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don't ever (let me be away from you)

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Keith was three years old when he first met Lance.

He remembered a flash of blue, a little boy clinging to the soft lavender of his mother’s skirts. The strange Altean woman chuckled warmly, shooting Krolia and Keith a welcoming smile. Keith tipped his head to one side when his mother bowed low, letting out a curious kit-chirp.

“Hello, Keith.” The woman said, her voice soft. It was then Keith’s eyes were drawn to the glittering coronet on the woman’s head, and his eyes shot wide, tail flicking once and curling behind him. He turned a wide-eyed gaze to the queen of Altea and quickly dropped into his own clumsy bow.

Queen Melenor, wonder of all wonders, chuckled softly at him. “Please, there is no need to bow.” Her voice was soft, reminding him of flower petals and fine silks and Keith’s father. Akira Kogane was back at home, back on Daibazaal, working to prevent fires in ships and help put them out. Keith called him a firefighter, and somehow, that name had ended up catching on. All of the ‘Daibazaal fire extinguishing regiment’ referred to themselves as firefighters, mostly thanks to the few video calls that Akira had been able to have with his son.

He was distant, since he was constantly in demand, but at the same time he wasn’t. Keith had never felt like he didn’t have a father, and he came home often enough for him to know his dad quite well.

Keith lifted his gaze as he and Krolia stopped bowing, a pretty bright purple like his mother’s, to look over the queen and the little boy that clutched at her dress. The little boy had slowly began to emerge, head tilted curiously. Melenor wore a long, soft gown in a pale lavender color, trimmed with pastel pink, blue and gold. She had two delicate golden earrings, with a thin golden chain that connected the stud parts to twin blue gemstones that glittered like her son’s eyes. Her stomach was bulging with an unborn child.

The boy had short hair, as snow-white as his mother’s, and wore a sleeveless blue and gold top with white leggings. Keith was able to see the markings all up and down his arms, and his brow furrowed slightly. That was unusual . The boy was looking Keith up and down, too. Keith wasn’t sure what he saw, but his tail subconsciously curled closer to his body.

Keith was unusual for a Galra in several ways. He had ears like a cat and a fluffy tail like a lion’s, covered in soft purple fur the same shade as his skin. The tail was tipped in a tuft of hair as black as Keith’s long, dark hair, which his mother had pulled back into a ponytail. He refused to let her cut it, and Akira was only around sometimes, which meant the kit’s hair got long. Maybe that was what the boy was staring at?

“This is Prince Lance of Altea, Keith.” Krolia murmured, bending down to her son’s level. She carded her hands gently through his little ponytail, making him purr and lean into her touch. “You remember all the training you’ve been getting recently?”

Oh, Keith remembered the training. His heart had leaped out of his chest the first time he was allowed to use his mother’s Luxite blade, given to her by Marmora, husband of the first Blue Paladin, and now he knew how to wield it with exceptional skill for a kit of four deca-phoebs old. “Of course, Mama!”

Krolia ruffled his hair a little. “My good little kit. You received that training because your job… is to be Prince Lance’s bodyguard.”

Keith looked up at Queen Melenor at the same time Lance did, two pairs of eyes wide.

“Not now, of course.” The queen smiled good-naturedly, tilting her head just a little to one side. Keith mimicked the motion. “You are far too young to be a bodyguard just yet- but not too young to get to know Lance.” She almost purred, beckoning her son forward with a gentle gesture. Lance clung to her skirts, frowning just a little.

Blue eyes met pretty purple, and something clicked right into place, like it had been there the entire time. Maybe it had.

 


 

It had been a surprise that Lance had Altean markings on his whole body, since Krolia had learned that was quite rare. But when she had first bathed the little kit, she took notice of them, letting out a curious rumble.

The issue of baths had been an interesting one- Lance had insisted his best friend had to take baths with him, too. Keith, however, hated the water and had absolutely no idea how to swim. Eventually Lance had convinced him (and Krolia hadn’t given her son  too much choice, since she was acting as a nursemaid, a bodyguard and a mother all at once, a simple shortcut like bathing the two kits together would save her time and energy), and Krolia had carefully undressed the pair and plopped them into the bath.

Keith was immediately uncomfortable, even in the warm, soapy water. He had turned four recently. Lance was still three, an eight-month difference between the pair of kits. Krolia supposed Altean young were not called kits, but she felt that calling Lance ‘kit’ was far more maternal than calling him ‘child’. And she truly had become a mother-figure to him, since Queen Melenor had recently fallen ill.

Krolia was snapped out of her thoughts by a wave of water that splashed her in the face, dripping from her bangs. She blinked once, unamused, but Lance’s poorly-muffled giggles made it so that her gaze was not a glare. He was laughing after a moment, and then Keith was laughing with him, tiny purple shoulders shaking with the force of it. Krolia huffed a tired sigh, but her smile was so, so fond as she picked up a small cup and filled it with the soapy water, pouring it over Lance’s head to wet the soft, white hair.

The Altean prince sounded incredibly pleased at that, beaming at Krolia. Keith was far less enthused when she repeated the process with him, pouring the water over his hair and using one large hand to keep it from getting into his eyes. He let out a tiny chirp of distress, ears pressing flat to his head- Krolia crooned quietly to soothe him, but if Keith was going to throw a fit, there was little she could do to calm him.

Lance wriggled forward to Keith, latching onto his side and wrapping tanned arms tightly around the pale purple boy. “It’s okay! Just water!” He assured. Keith’s tail almost seemed to wag for a moment before the tiny Galran (he was tiny, even by Altean standard, and though she loved him very much and cared little if he was small, Krolia was concerned that he may be ill or something else may have been stunting his growth) stilled it, turning bright eyes to Lance and chirping at him. Lance attempted to imitate the noise.

Krolia set about scrubbing her son’s hair next, taking extra care to use the same shampoo and conditioner provided for Lance. Keith held very still, one of his tiny, clawed hands clasped with Lance. The Altean boy entertained the Galran by playing with the bubbles in the water, which had been stained a faint pink color thanks to the bubble bath that Lance adored so much.

Keith swiped a claw gently through the large tuft of bubbles in Lance’s cupped hands, the ears Krolia was attempting to wash (the fur on his ears and tail needed to be washed with the same conditioner and shampoo as that on his hair, or else the soft fur would turn rough and tangle easily) pricking straight up. Lance burst into giggles and Keith followed moments later.

It was a tradition between the three of them that the two boys bathe together. There was no reason why they shouldn’t, after all. Lance’s bathtub was massive, even if Krolia had very carefully sectioned off a small portion of the tub that was shallow so that the kits could sit while she washed them.

At some point, she had finished and allowed the kits to play in the water for a little while longer before pulling them out. Keith had relaxed into the water now, enough that he protested when Krolia attempted to remove him, and she laughed pleasantly.

Lance also whined about it, but he was a good sport and allowed the Galran woman to remove and dry him. She was perhaps a bit rough when drying their hair, but Lance and Keith never complained and they all knew it was much more pleasant to sleep in clean clothes when your hair and fur was dry.

