The truth was, Keith could think of a million and one places he’d rather be in that moment. Every muscle in his body hurt from helping these alien people transport their valuable ore from the dangerous volcano on their planet to a storage bay. He was drenched in sweat, clothes sticking to him uncomfortably and hair knotted in multiple places. He wanted to go home .
Did he express any of this in the slightest? No.
He’d never been the type to whine like some of his teammates, but he’d always been prone to outbursts when someone pushed him just a little too hard. These aliens had been ordering them around all day, and at his core… Keith wanted nothing more than to punch one of them square in its stupid face. He knew better than that now though, no matter how tempting it was.
The first time he’d been thrown into the role of a leader, he might have given in to that impulsive streak and done something he’d regret. His time with the Blades and aboard that space whale with Krolia had changed his perspective a lot. Even their short visit to Earth when Shiro had decided to stay behind with his fiance, it’d inspired Keith to step up and become a better leader more than anything else.
The universe needed him, but so did Shiro. He wasn’t fighting to avenge his dead brother this time, he was fighting to keep his brother alive and happy, and with the people he loved. He was fighting for a future where he might someday get that same happy ending. More than ever before, he had a cause to fight for.
Every outburst he made, every complaint he uttered, even every sigh or roll of his eyes… it impacted the team and their success rate. Whether he felt wholly like a leader or not, every alien they’d encountered since he’d taken over Black’s controls again had viewed him as one. When they were standing in front of a planet full of aliens looking to judge them for the first time, eyes always found Keith the moment Allura was finished introducing them.
This didn’t mean his teammates actions went unnoticed, they were just secondary to his. He’d been trying his best to teach them the same lesson he’d learnt recently, but it wasn’t going exceedingly well so far. It was going considerably worse today.
Pidge was frequently and never-endingly suggesting ideas on how they could be doing this more efficiently. Hunk was grumbling under his breath about how little he wanted to be doing this, listing everything he’d prefer to be doing. Allura’s constant smiling was starting to give her more of an unnerving vibe than an approachable one. And Lance, the one who had been complaining loudly and proudly for anyone to hear all day despite Keith’s many reprimanding words… was silent.
And goddamn, Keith was curious, alright ? Sue him for caring about his stupid teammate.
When Keith came back from his mission, he’d immediately picked up on the difference in the team’s dynamic. Lance was undoubtedly being pushed to the side and ignored, the worst possible punishment for someone as desperate for approval as Lance. Keith had been trying to bridge the gap and get him to open up, but so far Lance had been distant. Today though, today he was significantly worse.
It didn’t take all that much snooping into the situation for him to start to find explanations, considering the rest of the team were never shy about discussing this type of thing. All he had to do was stand near Hunk and Pidge while they worked and the topic introduced itself naturally.
“-don’t really think it’s nothing, I mean, look at him!” Keith only caught the tail end of whatever Pidge had said, only sparing half of his attention for eavesdropping when he still had work to do. His focus faltered now, shifting over to the green and yellow paladins.
“Do you think he got rejected? I thought things were going pretty good for him with that pink alien over there.” Hunk hummed curiously, looking away from the task at hand to stare worriedly over at Lance. In a moment of weakness, Keith found his gaze darting in the same direction. He noticed the blue armor immediately among the sea of pink and red hued aliens, his lips curling into a frown as he watched the sluggish and distracted way Lance was stumbling around. He was going to hurt himself being so careless, idiot.
“He doesn’t look sad… it’s more like anxious?” Pidge tried, sounding uncertain of what exactly they were actually witnessing. As it turned out, Keith wasn’t the only one confused about Lance’s behavior. That knowledge didn’t exactly comfort him any.
“Maybe she came on too strong?” Hunk pondered aloud, reaching up to scratch as his chin as he thought it over. Pidge immediately scoffed and shook their head, rejecting the idea.
“ No way , nothing’s too strong for Lance.” Pidge countered, dropping the box they’d been carrying and moving to sit down on top of it for a second. “He’s slept with girls minutes after meeting them before, this one would have had to do something really bold to spook him like this.”
Keith couldn’t help the scowl that graced his features at the direction the conversation was taking. He looked back down at his work, studying the box in his hands with a glare it definitely didn’t deserve. The locals would be picking up on their distracted state soon enough, he needed to act fast. It had absolutely nothing to do with wanting to steer the others away from the topic of Lance’s lovelife, either.
Keith stood up straighter, hauling his box with him as he marched over to where his teammates were deep into a discussion about Lance he’d missed most of. He glanced between them, setting his load down onto the ground before placing his hands on his hips.
“What’s going on over here, guys?” He asked warmly, trying his best not to come off as standoffish. That was another thing he was learning as a leader, even his own teammates viewed him differently if he did something they didn’t agree with. It came with the job description apparently, calling the shots for the many meant it was all too easy to call the wrong one.
He wanted to be viewed as an equal still, even if what he was doing maybe didn’t line up with those aspirations so well. Whatever, he needed answers about Lance. “Trying to escape your share of the work? What were you talking about over here?”
