his eyes glinted impishly. He triggered the door and Keith followed him out of the training deck. It was their habit to get a snack and rehydrate after training and before getting cleaned up.

"Oh, I get it," Keith shook his head, "you were just trying to find a way to start giving me a hard time about Lance."

Shiro spread his arms, making a motion close to a shrug, "I am your big brother, aren't I? It's kind of my job… plus- you owe me for letting you crash in my bed last time you were here."

"I OWE you? You're my big brother, aren't you? Wasn't THAT part of the job, too?" he countered.

"Doesn't work that way," he grinned at Keith as he shook his head.

"Ugh- you are such a dork!"

"Soooooooooo… boyfriend, huh?"

"You realize that we hung out LAST NIGHT and you could have talked about this with me then, right?"

"Nope- that's not what last night was about. Last night was about Earth stuff that needed to be said and that sucked. Not the right time to get on your case about this."

"You are making me regret putting you in that med pod," Keith muttered.

"You think I'd be LESS inclined to give you shit if I had a hangover? Not seeing the logic there."

"I think I'd feel better about it if you were suffering," he griped.

"Ouch! You wound me, kid," he laughed.

Keith sighed, accepting that he wasn't getting out of this conversation… and maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. "Yeah. Boyfriend."

"Allura seemed… remarkably happy, given how much I know she missed him. I'm pretty sure she'd been sleeping in his room at least some of the time."

"Yeah- I don't really get it, but Lance was very clear that she was totally fine with… me, I guess. Something about Alteans seeing things differently. I don't know. I'm just glad she doesn't hate me again."

"She never hated YOU, Keith," Shiro said gently, "she just needed some time to process everything."

"Either way," he said waving the subject off. "So- is that it? You just wanted confirmation that the guy I called my boyfriend YESTERDAY is still my boyfriend?"

Shiro snorted, "you should be so lucky. No, that's not it. I worry about you, remember? And it's not like you are all that forthcoming when things are bothering you."

"Why would anything be bothering me? Things are going pretty well for me at the moment."

"Keith…"

"I mean… other than the fact that my life is essentially one disaster after another," he continued, "so… maybe I might be kind of waiting for everything to blow up in my face. BUT- that's just being prepared for the inevitable. It's not BOTHERING me."

"Quiznak." Shiro rubbed at his face, "good lord, Keith. I don't even know where to start with that."

"You trying to tell me I'm wrong?"

"I think that perspective matters," he tried, "there are lots of GOOD things in your life, Keith… and having been through bad things in the past doesn't mean that bad things are inevitable."

"I have no idea how you manage to stay so optimistic," he muttered, shaking his head.

"I CHOOSE to be," Shiro answered, it was a familiar debate, and he seemed to know he wouldn't make any progress with Keith on it. "Coran mentioned that he found new quarters for Lance already?"

The quarters Lance had asked him to share. He still wasn't sure what to make of that. "Mmmhmm… they're nice. He's got a bathtub, though… so good luck prying him out of there."

"I'm not worried, he's too much of a social butterfly to spend too much time in his quarters… alone," he looked at Keith pointedly.

"Hey! What's with the look?"

"I have never known you to put training off until so late in the day."

"That has nothing to do with Lance," he argued, "I usually train right after briefing- but I went into a pod and when I came out I was helping Pidge and Hunk with something, and then Pidge got all... rawr... so we played video games for a bit." He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the older man, "I'm making an effort to be… less of a loner."

"Alright, alright. Fair enough," he chuckled, "but, you know… there's nothing wrong with getting caught up in a new relationship- as long as it doesn't interfere with your actual responsibilities."

"I am aware," he answered dryly, "I just… I don't know how long I'm going to be here before Kolivan needs me again… and I promised Pidge I'd help her as much as I could. I think that injury she got really rattled her. She's really focused on getting that cloaking tech to work."

"What exactly are you doing to help?"

"The Marmora suits have almost the same sensor array as Galra installations," he explained, "so, basically I sit there and run scans as she tinkers with settings. It's not like I can just loan them the suit- it won't work properly unless I'm wearing it. It takes up a surprising amount of time. She's really stubborn."