Krolia drained the tub and left the kits to dress themselves. She could trust them with that, even if there was the occasional humorous moment where Lance ended up in Keith’s pajamas and vice-versa. Keith’s were too small for Lance and Lance’s were too large for Keith, but neither one appeared to particularly mind.

Tonight, though, they had both managed to end up in the prince’s pretty baby blue pajamas. Where they had found the second set was unknown to Krolia, but she brushed it off with a small smile, scooping the kits into her arms.

“Come now, kits. It’s time for bed.” She tucked Lance in carefully. The kits had been in the royal nursery up until last month, when Lance’s baby sister had been born. There was a risk to Queen Melenor, though, and she had fallen ill- which was part of why Krolia took over as Lance’s full-time caretaker instead of just an impromptu mother-figure when the nursemaids were called away.

They were now all occupied with the queen of Altea.

 


 

 

Lance shrieked, shooting to his feet and bolting. Keith, who had been half-dozing in a patch of sunlight, shot to attention, gripping the knife that his mother had left with him. She’d only gone to the restroom for a moment- why had something chosen now to come after Lance? “Lance?!”

“Keith!” His best friend wailed, launching himself at the Galran kit and clinging, hiding himself behind him. The Galra brandished the knife. “You gotta save me!” He sounded absolutely terrified.

“What’s wrong?!”

“There’s a bug !” Lance wailed, nuzzling his face into Keith’s long, dark hair and shivering. Keith hesitated for a moment, but gained a serious furrow in his brow, taking one of Lance’s hands in his own and then brandishing his knife with another.

“I’ll protect you, Lance!” Keith promised, long tail lashing wildly behind him. The Altean prince brightened up, bouncing a little. Since they were mere children of only four, Lance’s fear was unfounded but not surprising.

Catching sight of the little bug that had set Lance off, Keith let out a ferocious war cry, waving his knife at the black beetle. Lance moved with him, bouncing through the juniberries of the royal garden.

Krolia returned a few moments later to see her son and Lance, who had so quickly become something of a son to her, charging after what she recognized was a nightshade beetle. “Kits,” She called, summoning them back to her with a fond smile. Keith and Lance gave up the chase as soon as she called out to them, bolting toward her- Krolia dropped onto her knees to allow both kits to run into her arms, purring quietly at them. Keith purred right back and Lance, adorably, attempted to imitate the rumble.

“Did you protect Lance, Keith?” Krolia prompted her son, arching a delicate brow. Keith nodded rapidly, dark hair tumbling into his eyes.

“He saved me from the bug!” Lance chipped in. He had been shy around Krolia and Keith for all of three days and then it was he who had brought Keith out of his shell. Now, over a year later, they were incredibly close. Krolia had found herself incredibly endeared as soon as she realized what a good kit he was, and the positive influence he had on her own.

She smoothed Keith’s bangs away from his eyes with a clawed hand, her skin a different shade than his- hers looked more pink, while Keith had the slightly more lavender color of his father. “You did very well, kit, and were very brave.” She purred, nuzzling the top of his head and planting a tiny kiss there. Keith chirped, ears standing straight up and tail waving.

And then another beetle flew by.

Lance shrieked and dove for Keith again.


 

Keith was five years old when his father finally managed to get off of Daibazaal and pay then a visit. Daibazaal and Altea were a week’s travel apart without wormholing technology, which could only be used by an Altean, so they had all known that their family would be apart for great deals of time, since Krolia and Keith had been required to move to Altea.

But now was a time of reunion and joy. The shuttle landed, a surprise to both Krolia and Keith, though King Alfor’s advisor and best friend himself, Coran, had welcomed the man.

 Coran had informed Krolia that her presence, and the presence of Keith (though that almost automatically meant Lance was coming along) were required in the royal gardens, that they had a special surprise waiting there. Krolia could guess, but she couldn’t be sure until they went.

Of course, Lance decided that he had to go with them. Krolia couldn’t blame him. He was very curious by nature, and of course she couldn’t deny the kits. They dressed quickly, Keith in a loose black shirt with deep purple leggings. Lance wore a loose navy t-shirt with a pale blue V design on the collar and bands around the cuffs and at the hem. He had looser-fitting blue pants, too, casual clothing for a casual outing. Lance didn’t even wear his coronet.

They had wandered out to the gardens, Krolia the only one in armor. It was her job, after all, no matter how peaceful things seemed now- her job was to protect Prince Lance with her life until Keith was old enough to replace her.

 And oh, did she dread that. But now was not a time for such things. She led the pair of kits out to the gardens, a hand flying to cover her mouth as she let out a shocked gasp at the figure that greeted her.

 “Daddy!” Keith almost shrieked, letting go of his mother’s hand and bolting forward. Akira whirled to catch him, scooping up the tiny kit and cradling him against his chest. Akira’s tail flicked back and forth behind him, traits that he and his son shared.

“Hey, there, Kiddo!” Akira’s voice was still laced heavily with the accent that Krolia had missed so much. Lance’s hand slipped from hers and then she was moving forward, wrapping her mate and the kit in his arms up in a tight hug. Her purr joined the deep rumbling.

Lance looked to Coran, wringing his hands in front of him. “Who’s that?” He murmured quietly, tipping his head to one side.

Coran hummed, brushing the long lock of hair out of his face. He’d been growing it out as of late. “That is Keith’s father, Lance.”

Lance let out a little gasp, peering at the short purple Galra. He was broad-shouldered and well-built, with soft fur covering his entire body. He had a long tail with a wider tuft at the end, though it wasn’t tipped in black hair like Keith’s was. He did have the black hair, though, much shorter than his son’s. He had no markings, not like Keith’s and Krolia’s, and none of their exposed skin.

Lance peered at them curiously as Akira and Krolia pulled apart briefly for the former to plant a kiss on the latter’s lips. “He and Krolia are mates?”

“Yes.” Coran confirmed with a nod.

Keith split away as his parents kissed with a fake-disgusted noise, skittering over to his friend. Lance peered at him, head cocked to one side. “Keith?”

“I want you to meet my dad!” He chirped, grabbing Lance’s hand and tugging him forward.

Lance was hesitant. His own father, King Alfor, had always been kind of distant- he loved his son, Lance was very sure, but he had always been too busy going out and fighting things off with his friends, and then he’d been distracted by the Voltron project and the meteor that struck Daibazaal…

And then his mother had fallen sick. Lance had been quite close with Melenor, but after his sister had been born, he hadn’t seen her. Allura was nearing two years old now. He knew why he couldn’t be allowed to see his mother. She had fallen sick shortly after giving birth to his sister, and it seemed that everyone knew she was going to die.

It wasn’t as if it was Lance’s fault. He might have been mildly bitter over that. If it was anyone’s fault, it was his sister’s , because she had been born and made their mother sick.

Keith tugged at his hand again and Lance snapped back to attention, throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Are you sure?” He questioned, the tips of pointed Altean ears lowering. Keith blinked at him and then frowned.

“Of course I’m sure, Lance! You’re my best friend. Why wouldn’t I want you to meet my dad?” His tail swayed back and forth.

Lance faltered, gazing down at his feet. “I dunno…” His own dad didn’t want to know him, why would Keith’s? He allowed his best friend to tug him forward, though he couldn’t meet Keith’s father’s eyes.