The moment the words left his lips, Keith began to panic. Had he been too obvious? Was joking about their workload insensitive considering he was a leader? God, were they going to assume he’d came over here to lecture them? Or worse, maybe they’d realize he’d been eavesdropping, that he was just indirectly asking to talk about Lance , of all things.
Pidge and Hunk stared up at him, exchanged a look, and then shrugged indifferently.
“Have you noticed anything off with Lance today?” Pidge asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“Is that a trick question or do you actually want the full list?” Keith joked, giving an uneasy smile. The truth was, he’d noticed something was wrong long before they had, he just couldn’t admit to it as plainly as that.
He’d always been hyper-aware of his feelings for Lance, how they were just a little bit off from how he felt about the other paladins, ever since the day they’d been thrown together into space. Even before he knew what that meant , he’d taken careful precautions to hide it. Or at least, he’d tried his best to hide it and in turn had made everyone else even more aware of the unique dynamic of their relationship.
Turns out, treating one teammate like shit compared to the others wasn’t the most believable act, not even if said teammate was the one to introduce the rivalry dynamic. So they’d dropped that pretty early on, more or less, nowadays it was less genuine fighting and more fond bickering.
It was good for their image, the other paladins didn’t tease them about their relationship anymore. It was bad for Keith though, who had no time to realize what he was getting himself into when the dynamic suddenly shifted and he was faced with so much more of Lance than he’d ever allowed himself to have before.
Given the two years of introspection on the topic since, Keith had reached a conclusion a while back no matter how he’d tried to stay in denial-land. He was utterly, irreversibly, and immensely… attracted to Lance. For every second Keith spent wanting to land a punch into that pretty, obnoxious face, he spent another minute wanting desperately to be the one that got to kiss his injuries better. It wasn’t even a purely physical thing like he’d tried to brush it off as in the beginning. For all intents and purposes, Keith had a crush.
A crush he would sooner die than tell anyone else about, but a crush nonetheless.
“He looks pretty upset, Keith.” Hunk said, his voice chastising. Inside, Keith wanted nothing more than to scream. Of course he knew that Lance looked pretty upset . Goddamn it, Lance’s stupid little pout had been the only thing on his mind for the better half of the day, it was driving him mad at this point. He just couldn’t say it, couldn’t come out and admit how much it mattered to him.
Besides, Hunk had been the one neglecting Lance for weeks in Keith’s absence! Like he had any room to talk!
“He’s a drama queen, he’ll get over it.” Keith insisted stubbornly, hands curled into rebellious fists at his sides, his sharp nails protesting the words even as he said them. Hunk shot him a look, but he didn’t press the issue any further.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Pidge said, noticing the slight awkwardness in the air and trying to diffuse the situation. They turned to Hunk, patting him on the back. “Come on, Hunk, let’s get back to work before our righteous leader cracks the whip down.”
“Har-har, very funny.” Keith deadpanned, crossing his arms over his chest. In truth, he probably would have kept the conversation up a little longer, tried to pry some more info out of them. It only took a quick glance around the area to realize what Pidge had noticed far before he had, that the locals were staring in their direction and blatantly wondering why three out of five paladins were being so unproductive.
So Keith left Pidge and Hunk to their work, but the moment he finished the trip back to the drop-off with his current load, he was quick to slip off before taking on another. He looked around for Lance and headed over to where the blue paladin was surprisingly hard at work, though he still looked distracted and uneasy.
Keith sidled up next to Lance, reaching down to grab one of the ores nearby in hopes this would look somehow more casual. He had just crossed an entire field of potential ores between them specifically to pick up the one next to Lance, but maybe that would go unnoticed.
Lance looked up, brow furrowed when he noticed he was no longer working alone. Keith nodded at him in lieu of greeting, clearing his throat as they both turned. They kept pace, Keith biting his lip the whole way as he debated how to start the conversation.
It wasn’t until they were on their way back for another trip of hauling that Keith managed to actually prompt his mouth to work again. “What’s your problem ?”
“Huh?” Lance huffed, sounding breathless as he hoisted the giant rock in his arms a little bit higher in his hold. Keith’s mouth went suddenly uncooperative again, eyes scanning the muscles flexing beneath Lance’s bodysuit. They’d all ditched the majority of their armor pieces earlier, finding them more hassle than they were worth with the heat on this planet. “What’s your problem?”
Keith blushed, eyes snapping back up to Lance’s at the accusatory tone.
“You’ve been making a face like you’re sucking on a lemon all day.” Keith stated plainly, deciding to get straight to the point. “I’m tired of looking at it.”
“Shut-up, Keith.” Lance snapped immediately, reacting the same way he always did when Keith went straight to the point. Maybe it should have come more naturally to them by now to be more gentle with one another, to lead up to obviously sensitive subjects, but Keith was impatient. He wanted answers right now .
When he continued to stare expectantly, Lance looked away. There was no further argument, no streak of challenge in his eyes, no fight in his frame as he simply went back to his work. When he replied, it was such a low grumble that Keith barely caught it. “It’s none of your business.”