"Yeah, Pidge's determination is really something else. Just don't let her monopolize your time- if she needs you for the project, then that means you have the ability to keep her from hyper-focusing on it... you just need to insist on leaving to deal with other parts of your life."

"Other parts of my life, like training," he snorted.

"Not JUST training, Keith," Shiro shook his head, and wrapped his hand around Keith's shoulder, "even before this thing with Lance, your life wasn't JUST missions and training for missions- no matter how much you pretended it was."

Chapter Text

"Even so," he answered, "pretty much the only things I had to make sure I made TIME for was missions and training for missions. But I'm not the only one that uses the training deck, and I'm not here all the time, so I am trying to work around everyone else's habits. Like, Lance is very determined to master those empath sims Allura set up for him. He spent most of the day running those, in fact. He really hates feeling like he's invading everyone's privacy."

"Yeah, he made that pretty clear yesterday. It doesn't surprise me- he's a smart-ass and can be an idiot sometimes, but he's a compassionate kid."

"He calls it the worst super power ever," Keith chuckled, "but he hates that crystal, too. I dunno, seems pretty conflicted."

"And how do YOU feel about it all? Being the only one who can't tell what he's feeling, being the only one that he can't pick anything up from?" They'd reached the little kitchen, which was deserted and Shiro bee-lined to the fridge.

"I… umm… mostly I like it," he answered, "but… sometimes… It's just… I'm really not good with words…"

"And words would be less important if the empathy worked on you?" he guessed.

"Yeah. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Like… okay this is going to sound really stupid… but… sometimes… a lot of times… when we're alone, mostly… but not always... I get this…" He rubbed at his sternum, "like… my heart feels too big? And I can't… breathe right? And it's not… like it doesn't feel like it comes from ME… I mean, I love him. I know that. I know how that FEELS. But this is different." He looked up at Shiro, his expression helpless and lost.

"It kind of feels like you want time to stop? And like there is something ready to pop in your chest? And maybe, you might forget about everything else but the two of you?" His voice was wistful, "and you feel like laughing and crying and screaming all at the same time?"

"Yes!" Keith gaped at him, "what the hell IS that?! It's messing with my head!"

Shiro chuckled, Keith's reaction pulling him out of his nostalgia. "You feel loved, kid. That's what that is. It's the flip side of being in love with someone. Lance makes you feel LOVED. It's kind of amazing, right?"

"Shit," he breathed. How fucked up was he that he didn't know what being loved felt like?

"Keith? This is a GOOD thing," his voice was so gentle, "and it is different from friends and family. Like, I love you kid, and I know you love me- but you've NEVER made me feel that way. It'd be kind of creepy if you did. It's okay that you didn't know what you were feeling."

"Is that… when you were with…" Keith trailed off, not wanting to stir up painful memories, especially so soon after having hashed out so many of them.

"Yeah- I felt that way with Adam," Shiro confirmed, turning his attention to pouring them each a glass of milk, "not every minute of every day- because god, that would be exhausting… but yeah. I like to think I made him feel that way, too… at least sometimes."

"Shiro, you know you did. No matter what went down, you guys loved each other. Even *I* could tell that!" He took the glass Shiro offered and thought for a moment. "Lance asked me to move in with him."

"He what now?"

"Well, he asked if I still wanted to stick to our plan- that we sleep in the same bed whenever I am here- since his new rooms are so far from mine… and when I said I did, he said that there was plenty of room for all my stuff."

"You made a plan to sleep in the same bed every night?"

"Well," Keith sighed, "it's what we're used to now… and… it's actually really nice to sleep next to him. Comfortable. It's nice to wake up to him."

"You two really didn't waste any time, huh?" he shook his head, "just don't get so caught up in your hormones that you don't get enough rest."

"No, Shiro… it's not like that," he rubbed at the back of his neck, "at the risk of stirring up painful memories of your AWFUL attempt to give me 'the talk'- he's never been with a guy before… so, we're going slow… like SUPER slow. I'm talking about actually SLEEPING. I sleep better. I like waking up to him."

"Listen- I put a lot of thought into that talk," Shiro protested.

"I didn't NEED the talk, though," Keith argued, "you were like two years too late with it!"