“Hey there, little man!” He looked up, finding the smaller of the two Galrans crouched before him and offering a fond little smile. “You’re Lance, right? Keith and Krolia have told me a lot about you in their letters. I’m Akira.”

Lance found himself smiling brightly. Something told him he was going to like Akira very much.

 


 

He did. Akira had become the father-figure that Lance didn’t have in his father. Which was why Akira, Krolia and Keith were all in the front row with Lance for the funeral of Queen Melenor.

It had been a long time coming. She had fallen ill after giving birth to her daughter, and it was supposedly a miracle that she had survived as long as she had. Lance felt… strangely numb to the issue, though he knew he was crying.

He had loved his mother, but once she fell ill, he hadn’t been allowed to see her. That meant he hadn’t seen or spoken to the queen of Altea in almost three years now.

Keith picked the seat right beside him, a hand tightly interlocked with Lance’s and bright eyes burning with determination- probably to make Lance feel better. His tail coiled around Lance’s waist and was soon joined by another’s- Akira’s, supporting him from the left while Keith sat oh his right. The prince dabbed at his eyes, but even with the loss of his mother, even with the speech his father was giving, the words of his father’s friends, he found himself strangely distanced.

Until he imagined Krolia in his mother’s place. Then the tears came far more quickly.

He was genuinely bawling when he pictured the tiny body of Keith going through Altean funeral rites, though.

Was he a bad person because of it? Weren’t most kids supposed to love their parents? Especially if they were royal?

Lance didn’t know, but when he confessed his feelings to Akira, he told Lance that it was purely natural.

That was the first day Lance called Akira the nickname that would then stick with him for years: Papa Kogane.

 


 

“What is this?” Lance gasped, creeping forward and peering at what seemed almost like a crack in the wall.

Keith cocked his head to one side, approaching and pressing his large ear to the side of the crack. “I.. think there’s something back there.” He admitted, frowning slightly.

Lance’s brow furrowed. “Do.. you think you could get your knife into there?” He questioned. Keith looked up, purple eyes bright. He flashed a fanged smile, and without another word, stabbed the wall. Lance laughed, but the blade sunk into the crack and stuck.

Keith peered at it blankly, then turned to Lance. Lance peered at it equally as blankly, turning back to Keith.

“My knife is stuck.”

“I know, Keith.”

“How are we going to get it out?”

“I don’t know, Keith.”

They debated over it for a little while, Keith’s tail lashing wildly behind him and gesturing wildly with clawed hands. Lance had no idea how to get it out, and neither did Keith, but he knew he had to. Krolia had taken a brief break, leaving the pair of 7-year-olds alone, and it… was clearly not a good idea.

“I got it!” Lance gasped, bouncing a little. Keith’s ears twitched toward him, head cocking to one side. The prince stepped forward, placing both hands on one of the panels. Then his eyes fell shut, brows furrowed in concentration. Keith peered warily at him, eyes narrowed slightly.

Before long, the two pale marks on Lance’s cheeks lit up, glowing a pretty blue hue. The markings on his body, now hidden underneath his clothes, lit up as well. Keith knew where they were well- of course he did, he had been Lance’s friend since they were tiny children, and had seen him without clothes many times. It was still a tradition between the two of them that they took baths together, and it was far more efficient - Keith and Lance were never apart. If something went wrong, he could turn to his bodyguard and be protected in seconds.

The wall made a low noise, sounding like it was scraping, and Keith darted underneath Lance to snatch his knife and clutch it to his chest. The two retreated, watching with wide eyes as the wall- no, the panel in the wall, slid away to reveal a dusty tunnel, swathed entirely in darkness.

“What do we do?” Lance’s brow furrowed, turning toward Keith with dark, curious eyes.

The half-Galra peered into the darkness, but it extended far-enough back that even his eyes, incredible for night-sight, didn’t pick up anything. “I guess we go in.”

The two moved forward together, hands clasped. Lance’s delicate ears twitched slightly as they walked forward, and his grip was a little tighter than it had to be, undoubtedly nervous in the darkness, but Keith didn’t mention it, nor did he have any issues with him.

The door slid shut behind them with a low grinding noise. Keith’s knife was still unsheathed and clutched in his free hand, but Lance guided the pair over to a wall and then pressed his hand against it- unseen lights lit up and glowed, casting the small, hidden corridor in washed-out blue light.

It really was dusty, and Lance winced, wiping the grime off of his hands and onto his pants. They were a deep shade of navy blue today, so it showed obviously, but was unlikely to stain the deeply-colored, delicate Altean fabric.

“Where do you think this goes?” Keith’s voice didn’t echo in the silent space, which he was grateful for, but he was curious.

“No idea.” Lance chirped, but now that there was light in the room, he seemed much brighter. “Let’s find out!” He bolted forward, and their linked hands meant the tiny Galra was dragged along behind him.

They explored for hours and missed all of the rest of Lance’s lessons for that day. Neither one particularly cared, even if they were scolded for popping out of nowhere after causing the entire castle to search and scaring them all.

In some kind of silent agreement, Keith and Lance didn’t tell anyone about the tunnels.

 


 

When Lance received the news, his knees buckled. Coran had to rush to catch him, but Lance had brushed him off, very pale and with shaking hands. He knew Keith had to be so much worse, though.

He was right. He bolted from his royal lessons to the quarters that he and his bodyguard still shared, unsurprised to find a small form curled up and sobbing. Keith was still far tinier than any other Galra that Lance knew of, but he had never looked so small before. Not even when they were catching bugs or the blurry memories of his mother’s funeral or that one time he had pulled on Keith’s tail and his best friend had accidentally decked him in the face and had then sulked about it for hours.

“Keith,” Lance crawled up onto the bed with him. “Keith.”

The little Galra looked up, sniffled loudly, and then hid his face again. For a boy of ten years, Lance had managed to remain remarkably calm about this, but Keith had not. He’d never seen his best friend so upset, not even after the very worst of his nightmares.

Lance wrapped his friend up tightly in his arms, cradling him to his chest. Keith shoved his face into the crook of Lance’s neck and sobbed, shaking violently. All he could do was hold him and pet gently over his best friend’s ears and hair, trying to soothe him. He, too, broke down into tears.

That was how Krolia found them, her own face tear-stained and heartbroken. She sat on the bed and drew both kits into her arms, leaving the three of them weeping- but at least they were together. That was when he stopped calling her Krolia and really started to call her Mama.

They attended Akira’s funeral together. Lance cancelled any lessons he had that day, risking the ire of his father to do so, but he refused to abandon Keith and Krolia in their time of vulnerability. If the Galra on Daibazaal wondered why Prince Lance of Altea attended the funeral, holding the hand of the small, trembling form of Akira’s only kit as he lit the funeral pyre, no one mentioned it.

Chapter Text

Lance’s first assassination attempt came when Keith was fifteen and Lance was fourteen. The young prince had left the castle, and at this point did so somewhat regularly, to look around the markets and to chatter happily with his subjects. King Alfor was not happy with that, keeping Princess Allura in the castle and refusing to allow her to leave, but Keith and Lance had no problems with him. He’d apparently decided to take an incredibly hands-off approach in the development of his son, and when Lance had all of his studies complete, he’d beg Coran to take he and Keith to the markets in the capital. They did have stores, of course, but there were a lot of stands that were set up and that Lance loved to browse. Even if he never bought anything, the young prince was generous, almost ridiculously so, and left with significantly lighter pockets then he’d came with.