“Except it is, because whatever’s going on with you is keeping you from doing the minimal amount of work you usually do.” Keith continued to press, far more than he’d normally allow himself to. Lance looked up, curiously raking his eyes over Keith’s face.
“Aw, Keith , are you worried about me?”
Keith huffed, turning away and concentrating on trudging back toward the drop-off area on the ship. He determinedly stared ahead, trying to reflect back on the uncaring person he’d been before growing close to the team. Back then, it’d come so naturally not to worry, now he felt like he was a bundle of nerves every second one of them spent in a compromising position.
“I’m worried we’re going to end up staying here later than necessary because you’re slacking off, that’s all.” Keith insisted, though one look at Lance’s skeptical face and even he couldn’t take himself seriously anymore. He snorted under his breath, blushing like mad as he looked away again. “Whatever.”
“Hey, don’t sulk, it’s cool that you care about me.” Lance said, his voice gentle. Keith continued to scowl at nothing in particular all the same.
Eventually, after they’d both dropped off their current armfuls onto the ship and had turned around again to go back for more, Lance took pity on Keith’s pouting form. He offered something else up to the conversation. “Do you find these people attractive?”
See, Keith had known Lance for a long while now, for better or for worse. He’d known what he was getting into coming over here to try and pry his way into the thoughts Lance kept to himself. The thoughts Lance said out loud were strange and unsettling, it could only be assumed that what he kept to himself was somehow worse.
This… didn’t make sense though. The last thing Keith had been expecting to find on Lance’s mind were thoughts about what Keith found attractive.
“Excuse me?” Keith tried, voice suddenly hoarse. He looked away from Lance, instead studying all the alien people around them in a different light than the begrudging acknowledgement from before. He wanted to rescue their people of course, that didn’t mean he liked them on a personal level. He hadn’t had a single positive interaction with any of them yet.
“The, uh, alien people on this alien planet.” Lance specified, like that was the bit that was confusing Keith. “Are you attracted to them?”
Keith furrowed his eyebrows together, staring scrutinizingly at the surrounding planet inhabitants and trying to gauge where this question had come from. As far as brightly-colored scaled people went, they were probably some of the lesser terrifying ones he’d run into. He wasn’t about to charm his way into the nearest bed with one of them, though.
“Not… really?” Keith mumbled hesitantly, tearing his gaze away from the stranger who’d just caught him staring. He looked back to Lance, worried about the thoughtful look on his face. Was he plotting something, then? Something that involved these aliens and Keith, presumably?
Keith groaned aloud, elbowing Lance in the side. “Look, if you’re trying to play matchmaker for me and some random-”
“No!” Lance shouted hurriedly, clamping a hand over Keith’s mouth and looking around like he was worried about who might have overheard. Keith frowned against Lance’s palm. “That’s not what I’m doing.”
“So?” Keith grumbled, tearing Lance’s hand away from his face. He was determined to pretend the red in his cheeks was anger, not a product of how flustered their closeness had made him. “What are you doing?”
Lance hesitated. It wasn’t something he was prone to do, stopping to think through where his thoughts and words were headed. When Keith moved to go back to work, Lance grabbed him by the wrist and turned them to face away from the rest of the crowd. His eyes were determined, but he didn’t exactly look confident.
Keith’s curiosity was piqued.
It wasn’t often that Lance shared anything meaningful or private with him, that was reserved for the best friend position that Hunk had grabbed up far before Keith had even realized he wanted it. This was new territory for them. Progress.
And then Lance had to go and open his big, dumb mouth.
“I’ve spent the whole day flirting with these people only to find out it’s an entirely male race.” Lance explained hurriedly, under his breath like he was admitting to something utterly shameful. Keith stared blankly back at him. “The females died out decades ago and they’ve found some weird scientific way to keep reproducing.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Are you attracted to them? Knowing that they’re guys?” Lance asked, refusing to look up from the ground. The nervousness might have been cute, if not for the subject and how uncomfortable it was altogether. As it was, Keith couldn’t help but scrunch his nose up in distaste.
“Lance, what the fuck?” Keith groaned, once again wondering why the hell any of this mattered whatsoever to Lance. Keith’s preferences had never been a topic of interest before, so why try and bring them up now? Something wasn’t adding up. “You think because I’m gay I’m just attracted to everyone in space that even somewhat falls into the male category? Most of these alien races don’t even have sexes or genders in the sense we do, and they definitely don’t have the same parts as us. Why would them being guys change literally any-”
“Aesthetically, are you attracted to their appearances?” Lance corrected, clearly very determined to get a straightforward answer out of Keith.
“No?” Keith answered plainly, still puzzled as to why any of this mattered. “Not all of us are as shallow as you, sorry?”
Lance looked visibly frustrated that Keith wasn’t understanding some part of the conversation, but try as he may Keith couldn’t understand why the other boy was so hung-up on the topic. They’d visited enough new planets by now to know that sex and gender were very different for every species.