"Well, I had no idea about that, now did I? If I'd asked, you'd have said you didn't need it even if you were completely clueless just because you didn't WANT to talk about it! Be glad it was me and not Adam- he wanted to use video clips for clarity!"

"Video clips? You mean porn. Adam thought PORN was a required aspect of the sex talk?"

"See? That's what I'm saying- it could have been so much worse!"

"Quiznak, how the hell did you two ever manage to convince Dale to leave a child in your care?"

"Adam made macaroons and chocolate babka," he answered easily, "your social worker LOVED us after that."

"Yeah- that would do it," Keith laughed, "Adam's chocolate babka could end wars."

"You should have tasted his mother's," Shiro shook his head, "he used to get so mad that he couldn't quite nail her recipe."

Keith gave him a fond smile, he liked actually being able to talk about Adam with Shiro. Even though things had fallen apart, he really did miss Adam, and he knew Shiro did, as well. "So," he said after a moment, "you think I should do it? Move my stuff in with Lance?"

"Well, I'm not sure," Shiro answered, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the counter, "on the one hand, it could be argued that if you are planning on sleeping in his quarters EVERY night, then you are already living together for all intents and purposes. On the other hand, giving up your own quarters is kind of a big step- especially for someone like you, who is kind of big on having your own space."

"He said he didn't want to pressure me, and that it was fine if I didn't want to, or if I wasn't ready…"

"Do you believe him? Or do you think he's trying to avoid an argument?"

"I don't think Lance shies away from arguing with me," he laughed, "he's still LANCE."

"There's a difference between bickering and full blown arguing," Shiro pointed out. "This is the kind of issue that splits people up- it wouldn't be the first time someone downplayed the importance of something like that out of fear of scaring the other person off. Have you told him how you feel yet?"

"We've talked about it," Keith hedged, "sort of. It's too soon to drop the l-word, though."

"Is it?" he asked, "you guys seem to be forging your own path here, and your situation is hardly typical. Are you in love with him?"

He sipped his milk, buying time. "You know I am. You knew I was before I did. I don't even know how you knew, but you did."

"You weren't exactly subtle about it," Shiro laughed, "I mean- it might just be obvious to me because I know you so well, but I'm pretty sure the others suspected."

"How though?"

"Like specifics? Okay- I saw your face whenever he'd flirt with someone new, or Allura. I saw that smirk you gave him when you hit him with space goo. I saw how you watched him, the way you reacted when he was in danger. Not to mention all the squabbling- you don't engage with that shit in that way with anyone else. You either ignore it, or throw a punch. If Lance had been ANYONE else, you'd have broken his nose months ago."

Chapter Text

Keith huffed, but he couldn't exactly argue any of the things that Shiro was saying, so he dug out a box of… some kind of purple puffy things that tasted sort of like a cereal they used to snack on during movie nights when he was at the Garrison… and offered it to Shiro to share. "Why did you ask if I told him how I feel?"

"I was curious," Shiro answered, "and I figured it might give me a better idea of where you guys are at. There's something you should consider, but it's kind of depressing… You guys put your lives on the line every time you go on a mission. When you are deciding whether it is too soon to drop the l word, as you put it… you should probably remember that if you put it off, you might miss your chance to have it be heard… or to say it." He shrugged, but his expression was sad, "regrets really suck, Keith. I know you know that… but it warrants repeating."

"We… umm… we talked about making messages, for each other," his voice was raw, quiet, "before missions, when I'm with the Blades. You know… just in case. So, it's not like we aren't AWARE of the danger. I.. umm… I told him I was going to make him my First Contact with Kolivan…"

"Instead of me?" Shiro asked.

"Technically, I don't have an official First Contact," Keith explained, "you are the person that the Blades coordinate with here in the castle, so you are kept in the loop, but that's because of your connection to the Blades, not because of anything to do with me, not OFFICIALLY, anyway."

"So, the First Contact thing is a big deal?"

He shrugged, "it means that if anything happens to me when I'm with the Blades, they'll tell Lance. Give him as much information as they safely can. If I'm injured, they'll tell him… if I'm safe to move, they'll bring me to him. It's kind of like next of kin, that's what Lance said."