Keith and Lance had been strolling casually, the Galra’s tail flicking slowly back and forth behind him, and Lance chattering about nothing truly meaningful. His best friend was more than happy to listen to him ramble, though.

Keith wasn’t sure why, but he had an odd feeling. He shifted his weight a little nervously, tapped his claws against the armor on his thighs, and let his ears constantly twitch and swivel to pick something up. Lance picked up on his nervousness and raised his guard significantly, which put Keith slightly more at ease- but something still felt wrong.

His hyper-awareness made it easier for him to throw himself in front of the knife that had been aimed at Lance’s chest. Pandemonium immediately broke out, and at first the only thing Keith registered was pain, sharp and white-hot. Lance screamed, and Keith couldn’t blame him, gritting his teeth against the pain in his side. His blade was in his hand in a moment, gripped tightly- but a taller figure swept past him, taking it from his hand.

Krolia transformed the blade in a flash of light, taking up a defensive position in front of her kits. Keith’s ears pressed flat to the top of his head, one hand resting on his side. The blade had been ripped out by the figure that had passed by, bolting away from the pair. Lance gripped him tightly, blue eyes blown wide with fear. He was shaking.

The Altean guard approached quickly and swarmed forward. The figure, a tall, cloaked person, bolted through the panicked crowd, the Alteans chasing after them and shooting them.

Lance babbled, panicked, and tried to staunch Keith’s bleeding. He tried with his hands, peered at the red of his best friend’s blood, and then burst into tears. He didn’t stop trying, though, continuing to try and stop the blood. He used his cape, the blue fabric, and ripped it without hesitation. Keith and Lance both had shaking legs.

Krolia continued to defend them, a snarl in her throat, but no one threatening dared approach. A small squadron of Altean guards approached, surrounding the three and then ushering them back toward the castle.

Krolia sheathed the sword and just plain scooped Keith up when he began to stumble, trembling hard in his mother’s arms. Lance plastered himself to the Galran woman’s side, sobs in his throat.

She soothed him as best as she could, but she, too, was concerned. She carried her son to the medical bay, and Keith was quickly set up in an Altean pod. He would be in there for a few hours, the doctors reported as they treated Lance for shock. The Altean prince’s face was still sticky with tears.

They caught the assassin.

She was a Galran woman, snarling at them and laughing over their threats. She said she had nothing more to lose.

She had been put to death before Keith even emerged from the pod.

As soon as he did, though, Lance wrapped his best friend up into a tight hug, pressing his face into Keith’s shoulder. The dizzy Galran clutched at him desperately, rubbing Lance’s back as the prince burst into a fresh round of sobbing.

King Alfor ordered the prince to not go out anymore. Lance compiled without a fight.


 

“I miss Papa.” Lance murmured one day, sitting on a hammock strung up on his large balcony. He had a data pad in his lap, but the story on there - a history lecture, something he’d had to read about a king of Altea thousands of years ago that had been overthrown by a common man - had long-since been forgotten.

Keith looked up, his ears lowering. “I know.” He agreed, “So do I.” The Galran nodded, carding a hand through his hair.

Lance glanced back at the data pad with a small sigh. He tried not to bring it up, but he knew that both he and Keith had seen Akira as a father. They both currently saw Krolia as their mother, too, Lance was only subtle about that when there was someone around.

He refocused on the story that he was supposed to be reading. According to the tale, the corrupt king’s daughter had married the common man, keeping the royal bloodline pure, but the royals all had the white hair of the common man instead of the black of the king and princess. It was an interesting concept, but had been written so dryly that it was almost painful to read.

A grand portrait of King Korde and Queen Philomena hung in the room of kings, where portraits of each monarch and their significant other hung. King Alfor and Queen Melenor’s portrait hung at the current end, and Lance knew that someday his own would hang beside theirs.

“Hey, Keith?” Lance looked up at his best friend, cocking his head to one side and bouncing his head a little. “You like this history junk, right?”

Keith’s ears flickered toward him. “Yeah. It’s not junk, it’s about your ancestors.” He huffed. Lance smiled fondly.

“Will you read it to me?”

“Read it to you?”

“Yes, Keith.” Lance dramatically collapsed backward from his semi-upright position, throwing a hand over his eyes. The performance caused Keith to chuckle. “Read me this history textbook or I’m going to actually go insane because it’s written drier than your sense of humor.”

Keith let out a genuine, uncontrolled burst of laughter at that and some part of Lance lit up, a warmth rising in his chest. He wasn’t sure why, but he liked the sound of his laughter.

“Alright, scoot.” The half-sized full-blooded Galra climbed into the hammock next to Lance, settling into his side. Lance was taller than Keith and had been since they were children, aside from a brief period of a few months where the Altean prince hadn’t had a growth spurt. Keith had teased him about it until Lance had used his shapeshifting powers to make himself taller than Keith again, and then he had shut up about it, pouting, until Lance had actually grown to naturally be taller again.

Lance put his arm around Keith, who settled in and put his head down on Lance’s shoulder. The tip of one soft ear brushed Lance’s jaw, dark hair that was slowly getting longer spreading out a little. It was soft as Keith’s fur. They were pressed together, ribs-to-ribs, hip-to-hip, and legs tangled. Keith’s tail hung down lazily over the edge of the hammock.

They were no strangers to physical contact with one another, though. They’d known each other since they were young and Lance had converted Keith into quite the cuddler. He was eternally proud of that.

“The old king’s name had long been lost to time,” Keith started reading out the essay, and Lance let the sound of his best friend’s slightly rough voice fill his ears, “But it was believed to have been Noyan. That is why such names are forbidden in the royal line.”

Keith read on, and when they reached parts of the story where the characters spoke, he changed the pitch and tone of his voice. Even if he liked Keith’s voice just the way it was, Lance chuckled softly at a lot of that.

The warm day, peaceful had begun to take its’ toll on Lance, though. Birds chirped and flew, leaves rustled, and the sweet smell of juniberry flowers drifted up from the royal gardens below. Keith’s voice was a steady melody that Lance could fall asleep to anytime. The prince’s eyes began to flutter shut, and before long, he had dozed off.

Keith noticed that with a soft smile. He attempted to pull away from him as he usually did when Lance fell asleep with Keith as his cuddle victim, but as always, the prince’s grip was steadfast. Keith had to admit, he, too, was feeling the effects of the warm day and the warm embrace.

Krolia found them an hour or so later when she dropped in from the Blade of Marmora base that had been built on Altea. The data pad rested on Keith’s chest, though it was sliding partway onto Lance’s. Her kit’s head had lolled toward Lance and now his ear-tip was brushing the prince’s cheek. Keith’s cheek was mushed against Lance’s shoulder. Lance’s arm was around Keith’s shoulder but resting lightly over his ribs, palm splayed. One of Keith’s hands clutched the edge of the data pad, though the other had settled on his chest, underneath the device. Lance’s free arm hung off the edge of the hammock.