Keith moved as if to start working again, but secretly he was only hoping it’d prompt Lance to hurry up and explain himself better. It worked, but Keith immediately regretted it the moment the explanation left Lance’s pouting lips.
“Do you think it’s gay for me to like them?” Lance asked, looking down at his hands as he clumsily fumbled with them, trying to distract himself. Keith blinked slowly, processing the situation belatedly and realizing that it had absolutely nothing to do with his preferences, and everything to do with Lance’s preferences.
He was having a sexuality crisis? It didn’t really make sense to Keith. Lance had never officially came out to the team, but everyone just sort-of assumed he was into anything and anyone that caught his fancy. He hardly thought twice about sleeping with aliens that had completely unique bodies to any other species, so forgive the others for thinking he’d be down to be with a man if the situation presented itself.
Hell, the things he’d said about his favorite male celebrities, about his male friends even… surely he had to be aware that he felt something sexual toward them?
“Oh my god.” Keith exhaled, not feeling relieved in the slightest that he understood better now. Lance was such a confusing self-contradiction. “I don’t have time for this shit.”
Keith turned to leave, prepared to stalk off and spend the rest of the day thinking about the odd exchange. He didn’t make it further than a couple steps though, Lance’s hand grabbing onto his wrist and pulling him backward. Keith tumbled backward into Lance’s chest with an indignant noise.
“I’m serious.” Lance insisted, shoving Keith away just as quickly as he’d pulled him back. Keith whirled around, ready to start throwing punches after such rough handling, but he hesitated when he saw the perplexed look on Lance’s face. He really was fixated on this.
Sure, it seemed stupid to Keith, but who was he to tell Lance what he should care about?
Keith sighed heavily, rubbing at his temples to try and calm himself down. He looked up at Lance, biting his lip and trying to figure out the most nonchalant way to comfort him through this.
“How can you be hung-up on the idea of being with the same gender when you’ve been gung-ho to sleep with other species since we got here?” Keith tried, hoping Lance would see the irony in that. He didn’t look too convinced, only seemed slightly affronted that they were talking about his sex life in more blunt terms now. Keith scowled, patience growing thin. “Lance, critical thinking, try to use it. Labels are for your own benefit, not to hold you back and keep you from embracing how you feel. If you find them attractive, let yourself find them attractive. It’s really that simple, you don’t have to complicate it.”
Considering his work to be done on the subject, Keith turned away and gave Lance a simple order to get back to work. His thoughts on the subject were not finished, however. He spent the rest of the day trying to process the fact that Lance of all people was someone so hesitant to accept he was attracted to multiple genders.
It wasn’t that he was disappointed, more-so curious what had led Lance to believe he would never be interested in another man up until now. He was arguably the most open-minded person on the team when it came to others, so why would he limit his own options like that?
Keith stomped back to the ship with another load, where Krolia was waiting to check it off on the list of supplies. She offered him a kind smile and Keith hesitated, a phantom urge to go to her for advice pulling at his chest. Their dynamic was still weird, especially now that Shiro was gone and she was the only guardian he really had around. She came and went, often times leaving on missions with the Blades, but she did seem to think of the Castle 2.0 as her home.
Keith turned away from her before he could blurt something stupid and incriminating about Lance, instead turning to where his wolf rested by her feet. Kosmo was his wolf most of the time anyway, but whenever Krolia was around the damn thing latched onto her and more or less forgot about Keith’s existence. It could just be that he didn’t see her as often and wanted to make the most of the time she was around, but Keith couldn’t help but take it a little bit personally.
Kosmo hadn’t even been sleeping in his room lately!
He kneeled in front of the animal, giving it a loving scratch between the ears. Kosmo gave him an indifferent once-over and then turned wide puppy-dog eyes up at Krolia. Keith watched in resigned betrayal as Krolia slipped a chunk of her sandwich down to Kosmo and he wolfed it up like, well, a wolf.
It all made sense now.
“Keith, stop playing with your dog and get back to work.” Pidge sneered, as they dropped off their own share to the growing pile of supplies. Keith rolled his eyes, reluctantly turning and heading back out into the field. It was a little hypocritical for him to scold them for being distracted when he was in such a state.
More often than not, Lance found it difficult to concentrate. His mind was always moving too fast, filled with so many thoughts and feelings that he felt like he was drowning in them. However, there were the rare instances were his brain just seemed to catch on a loose thread and then he was stuck thinking about the same thing for hours in agonizing depth . In times like those, Lance couldn’t possibly hold all of those thoughts inside, so he found himself babbling to anyone within earshot.
It’d started with Keith, who seemed almost weirdly invested earlier while they were out on the field, but then he’d backed off the moment Lance brought up his sexuality. Then, after returning back to the castle in the evening, Lance had moved on to Hunk. Hunk was comforting and kind, he always was, but he was also clearly not at all interested. Eventually, Lance had settled for hearing Pidge’s opinions, but they’d been too interested and had ruthlessly made fun of him over the issue. He wasn’t about to turn to the Alteans, so that gave him no other choice.
Lance had committed to moping aimlessly for the foreseeable future. The rest of his teammates weren’t very supportive of the decision, but that didn’t matter.