"This all sounds pretty serious," Shiro sounded worried, "are you sure you guys are on the same page. I'd hate to see you get more invested-"

"He's not Gavin," Keith snapped, "he was the one that asked me to move in with him, remember? He told Allura about me right away. He doesn't hide me away. He's cuddly and affectionate with me in front of other people. He's not Gavin, Shiro, and I'm not fifteen anymore. Yeah, he's a flirt, and he's polyam, but he's honest, and he's kind, and he doesn't play the victim. You don't know him like I do."

"No, I guess I don't. But, I'm just worried that this is something deep and serious for you and he's infatuated, or rebounding… I just don't want you getting hurt, Keith, that's all."

"I don't think so," he shook his head, "he'd said he'd been crushing on me forever- those exact words… and then Allura said something about 'wasted months' before he cut her off. But… YOU can feel what he broadcasts, right? The three of us were together yesterday in the common room… are you trying to warn me about something specific? Because if you are, you should just fucking say it."

Shiro shook his head, "I'm not. I'm trying to respect that you said you are glad that you are immune to his empathy and talk to you as if I am completely in the dark about it, too. That's all."

"Sooo… you DO know something? It's just not something you are trying to WARN me about?" His eyes narrowed on Shiro.

"This isn't really a fair position to put me in, Keith," he pointed out. "But no, I wasn't trying to warn you about anything specific. I'm trying to get you to think things through from different angles, and it seems to me like you are actually pretty confident about where you stand with him- once you get past your knee jerk response to prepare for the worst."

He stilled, letting Shiro's words sink in, "yeah… I guess I am." He pulled out his phone, looking at the text conversation he'd had with Lance that morning. He smiled at the dorky exchange, at the memory of the dorky note that had led to it… and how SWEET it had been. His memory of the night before was hazy, but he hadn't blacked out, he remembered how careful Lance had been with him, how kind, and again… SWEET. "We're on the same page," he said finally, "I'm not more invested than he is."

"Good," Shiro smiled at him, "I knew you'd get there on your own, you just needed to talk it out a bit. So, have you decided what you are going to do?"

"Ummm… not 100% for sure, but I think so, yeah."

"And for the record?" Shiro punched his shoulder lightly, "I'm pretty sure 'he's not Gavin' is fairly close to the best compliment you could pay someone… that kid was the WORST! Just," he shook his head, "fifteen year old you had awful taste. He was an ASS."

Keith snorted, rolling his eyes and smirking, "he was cute though… and he could drive a car."

"Great priorities, Keith," Shiro muttered.

"Also, he almost always had beer."

"Lovely."

"Seemed important at the time."

"Thankfully, your taste has improved… and you've gotten better priorities."

"I mean, to be fair- Lance is cute and can drive, too… and he has a source for booze," he laughed.

"I'll be sure to tell Lance that you're with him because he's cute, can drive, and can get you drunk. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to know that."

"Lance would just see that as a prompt to start listing all the things that make him a catch," he pointed out, "and you'd be stuck standing there listening to him because you were the one that started the conversation."

"Fuck. You're right."

He nodded and handed Shiro his phone, which was still showing the tail end of the text conversation from that morning, "mmmhmmm… speaking from experience." He tapped the screen, "I didn't even START it! All I did was tell him that he'd get the hang of the empathy, like a good boyfriend. He took that as a jumping off point for singing his own praises. You'd be stuck there for AGES, because we both know you are too polite to argue or tell him to shut it."

"Point made," Shiro said dryly handing the phone back.

"Still, it's nice to know that you think Lance is a better choice than Gavin was."

"That's not a high bar," he laughed, "Slav would be a better choice than that Gavin jerk- at least Slav is smart."

"Ouch! You really hated Gavin, huh?"

"You have no idea- Adam used to have to talk me down… almost every night… and then I'd have to do the same thing for him."

"He wasn't THAT bad," Keith rolled his eyes.

"Yes. He was. He was a bad influence on you when you were just starting to find your footing and he drove a wedge between you and us, just when we were starting to really work as a family, and we could see that he was going to hurt you and we couldn't do anything about it. We HATED that guy."