Krolia removed the data pad from her son’s grip, smiling fondly at the slight twitch of clawed fingers. Keith did not awake, and neither did Lance- in fact, both were motionless aside from the steady rise and fall of their chests. Leaning closer, she could detect that Keith was, in fact, purring, and covered her mouth to muffle her fond laughter. She shook her head and pressed a button to extend a pavilion over the balcony, shading the pair and also sheltering them in case a storm broke out. The weather on Altea in this time of year was quite unpredictable.


 

Keith had never gotten sick, even when Lance did throughout their childhood, so when he did, he was miserable.

He whined quietly, curled up into a tiny ball on his bed in Lance’s room. “M’gonna die.” He whined, ears pressed flat. Lance would have laughed at his poor best friend had Keith not looked so genuinely pathetic.

“You’re not gonna die, Keith.” Lance plopped himself down on the edge of the bed. When it was first learned that Keith was ill, Lance’s father had ordered that he stay away from the small Galran youth. But a quick test confirmed that it was a Galran-specific disease, and a very minor one at that- it typically showed up in kits, hence the name kit-cough.

Keith getting sick was terrifying enough, though, because he’d refused to admit he was sick and take a break until he had literally collapsed when he and Lance were sparring. Lance had only just started learning the art of swordfighting, much preferring - and much better at - sniping from a distance and fighting with various long-range weapons. It had taken a ridiculous and frankly frightening amount of effort to prevent Lance from accidentally stabbing his poor, fluffy bodyguard.

He had snagged poor Keith and clutched his small form to his chest, immediately freaking out because.. Uh. Best friend/bodyguard/resident purple space cat that showed no weakness and usually started yelling at people instead of actually allowing them to help him? Yeah, he’d just passed out. Lance panicked, cradling him in his arms and summoning help to him as soon as he could.

After a checkup, Lance had been allowed to tuck Keith into bed and had been doting on the poor Galra. Keith usually did that for Lance when he was ill, so the least he could do was repay the favor.

Keith sneezed and then winced, ears pressing flat to the top of his head. He hated this, very clearly.

“I have the kitchen staff working on soup as we speak, Keith.” Lance hummed to him, cracking a fond smile.

“Ugh,” Keith retorted very intelligently, turning and pressing his face into one of his pillows. Lance laughed at that, almost missing the muffled sniffle.

“Aww, Keith,” Lance stepped forward to pat his back gently, rubbing a hand up and down his spine.

“I want to die.”

“Me too, buddy. Me too.” Lance laughed warmly. He did his best to help out the poor, ill fluffball that was his best friend, though.


 

Lance and Keith always danced with one another during Lance’s dancing lessons. They were close in height, which made it all the more convenient- even if Keith had stumbled a good deal when they first started. Lance had to teach him a good deal at first, making sure to catch the poor Galran when he stumbled.

Now they were both incredibly skilled at the fast-paced Altean formal dance. They stepped together, bowed, and then Lance took one of Keith’s free hands. Keith put his hand on Lance’s shoulder and Lance set his palm at the base of Keith’s spine, and then they were off.

They moved and spun quickly, intricate footwork keeping them from tumbling over. Lance spun Keith out and the Galran spun himself back so that his back pressed to Lance’s chest, arms around him. They were only like that for a heartbeat, but he felt the desire to press him in and keep him close forever.

The music picked up the pace and then they were spinning, quickly moving and using that motion to assume the first position they were in. Then the music hit a high point and suddenly dropped, as Lance dropped Keith, dipping the smaller Galran.

One of Keith’s arms was around Lance’s neck, the other gripping at his shoulder. Lance had an arm around his waist and one bracing their backs. Both of their chests heaved with exertion, breathing coming in sharp and fast little pants. Lance blinked down at the Galran suspended in his arms, cradled there as they caught their breath. The music settled slowly around them and, according to the tradition of the dance, he was to hold his partner there until it ended.

He and Keith’s faces were incredibly close. Their noses were nearly brushing, in fact, and Lance could feel the ghost of Keith’s breath across his face.

He was struck by the sudden desire to capture the Galran’s lips with his own, blinking in surprise and flushing a pale pink at the thought. The music ended, though, and he helped Keith to his face, confused and slightly embarrassed by that.

“Well done, your majesty.” His dancing instructor nodded. “You may go now.”

Lance nodded, taking Keith’s hand and quickly escaping. His best friend didn’t get it, but was more than happy to allow himself to be dragged along after Lance.


 

Thunder and lightning cracked above Lance’s head, a dark storm cloud hanging over him and dripping rain through the halls. The prince’s markings and blue eyes were glowing the same hue as the lightning that crackled through the storm.

Keith sighed quietly. Lance’s Altean magic had always been incredibly in-tune with his emotions, and when it was like this, it wasn’t hard for Keith to tell that something was wrong. He hadn’t missed the arguing through the door, either. Lance was a prince of freshly 18 now and King Alfor had commanded his eldest son to begin courting. Lance had refused, and things had.. Escalated.

And then, after that, Allura had been sent to lunch with he and Keith. And his sister… had started a food fight when Lance was already in a bad mood, and when he had told her to stop, she had just pelted food-goo at his face. Lance’s hands were curled into tight fists.

Keith walked at Lance’s side even if he didn’t have to, providing a silent comfort. His Blade of Marmora armor clung to the water, absorbing it and dragging Keith down, but his stride never faltered and he didn’t move out from underneath the cloud that Lance was unintentionally creating. He hated the way that the prince’s family made him feel. “Come on, Lance.” He murmured after a moment, offering his hand to his best friend. Lance took it and squeezed it tightly. “Let’s go take a bath.”

Lance nodded, shoulders sagging. “Bath. Yeah.” The ordinarily-bright boy agreed, voice tired. Keith’s ears lowered, tail swaying back and forth behind him, but he wasn’t going to push him. Lance was allowed to come to Keith when he wanted, even if he was worried about him.

Keith led them forward into Lance’s room. By the time they arrived, the storm had dissipated, but both were soaked to the skin. The door was shut and locked securely, and without any hesitation, the duo stripped off their wet clothing and armor. They had taken baths together since they were tiny, after all… but Keith was admittedly a bit hesitant. This was the first time they’d both had time to bathe together to relax since he’d returned from his Trials of Marmora, and though the scar on his shoulder had healed nicely, he was still mildly self-conscious about it.

He moved into Lance’s master bathroom, though, and drew up a bath for the pair of them.

He really did owe Lance a great deal. He had never judged Keith, even when he learned that the Galran was semi-hermaphroditeous, meaning he could both carry and father kits. His anatomy was quite odd compared to standard male and female Galrans, but not uncommon- though hermaphrodite Galra like Keith were often discriminated against. Lance had never done anyhing along those lines at all.

Lance’s was quite odd as well, as was all Alteans’. Male Altean genitals were tricky. They had to be in the mood in the first place. There were two holes on a male, one of them housing a tentacle, which matched the color of the Altean markings.

Lance slowly slipped into the water and let out a soft sigh, settling in a little. Keith hesitated a heartbeat before sliding in beside him, hiding his shoulder in the water.