That was yesterday. Their second day working on this alien planet to clear valuable metals and gems away from the volcano sight was just as painstakingly boring and strenuous as the first had been. And the entire time, Lance was forced to watch as the locals paraded around him, effortlessly attractive and very sweaty.
But they were guys, and Lance wasn’t attracted to guys, he’d have known before now if he was, right? Right? Though, Keith was right, sex and gender didn’t exactly exist in the same regard in outer space, so maybe with the expanse of options his preferences could change.
So what was he? Questioning? Confused? Bi-curious ?
It wasn’t that Lance was against the idea of two guys being together, he’d always considered himself an LGBT+ ally, he’d just… never imagined himself to be a part of the community. Guys were pretty in their own regard, Lance could confidently say he’d met a lot of attractive men in his lifetime, but none that ever warranted actively wanting to be with them. There were always prettier girls around, women that drew Lance in and distracted him from any inkling of curiosity he had toward the same gender.
Plus, he’d been set on a wife since he was five. He had the wedding planned, the babies, the obnoxious pet names he’d call her. When people talked about Lance’s future partner or soulmate, it was a girl. That was just how it was, how it’d always been, he’d never expected it to change. God, his mother would be so upset if that changed, she was counting on him to bring home a nice girl and start a nuclear family before his thirties.
Okay, maybe sleeping with alien girls wasn’t exactly nuclear family material, but he was working with what he had out here in outer space. He was flexible after all, he’d never had many expectations for his soulmate, just that they were… you know, going to be a girl.
Maybe that was expecting too much, though? He’d always had lots of love to give, many argued he had too much, so why would he try to limit himself? If the attraction was there… the desire to try it out… then surely there was no harm in looking into that?
“So, Lance , how are your new boyfriends?” Pidge greeted him as he walked into the lounge, their knowing smirk following him across the room. He collapsed onto the couch furthest from where Pidge and Hunk were settled, giving an impassive glance toward the technology they were carefully constructing on the floor.
As it was, that was the least of his concerns, with Pidge lovingly tormenting him.
“Pidge, come on, don’t tease him.” Hunk pleaded, concentration on the device in front of him faltering so he could glance helplessly between them. “He’s whiny enough about it as it is.”
“Hunk!” Lance’s gasp certainly displayed the utter betrayal he was currently experiencing, having his very own best friend dismiss his problem so easily. He collapsed back against the couch, pouting wordlessly up at the ceiling for a solid minute. That minute was spent waiting on someone to apologize or at least check-in with him. When no one did, he let out a long sigh. “I’m having a crisis over here, why doesn’t anyone care?!”
“We care, just not as much as you seem to.” Hunk said, sounding earnest. “You know if you really need to talk about it, we’re here. We can put this aside and be there for you if you want.”
“Ditto, except I want to add that you’re being entirely overdramatic.” Pidge added, pushing their glasses up the bridge of their nose and leaning down to go back to work. Hunk shot them a silent reprimanding glare, a wordless plea to be more gentle. Lance bit his lip, wondering not for the first time if he was genuinely annoying them with this.
“Pidge, you don’t underst-”
“It’s not that big of a deal. Being attracted to dudes literally means nothing when you’ve tried to fuck aliens with tentacles before, Lance.” Pidge said dryly, not a hint of mirth present in their voice. Lance blushed slightly, only ever shy about his sex life when it was tossed back at him unexpectedly later on, once the relationship or hook-up had already crashed and burned.
“Are you ever gonna let me live that d-”
“No.” Pidge answered immediately, voice flat.
“No.” Hunk agreed, sounding rather exasperated with the whole topic.
“ No .” A third voice chimed-in, far more amused than the others, on the verge of laughter really.
Lance lit up in recognition, trying not to seem too obvious with the way he jolted upright to look over the back of the couch to where Keith was approaching with his wolf at his side. Out of all his friends, Keith had been the one to show the most interest in Lance’s plight, had offered some things that vaguely resembled advice between his annoyed comments. The thought of more attention like that had Lance’s metaphorical tail positively wagging in excitement.
He couldn’t just say that though, his relationship with Keith hung in a very well-maintained balance. They had graduated from blindly bickering and ruthlessly insulting each other, now they’d settled into mutual respect and occasional inside jokes that baffled the rest of the team. They still fought, but it never stemmed from an unhealthy jealousy or outright dislike anymore, it was something playful about their dynamic that they couldn’t drop. It came easily to them, the back and forth, easier than being genuine did.
Since Shiro had stayed behind on Earth, Lance had stepped up to be Keith’s right-hand man again. They’d bonded over working together and comforting each other through their insecurities before, and now they were tentatively trying to find their way back to that. Granted, those insecurities had always been insecurities related to the team, but Lance knew that Keith was capable of some damned insightful advice when he wanted to be and he was gonna pry it out of that jerk if he had to.
Besides, Keith was gay , he was the obvious person to turn to about this problem.