"Wow- I knew you guys didn't like him, but I didn't realize it was THAT extreme," Keith was kind of floored.

Shiro shrugged, "he wasn't good enough for you."

He watched Shiro for a few minutes, some vague worry he'd had starting to form into an actual concept, real words. Quietly, he voiced them. "But you think Lance is, right? And not… like TOO GOOD for me?"

"First of all, there is no such thing as TOO GOOD for you, kid. Get that locked into that skull of yours- you deserve the BEST, always. Second of all, I think he's got the potential to be, but I'm reserving final judgement until I see him make you happy for longer than a couple of weeks. Lance is a good guy. I like him. There are lots of admirable things about him… but ultimately, all I care about is whether or not you are happy and loved."

"Do… um… what do you think Adam would think of him?" Shiro's opinion mattered, but Adam had been the one that had gotten so protectively outraged on his behalf that he'd literally grabbed the phone out of his hand in rage when Gavin had hurt him… and he found himself really curious about how he'd see Lance.

Shiro opened his mouth like he was going to speak, then stopped, like he thought better of it. Keith could practically see the gears turning in his head. "I think that…" he started, "I think Adam would get a kick out of how you guys WERE. He'd think the rivalry and arguing was funny and adorable- but he'd never had let you know that. The way you guys were yesterday in the common room? He'd have loved seeing that. I'm not sure what he'd think of Lance, just, as a person- there are traits he'd like and ones that would annoy him and I'm not sure which would win out- but I think he'd be rooting for you two, as a couple."

Keith nodded, washing his empty glass and setting it in the drainboard to dry, "that's kind of what I thought, too. It's getting late. I should go hit the shower."

"Yeah- you and me both," Shiro answered, despite not really making any indication that he planned to move from where he was leaning against the counter with his arms and ankles crossed, even when Keith squeezed his shoulder in easy affection as he passed. Keith was almost out the door when he heard his name, and when he turned back, Shiro was smiling, his eyes kind of faraway and sad, "it'd mean a lot to him that his opinion mattered to you, though. He'd like THAT very much."

Chapter Text

God bless Hunk, Lance thought as he hopped and bounced and spun his way around the new quarters. Among assorted other surprises like a foldout table, a hidden view screen, and a sliding section of wall that held stacks of clean bedding, towels, extra pillows and blankets and even something they ultimately decided was a bath mat, Hunk had found SPEAKERS hidden in the walls and finagled a way for Lance to plug his phone into them. So, now Lance could have actual music playing IN the room instead of just in his ear buds. Plus, now he had space enough to dance around when the mood struck him. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed that until it was a possibility.

Hips snapping, feet gliding over the floor effortlessly as he belted out the rather explicit lyrics to one of his favorite songs, he grabbed the last of the bottles of toiletries that he and Hunk had been able to identify and carried them into the bathroom where he sorted them into the proper cabinets- based on usage. For example, the bottle of nunvill went wayyyyy in the back under the sink- just in case Coran ever asked for some.

Still singing and dance-walking (which was totally a thing- go anywhere with a dance floor, watch the best dancers make their way onto said dance floor- tada! Dance-walking!) he looped through the bedroom (where he put his lions slippers on) and back out into the common area.

The song changed and he shimmied around the couch, easily picking up the new beat and humming along with the first few lines. The last of the leftover food was danced over to the Altean version of a mini fridge and stored for later snacking. He and Hunk had made plans to ask Coran about any other previously unmentioned storage rooms that might hold stuff they could use to personalize their quarters- throw pillows and art and shit, but even so, he was pretty pleased with how his little corner of the Castle was shaping up. It really was amazing how much more like a HOME it already felt than his old room ever had.

Happily, he threw his arms up, closed his eyes and just… danced… for a bit. Free form, spontaneous, dancing, just to enjoy the music. With the sounds of home in his ears, the fragrance of Hunk's cooking lingering lightly on the air, his eyes closed, and the memory of being submerged in an actual bath fresh on his skin, for a few minutes, he could almost pretend he was back on Earth.

The chorus started and he started to sing again, the risque Cubano lyrics falling from his lips effortlessly and making him smirk, because this song really was FILTHY and he