Lance peered blankly at Keith, reaching out to him. He let himself be pulled to settle into Lance’s chest, huffing a breath when he realized that it brought his shoulder out of the water.

His best friend had apparently noticed the minor insecurities Keith had about that, though, bringing Keith to his chest and cradling him as gently as he could. “So many battles you’ve survived, Keith,” Lance murmured, allowing his fingers to brush over the scars on his body, carefully avoiding the one on his shoulder for a moment. His thumb lingered on the scar Keith had gotten from the attempt on Lance’s life all those years ago. “Victories. They’re beautiful.”

This was no more intimate than something that ordinarily happened between them, since they were both painfully aware of almost every change in the other. They were together constantly and still shared a room, even if it was more than large enough that neither one ever felt crowded by the other.

Keith purred quietly at the gentle affection, allowing Lance to continue tracing the scars on his torso, working his way up until he reached his shoulder. Lance gently rubbed at the newest scar, a paler shade of purple than the rest of Keith’s skin, working small amounts of his magic into it and making Keith relax completely back into Lance’s chest, eyelids fluttering.

Without thinking, Lance gently leaned forward to press his lips ever-so-softly to Keith’s newest scar.

His bodyguard’s beautiful eyes snapped open, a pretty flush crossing his face. One large ear twitched. “Thank you,” He eventually breathed, as if raising his voice to speak in a normal tone would… shatter something. Maybe it would. Something delicate and thinner than the delicate strings of the Aneigora was building between them.

Many times in his life, Lance had asked himself whether he liked boys or girls. In this moment, he had never felt more confident in his answer- girls were beautiful , but so was Keith, settled almost in his lap.

He flushed as well. He was the prince and he also liked men . He was the firstborn son, the only son. That meant he needed an heir.

His traitorous mind reminded him that with Keith, he could have one. His mind flashed to a thought of that and he shook his head wildly, gently pushing himself away from Keith and into the deeper water of the tub, which was more like a swimming pool- an upside-down, incredibly warm swimming pool.

He was absolutely determined to keep his best friend from knowing of his perverse innermost desires, shaking his head again and dunking himself under the warm, sweet-smelling water to soak his hair. Keith chuckled softly as he watched Lance push silver strands out of his eyes.

“Keith,” Lance spoke out of nowhere, “I love you.”

He blinked in surprise and then scrambled to recover- “As a friend, of course.” The prince chuckled a little nervously, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. Stupid!

The tiny, runt Galran peered at him and then offered a small smile. “I love you, too, Lance.” He hesitated, heart beating harder than it should have. “You mean.. So much more to me than just a friend. I knew you before I ever truly knew myself.”

Keith wiped that train of thought away and found himself immersed in another one.

Many male Galra were partially hermaphrodites, and Keith wasn't terribly different in that way. He was able to both father and carry kits. So.. it wouldn't be that hard to have a life with someone. Maybe.. someone who needed to have an heir to the kingdom.. someone like Lance. Keith blinked open his eyes again, surprised by that line of thought.

He shook his head a little to clear it, scattering water droplets from the tips of his hair that dipped in and out of the water and from his soaked ears, which Keith worked on washing after a moment.

He made an odd face as one hand scrubbed over a little nick that hadn't been there before. Or had it? He didn't remember when he'd nicked his ear, but Keith ended up accidentally beating himself up a lot.

Keen blue eyes had not missed the odd expression on his bodyguard’s face, and Lance swam over to Keith until he could sit on the raised seat of the tub again, frowning. “What’s wrong?” He didn’t wait for his bodyguard to answer before replacing clawed, purple hands with his own, any trace of his desire completely replaced by overwhelming concern for the Galran. “Keith, you need to be more careful.”

Gathering power from the scented water around them, Lance quickly used his abilities to heal the nick in his bodyguard’s ear. Lance had healed him a few times now. It always felt... warm and tingly, maybe, but at the same time cool and numb. He couldn't really explain it.

He hadn’t realized how close this brought their faces until Lance sunk back down into the water a little more. The breath fled rapidly from the lungs of the prince. “Your eyes…” He breathed quietly, captivated.

Keith’s eyes were a stunning violet color with purple sclera and slitted, feline pupils. He had incredibly long lashes, which fell lower as his eyes half-lidded.

“They’re beautiful,” Lance started, and he couldn’t help but continue. “Especially when the light hits them just right… they’re a perfect shade of purple.”

Keith felt himself leaning forward and his lips parting slightly, though he was helpless to the siren song the Altean before him was unwittingly putting out. They were getting closer and closer, but the brush of their noses seemed to snap Lance from his spell.

A look not unlike a hurt puppy came over the both of them.

Lance desired , and would love nothing more than to stake his claim on Keith, press their lips together in a kiss and then take more until there was no question in the minds of anyone who the handsome, short Galran bodyguard belonged to.

He couldn’t. He knew this, and he hated it, but he couldn’t. It would be treason and a felony (at least on Keith’s part) to marry and have kits with a Galran. Especially his bodyguard.

Still… those thoughts and dreams would lurk in the darkest, most longing parts of Lance’s mind, making his body burn and his heart cry out for a purple-skinned, soft-furred boy who had a rough exterior but the softest heart he had ever seen. A voice that was perpetually rough, but could be so warm and affectionate that Lance felt his heart explode.

He shook his head, leaning back and then continuing to wash himself as if nothing had ever happened. Once he was fully cleaned, he rose from the water quickly, a pretty flush on his face. “I’m going to change, Keith, don’t look.” Lance murmured, one delicately pointed ear twitching at the hummed confirmation he received in return. Keith was always so good to him.

He dried himself and then dressed quickly, choosing a more comfortable outfit than the one he’d donned previously.

He was stopped by a knock at the door, though, brow furrowing heavily in confusion. The young prince dried his hair and then moved toward the door, humming an absentminded little tune to himself. He peered at the royal messenger, “What’s up?”

“Prince Lance, your father requests an audience with you.”

Chapter Text

Lance cleared his throat as he stepped into the throne room, his coronet perfectly centered on his forehead. It was seldom that King Alfor, his father, requested his presence when he wasn’t in trouble, and he had even been congratulated today for doing so well in classes. Perhaps to praise him? That was a foreign concept if he had ever heard one, and for a split-second he felt the urge to laugh before his father spoke up.

“Lance,” Alfor tried slowly, tipping his head to one side. He never called him ‘son’ or even acknowledged their familial relation. Lance tried not to think about that. “You will be eighteen in a few months, will you not?”

“Yes, father.” Lance confirmed, carefully posturing himself so that he was as respectful as he could be while also acknowledging his status as the prince.

“Wonderful.” He nodded slowly, gesturing with one hand. Three guards stepped forward, along with a pale figure in a lavish golden gown studded with green gemstones the same forest hue as her eyes. She had long, cascading straight hair in a pretty indigo color, the front parts pulled back so that her hair formed a sort of impromptu crown. Vaguely like Allura’s hair, now that Lance was thinking about it. “This is Tamra .” Her markings were a bright shade of green by contrast.

Lance pursed his lips slightly. “Forgive me, father- but what does this… Tamra have to do with your summons?” He questioned gently, cocking his head to one side.