So Lance waited, kept his lips pressed tightly together and hands tucked under his legs to keep them still, even as Keith bypassed him entirely to see what the others were up to. Kosmo, Keith’s wolf, settled at Lance’s feet on the floor and let out a bored yawn. Lance could relate. He waited all of ten seconds , gave Keith time to briefly glance over the electrical contraption, and then pointedly cleared his throat.
“Oh, nice of you to join us, Prince Charmless.” Lance jabbed playfully, eager to have Keith’s attention back on him. It worked, baiting Keith in always did. The other boy looked up, violet eyes flickering back to Lance in the same instant that a smirk started to form on his lips. It was an unspoken challenge and Lance was giddy with it.
In an instant, Keith had crossed the room and unceremoniously fallen onto the couch. Or, more accurately, he’d fallen onto Lance and squashed the boy face-first into the couch. Lance wailed loudly, arms flailing as he tried to shove Keith off. “Don’t sit on me! You’re gross! You’re still covered in sweat!”
“This is what being productive looks like, in case you were wondering.” Keith countered, always one to brag about the amount of hours he clocked in on the training deck. Lance fake-gagged, dramatically gasping for air as Keith continued to press down between his shoulder blades to keep him where he was.
“If that’s what being productive smells like, I’m glad I was born a procrastinator!” Lance countered loudly, ignoring Pidge’s distant giggle as he felt Keith lean closer, curling over Lance’s back to thoroughly pin him to the couch. It was working, Lance could do little to fight back even as one of his arms was wrenched out from under him and pulled around behind his back. “Ah, don’t kill me! Guys, help!”
“Sorry, really busy, can’t.” Pidge answered immediately, even as Lance turned to stare toward his friends with wide, teary eyes.
“Hunk?” He called hopefully, not unaware of the way Keith was gingerly backing further and further away, worried he was actually hurting Lance. Hunk looked over at them, shaking his head fondly.
“My hands are covered in grease, you’d kill me if I got this on your skin.” He answered simply, holding up his hands as if to prove his point. Lance sighed, slumping back down into the cushions and resigned himself to his fate. Keith laughed at his pathetically helpless state, the utter bastard .
“Ah, you’re breaking my arm!” Lance cried out, trying to squirm his arm free. It actually had less to do with Keith’s hold and more to do with the angle, Lance could feel pins and needles forming in his arm from the elbow down and he didn’t want to deal with that. Keith huffed, hands twisting to hold onto Lance’s wrist and keep his arm where it was.
“No I’m not.” Keith insisted, suddenly yanking Lance’s arm back at an even worse angle. As Lance cried out, Kosmo’s head darted up from where it’d been resting on his paws, eyes wide with concern. Keith laughed wickedly. “ This would be breaking your arm.”
“Ow! Ow, ow, ow, okay! I’m sorry! I plead mercy!” Lance cried out, nearly choking on the words with his rush to get them out. He was actually in pain now, but he couldn’t help but laugh through the hurt, especially when Keith immediately took the hint and let him go.
Keith rolled off of him to the other end of the couch, watching as Lance propped himself up and cradled his arm like it’d truly been broken just then. They made eye contact from either end of the couch and Keith quirked an expectant eyebrow, his own arms crossed loosely over his chest. Lance flushed in defeat and glowered at him. “You smell great, Keith, like a fucking scented candle or a dryer sheet.”
“Dick.” Keith grumbled in response, the insult so far from vicious it was laughable. It almost sounded more like a pet name.
And just like that, the fight was resolved as quickly and nonsensically as it’d started. Lance was happily leaning back and draping himself across the couch, feet landing in Keith’s lap. Keith was begrudgingly allowing the closeness, despite how tense he was and how quickly he would’ve shoved anyone else away. Their relationship was all over the place and unique in the way it somehow worked, but it was theirs .
Lance had spent so long living in Keith’s shadow and desperately trying to get his attention, now he basked in every look Keith shot his way that wasn’t an outright glare. This was two years of progress personified. He’d worked damn hard to be able to have Keith kick his ass and then cuddle up next to him afterward (and this was cuddling, as far as Keith was concerned. This was the closest that touch-starved fool allowed himself to get to any other living being outside of sex, Lance was certain of it).
Speaking of sex, now seemed like as good a time as any for Lance to reintroduce the topic he was just dying to discuss further. Lance glanced over at Keith, grinning when he found the other was already looking at him.
“Ah, dick .” Lance sighed wistfully, throwing an arm over his eyes. “To dick or not to dick, that is the question.”
“Lance?” Pidge interjected, their tone unamused. “Please consider never speaking again.”
“Rude.” Lance answered immediately, shooting them an angry scowl. He was genuinely upset, too. If Pidge cost him the chance to hear Keith’s thoughts on this issue he wasn’t going to play games with them for a month . He wanted to discuss and talk through his feelings, it was in his nature.
He looked hopefully over at Keith, finding the other boy to look completely distracted. For a brief, shameless moment Lance considered repeating himself to make sure Keith actually heard him. He realized quickly that Pidge and Hunk would definitely catch onto that though, would probably accuse him of something crazy like caring more about Keith’s reactions than he did theirs. It’d be a whole thing. It wasn’t worth the risk.