Alfor’s expression became more obviously annoyed, and Lance resisted the urge to flinch. “Tamra is to be your betrothed. The day after your 18th birthday, you are to marry her.”

Lance was decidedly uncomfortable with this. “Father, what? I thought I would have the freedom of marriage.” He noticed Alfor about to speak and quickly interjected, “So long as whomever I picked was of decent noble status.” He corrected, and his father looked appeased for a brief moment.

“You were taking too long. Tamra will be a good queen. She is tough, and shall make you stronger.” Alfor offered simply.

Lance opened his mouth to protest, but was silenced by the wave of Alfor’s hand.

“Enough, Lance. My mind is made up. You may go to your room if you so desire, but be warned that the early break from lessons today is simply so that you can prepare to get to know Tamra. You will be going out with her on several dates, one every other day.”

Lance was going to die.

“Yes, father.” He flashed his politest smile, bowing and then hurrying back to his room.

He didn’t let the angry tears that pricked at his eyes fall until he was safely in the arms of his bodyguard, wrapped up and tucked away. Keith purred softly to comfort him and it was natural and instinctive now for Lance to attempt to replicate the sound.

He hid his face in Keith’s collarbone and for a long moment they rocked back and forth, just holding one another and being held, before Lance dared to break the news.

Keith looked as upset by it as Lance was.


Lance had obeyed, though, and had begun taking Tamra out on these little… dates, he supposed. Mostly he took her nice places, paid for everything, and listened silently as she ranted on and on about things. One day, though, something she said was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or, more accurately, the comment that snapped any kind of sympathy or forced affection he might have for the admittedly beautiful woman.

“What is it like to have a disgusting Galra as a bodyguard? Wouldn’t you rather have an Altean guard instead of a Galran? Especially a runt like that one?” She commented, voice loud and full of disdain, as they wandered through the royal gardens, arms linked. It had been intentional for Keith to hear that, since he was tailing the two (as was his duty) a respectful distance away. Lance immediately went stiff, but after a quick glance back at Keith revealed hunched shoulders and a resigned look of acceptance in his eyes, Lance snapped. He never wanted to see Keith look like that again.

“You shall not speak of my guard like that!” Lance snapped, ripping his arm out of Tamra’s and glaring at her fiercely. She and Keith both seemed startled by this, but now that Lance was going, he wasn’t going to stop unless he had to. “He is mine and not yours! Never will be, either.” He snapped, jabbing an angry finger in her direction.

Some part of him knew he was throwing a fit, and an even larger part of him was pleased by it, and by the expression on her face. “You are not my fiancée and I refuse to marry someone idiotic enough to speak of my closest friend like that!” He snapped angrily, whirling around before Tamra could recover and seizing Keith by the wrist, dragging him away.

Lance stormed for the secret Blade base reasonably close but well-disguised, hidden from even Alfor’s eyes. How did he know of it? Well, he’d been basically raised by Krolia, and even she had to be called into the main base sometimes. Most Galra there knew and had even occasionally helped raise him, so if he and Keith needed a safe place, that was probably their best bet.

Keith seemed to snap out of the stunned silence that Lance’s words had put him into. “Did.. you really do that, Lance? Reject your fiancée? Your father’s going to be upset.” His ears lowered and then flattened, voice quieting some. “It’s fine. People talk about me like that all the time.”

“Keith.” Lance turned, voice somehow managing to be both stern and soft. Was that a thing? Somehow, Lance was doing it. “Don’t you ever talk down about yourself to me.” He told his bodyguard, drawing him into a tight hug. Keith buried his face in his shoulder and squeezed back in return as Lance went on speaking.

“You are so, so important to me, Keith.” He breathed, voice much quieter and all softness now. “So very important. You don’t know how much.” Lance shook his head.

“I refuse to allow someone like her to talk poorly about you, my one and only friend. You and Krolia are the only ones alive that truly understand me.” Lance was starting to blink moisture from his eyes, leaning to whisper into Keith’s ear now. “Keith… you mean the world to me. Haven’t I told you that?”

Lance finally pulled back from the hug, but gripped Keith’s hand tightly in his own, tugging him toward the Blade base. When he hurried inside, he was immediately calling out- “Krolia! Krolia!

Krolia burst out of the strategy room, eyes wide and a sword in her hand as if to attack something. Her brow furrowed in confusion and concern when she spotted Lance and Keith, especially with the blush on her son's face. "Lance? Keith? What's wrong?" The Galran woman towered over both her son and the prince, but that didn't stop her from approaching. She sheathed her blade, looking the two of them over for injuries. "Where's the emergency?" She.. couldn't see any injuries, but something had to be up.

Technically, Lance wasn't even supposed to be here, but every Blade here had been stationed here for a while and had seen him as a child. Some of them had even helped babysit Lance when Krolia was otherwise occupied, or to give her time for a nap.

"It's... a long story." Keith started, squeezing Lance's hand tightly for a long moment. His mother didn't miss this and her lips pursed, a frown coming to her face.

"Luckily for you two, I have time. Explain." She beckoned them after her, though. They were going toward her quarters, the ones she technically shared with her deceased mate... And the ones that were soundproofed, so that no one could hear what was being discussed.

Once they had stepped into Krolia’s quarters, Lance pulled up a chair for Keith, then Krolia and a final one for himself. Then he finally let everything spill - besides his confusion over what gender he liked. Keith had added little details to Lance's story when he needed it, while Krolia had nodded and listened with a frown on her face.

Lance was in tears again at the end of it, and a tiny thunder cloud was forming above him, lurking around his head like some kind of misty crown that occasionally crackled with lightning. It was a clear sign that he was extremely stressed and frustrated.

Once he was done, he hesitated a heartbeat before rising from his seat, standing behind Keith’s. The small Galran flicked his ears but stilled and then settled when Lance covered them, effectively deafening him.

Keith didn’t flinch despite the missing sense, even shutting his eyes and leaning back into his chair and subsequently, Lance’s hands. The prince spoke softly to Krolia about his sexuality crisis, and she chuckled fondly as she informed him that yes, someone could like both genders, and it was very normal if he did. The storm above his head had long since abated.

Krolia told Lance that she, herself was like this - bisexual, she called it. Lance couldn’t help the smile that broke out onto his face.

He nuzzled the top of Keith’s head after a moment, and the small Galran cracked a little smile. Krolia’s heart softened even further.

Lance released Keith’s ears from the gentle covering, allowing him to hear again. One twitched slightly and his eyes flitted back open.

“I can’t believe who my father wants me to marry,” Lance eventually admitted, dropping into his chair again with a huff as he made an effort to get back onto topic. “She’s.. She a racist! She hates the Galra for no reason!” He threw his hands up, teeth gritted and expression something that was almost pouty . Lance couldn’t really be blamed, considering the circumstance, but Keith couldn’t shake the thought that it was absolutely adorable.

He shook his head a little to clear it. “She’s a miserable excuse for a decent person. I hate her.” Again with the pouting!

Keith shook his head a little. “I’m so sorry, Lance.” There was nothing any of them could do, and they were all very much aware of it, sitting in silence for a long moment. “You don’t deserve that life.”