Still… Keith looked so withdrawn into his own thoughts, had he completely spaced out?
“Listen, if you’re really that torn up over this, just go sleep with one of them.” Keith blurted, with exactly zero build-up or leeway into the suggestion. Lance promptly choked on his own saliva. Keith looked up at him, a defensive stance about him. “It’s no big deal. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“I don’t know that I agree with that advice…” Hunk singsonged from the floor, that nervous laughter that followed only confirming what a terrible idea that truly was. Lance stared blankly at Keith, wondering if his friend had somehow lost his mind since giving that good advice earlier.
“Considering we don’t know what the hell those people are equipped with under their tunics?” Pidge mused, looking thoughtful. “The ‘worst’ could be a variety of things for poor Lance’s body.”
“Pidge, you’re not helping.” Hunk shushed them, shoving a pair of pliers into their hands in a wordless demand to drop the subject. Lance watched as they went back to work, chewing nervously on the inside of his cheek. Was that it, then? His only option was to take a guy to bed?
Apparently, his apprehension was visible on his face, because bold and unapologetic Keith Kogane decided to backtrack for his sake.
“If you want answers, you’re not gonna find them sitting around here.” Keith explained, using a much gentler tone now. Lance relaxed slightly, nodding his head and considering it. “Try it out, you can always back out if it gets to be too much for you. You don’t have to go all the way, or do anything you don’t want to, just keep an open mind to see what you do want. It’s better to figure it out now than later.”
“Keith’s right, you know.” Pidge shoved their way into the conversation again, but this time they sounded more serious about it. Lance wasn’t so sure that he liked that multiple people were suggesting he just go out and sleep with some random guy. The thought of it alone had his heart racing and stomach feeling queasy.
“Really? ‘Cause right about now, shoving all of this aside for ‘later’ sounds like a great idea. I can’t see a single downside to it.” Lance stuttered hurriedly, resisting the urge to jump to his feet and run from the conversation. He could shove it under the rug for a while, just keep seeing women and never addressing this phantom longing.
“Hear me out.” Keith spoke, shoving Lance’s feet off his lap so he could scoot closer. Lance blinked, sitting up rimrod straight, uncomfortably aware of how Keith was pressed up against his side closer than ever before. He was probably hoping it’d be comforting to crisis-having Lance, but it wasn’t at all helpful. Still, Lance tried to concentrate despite it as Keith started to explain. “What if you meet the love of your life a month from now? That Mrs. Blue Lion you’ve been rambling on about since you fucking got here... but she turns out to be a he . He’s perfect in every way you’ve ever wanted him to be, no one else you’ve crushed on even compares. He likes you back, you have chemistry, and you’re serious about each other.”
“Yeah?” Lance whispered, almost reluctant to break the fantasy.
“And then ... you open your big dumb mouth and start spluttering about a ‘gay crisis’. You’d regret it forever if you pushed him away because you were scared.” Keith stated bluntly, Lance’s mind running wild with the possibility that this could really happen. “Hell, even if you get past the idea of being with a man, what if everything goes along as it should and then you realize you’re not into it at the actual being with a man part? It’s better to have the knowledge and the experiences now, with someone who doesn’t really matter, than go through all of this later and risk ruining something important. Don’t you think?”
“And if Mrs. Blue Lion turns out to be a Mrs. after all?” Lance asked meekly, drawing his bottom lip back between his teeth. Keith watched the movement, eyes flickering back to Lance’s suddenly.
“Then you’ll still have the knowledge and the experiences.” Keith answered, shrugging nonchalantly.
“ Ooh la la , what kind of experiences?” Pidge muttered under their breath, never once looking away from their project. Everyone in the room chose to ignore that interruption. Keith especially, he hardly seemed to register it, soft gaze focused on Lance. It was almost comforting, but it was hard to call it that with the knowledge that Keith was literally telling him to go fuck a stranger.
“Okay, thanks for the insight from the local wise old gay, really appreciate it.” Lance laughed, running his hand through his hair. Keith joined him with a chuckle of his own, relaxed enough to accept what a strange conversation that’d just been.
“You should! Keith doesn’t talk about this stuff often.” Pidge hummed, sounding mostly distracted. “He’s a prude.”
“Are we talking about the same Keith?” Lance asked, eyebrows furrowing together. He yelped when a fist collided with his ribcage. When he looked over at Keith ready to hit back, but the fiery glare alone was enough to make him start regretting saying anything on the topic. Still, he was defensive and unwilling to admit when he might be in over his head, so he settled for sticking his tongue out. “Ow? I didn’t even say anything!”
“You implied it!” Keith snapped, looking mostly angry, but also the slightest bit… uncomfortable. Lance’s chest gave a sympathetic pang, genuine regret sinking through him. He lifted his arm and draped it over the back of the couch, just barely settling on Keith’s shoulders. They were already so close, this wouldn’t be weird, right?
“Hey, it’s fine, we’re not going to judge you.” Lance assured his friend, patting Keith on the arm. Keith refused to meet his gaze, cheeks darkening to a noticeable red that Lance couldn’t help but admire even with the circumstances. It was so rare that he got under Keith’s skin now that their fighting was more for fun than getting a reaction out of each other, it was almost nice to see a rare expression on Keith’s face and know with certainty he’d put it there.
Then, Lance was made abruptly aware of the fact he was staring, a knowing cough coming from across the room. He jumped, looking over at Pidge with wide-eyes.
“Do you know something we don’t?” They asked, lips pursed.
“Keith’s room is next to his, of course he does.” Hunk mumbled, as if this was common knowledge that the whole ship should know. Lance felt Keith sink further into his side, clearly trying to hide his face. It was almost… cute.
Lance had known for a while now that he wasn’t the only person on the castleship that was “getting some”, so to speak. While he was pursuing girls with mostly good intentions and even starting the occasional relationship (they never lasted long with how busy he was defending the universe), Keith was more into the hook-up side of things. Fast and filthy. Lance had caught him with alien guys on more than one occasion, at first because their rooms were side-by-side and he could hear everything, but then he’d run into Keith walking them out of the castle the morning after a few times. Eventually Keith had pulled him aside to explain himself.
Stress-relief , he’d called it. Lance had nodded dumbly through the whole embarrassed rant Keith offered him and then he’d stupidly gaped for a moment longer, before asking; “ Can you let me know next time so I can wear headphones to bed? You’re really loud. ”.
That wasn’t the right thing to say to a vulnerable, defensive Keith. He’d sported a black eye for a week and had been sworn to secrecy about why that was.
“Let’s just say Keith is very familiar with the walk of shame.” Lance offered the room, unsurprised when Keith’s fist landed against his stomach immediately. He laughed, grabbing Keith’s hand and shoving it away from his body. “Stop hitting me! They probably already know anyway, you aren’t discreet at all!”
“I had my suspicions.” Pidge snickered, their eyes lighting up at the chance for new blackmail material. It wasn’t hard to notice that Hunk was paying more attention to the conversation now as well.
Keith continued to swat at Lance, pouting all the while with the smallest little frown. Lance had decided that it was definitely cute, which was just the cherry on top of his current dilemma, but it didn’t matter when Keith was right there to distract him. He grabbed both of Keith’s wrists, holding them up and offering up his best charming, apologetic grin. Keith scowled for a moment longer before relenting, sulking back to the other side of the couch.
“Lance isn’t familiar with the walk of shame at all because he has no shame.” Keith snapped, burying his face in the collar of his jacket. Lance rolled his eyes.
“Damn right, I don’t.” Lance scoffed, lifting up his hands and making as if to count the girls off on his fingers. He smirked over at Keith, waiting patiently. “Remember Rita, she was so-”
“Lance!” Pidge shouted in annoyance, no longer interested whatsoever. Lance wasn’t waiting on their reaction though, he was waiting on Keith’s. Even if it came in the form of a boot landed on his thigh in a kick, a silent request to shut-up already, Lance couldn’t help but smile like a fool. It was so easy to press Keith’s buttons now that he knew all of them by heart.
“Fine, fine, I’ll let you work.” Lance laughed dismissively, holding his hands up in a truce.
The room fell into a comfortable silence pretty easily after that. Hunk and Pidge continued to tinker, Keith relaxed back against his arm of the couch and looked generally exhausted while refusing to give in and take a nap like usual, and Lance sat there lost in his own thoughts. He wasn’t really sure about anything quite yet, but he was curious enough to look into it further, Keith had helped him realize that.
It was nearly an hour later when a hand settled on his shoulder and broke him out of his extensive consideration, fingertips rubbing into the stressed knotted muscle there. He blinked up at Keith, unsure when the other boy had stood up to leave the room. He was thankful Keith had stopped to see him before going though.
Keith… looked almost as unsure and confused as Lance was. He glanced over at Pidge and Hunk to see if they were watching, then cleared his throat to speak under his breath.
“Hey, uh, it’s gonna work out. Not everyone stumbles out of the womb knowing their preferences and there’s no shame in taking longer to figure yours out. People go through life at different paces, that’s just the way it is. I just don’t want you to miss out because you’ve got some preconceived ideas about who you should be ingrained into your head.” Keith said it so hurriedly it came out a rushed, jumbled mess in reality, but Lance managed to catch the gist of it.
He stared up at Keith in awe, reminded again of exactly why he’d set his sights on coming to Keith for advice. “You’re doing just fine, so stop stressing.”
“I’m gonna hit the showers.” Keith announced loudly, to the whole room. Lance bit down on his tongue, deciding that whatever he’d been planning on saying wasn’t important enough for everyone to hear.
“Don’t hit them too hard, we have drones for handling your anger management issues.” Lance teased, expecting Keith to smack him upside the head on his way out. He didn’t though, just hesitated for a second before settling his hand on top of Lance’s head and mussing his hair up.
Then he was gone and Lance was left the blushing, scowling mess.