Krolia hesitated a long moment. “Kits…” She began quietly, “There may be a way.”

“What is it?” Lance’s head snapped up immediately, brows furrowed and bright eyes serious.

“It’s risky.” Krolia warned. Keith’s ears twitched, eyes narrowed and head tipped slightly to one side. The catlike youth was focused intently on whatever this was, since his mother hadn’t told him about some apparent, magical plan to get Lance’s fiancee to reject him.

“I’ll do it.” Lance’s voice was firm. “I’ll do anything to get away from her. Maybe it’s petty, but I want to marry for love, not because my father things someone would make a good wife for me.”

“We must do this very carefully. Listen to me closely, kits.”


“Keith, please, I need to talk to you.” Lance pulled his bodyguard aside once they had reached the royal gardens, expression serious and blue eyes stormy, though there were no true storms to show his troubles.

His bodyguard turned to him, brow furrowed and purple gaze alert. “What is it?”

“Keith, I…” He hesitated, backing the Galran up against the leg of a grand pillar made of white stone, something that made up part of the structure of the garden. Keith’s back was pressed to it, one of Lance’s hands came down on one side of his head, and the prince’s body blocked any other escape he might have had. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to escape, especially not when Lance took hold of his chin.

It was dark now, and they stood alone in the moonlight, which made Lance’s hair, eyes and markings seem to glow.

Keith’s eyes really were glowing.

Lance’s thumb smoothed over his skin, and his eyes half-lidded. Keith felt himself relax into the touch, though he wasn’t entirely sure what this was yet. He even reached up, resting one hand on Lance’s chest, just above his heart. It gave him some measure of confidence to know that Lance’s heart raced just as quickly as his own.

“We don’t have much time,” The prince whispered to him, and he found he was leaning closer. Keith must be leaning forward, too, because the tips of their noses knocked gently.

“Keith, I-”

Lance was cut off by the heavy steps of the palace guard, patrolling the gardens for intruders. The Altean prince muffled a curse, shifting to grip Keith around the waist and then dragging him into thick brush. The plant closed the gap they had left, and even left a small, sheltered hollow on the inside for the duo, though they were pressed close. Keith wasn’t sure how intelligent these plants were, or even what they were at all, but they owed them.

Lance opened his mouth to speak, but Keith could still hear the guards, so he brought a finger to the prince’s lips. Both of their cheeks burst into flame and Keith drew his hand back as if it had been burned.

A long moment later, Lance pulled the two of them out of the brush. “Keith…” He tried again, and again they were bathed in moonlight, though there were flower petals in Keith’s long hair and a few wild, stray twigs caught in Lance’s outfit.

The prince opened his mouth to speak, then hesitated. “I want you to know that everything I do for Tamra.. It’s fake. All of it.” He spoke firmly, with conviction.

Keith wasn’t sure why that made him feel so much better.

Lance walked back into the castle with a bouquet of flowers for Tamra and pretty apologies on his lips, a cheap excuse of ‘stress’ and other such troubles on his tongue to make up for speaking to her in that manor. Alfor was not pleased, but he could not argue with his son. At least, not this publically.

Lance and Keith retired quickly, and then began the plotting.

For many long days and many long nights, they suffered together. Lance dealt with taking Tamra, who was quickly revealing herself as a rather nasty woman, out on dates every two days, and Keith dealt with her terrible, disgusting racism toward the Galra.

Keith and Lance had grown nigh inseparable, even moreso than before, and Keith had begun to set the stage for their grand escape. Lance had been obedient, more than ever, as had Keith- though the Galran bodyguard ran a great deal of ‘errands’ to give Lance ‘privacy with his fiancee’. They both knew what those errands really were. Krolia knew what those errands really were. No one else knew what those errands really were.

The hardest part about this, though, was that Tamra refused to be seen with Keith, and was demanding more and more of Lance’s time.

That was fine. This was fine. Keith and Lance were determined to work through it, they meant too much to one another to not.

Lance returned one night, collapsing into a bed that was not his own with a groan. He disturbed the body that laid there, though sleep had not yet found Keith.

“Long day?” The Galran questioned, tipping his head slightly to one side.

Lance let out an exhausted, breathless laugh. “You’d never believe me if I told you.”

Keith shrugged, rolling out of bed and tugging Lance along with him. “Come on. You’re not sleeping in those clothes again, you’ll sleep so restlessly you’ll roll on top of me.”

At the potential for cuddles, Lance brightened a little, allowing Keith to lead him forward and then shove a pair of pajamas at him. He was elated to discover that Keith, too, was wearing pajamas for once. As soon as Lance stripped and changed, he was the one tugging Keith forward, and they crashed into his larger, fancy bed with childlike giggles. They were still quite young, though it seemed everyone on the entirety of Altea seemed determined to forget or ignore that.

Lance batted at Keith’s ears and Keith tickled his nose with his tail and then Lance jumped straight to tickling, going after Keith’s vulnerable armpits- maybe he should have been less childish, but he liked the way he lit up, chest shaking with happy laugher. Lance was happy, too, and laughing, though he wasn’t the one being tickled.

When Lance released his best friend from the torture (and was freed from his own bought in return) they collapsed, side-by-side and wearing twin, beaming smiles. They were both beginning to fade from the waking world, though.

“Hey, Keith?”

“Mmmmhh?”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Neither one seemed to think those statements held any more weight than they’d had when they were young. Neither one seemed to guess at the heavy weight of the other’s heart.


 Lance found himself strolling through the royal gardens without a leech hanging off his arm for the first time in quite a while, and today he was determined to enjoy it. He committed his favorite flowers to memory, their scents, their shapes, the texture of their petals and leaves.

He had planned out his entire life on Altea when he was a kit. He was going to be the king, and he’d thought Keith was going to be right at his side the whole time, walking beside him as he took the throne, protecting him from all dangers.

He supposed that part of that would be true. Keith was going to be beside him the whole time, at least.

Lance was giving up the life he had been able to lead here on Altea, the safety and security of knowing his future was planned out for him. And, even directly facing all his worries, Lance couldn’t find himself regretting any part of this plan- aside from, probably, not executing it sooner.

He was a little scared of the future, he’d admit it. Altea had always cast a bright blue light over his future, though he had always walked in the shadow on the massive planet, the castle, his father.

But with the help of two Galra that he trusted with his life, he was being helped to take that great big leap into the sun, able to make choices for himself now. Able to dress himself and do his own thing. So things simply because he so desired it, not because someone wanted him to do a certain something.

No longer would his younger sibling be loved more than he was, so obviously spoiled in comparison to him. If Alfor loved Allura so much, fine. She could be the queen. Wasn’t like anyone would be complaining, not even the princess.

Allura seemed to need someone to knock her down a peg. She was a child, two and a half years Lance’s younger, but that still meant she was sixteen now. Certainly old enough to understand responsibilities, and the difficulty of ruling an entire kingdom- or being prepared to rule one, in the case of her brother.

And yet she acted like all of the shortcomings in the land were Lance’s fault! He wasn’t even in power yet!

Fine. Whatever. He didn’t care.

Prince Lance of Altea didn’t matter, anyway. Pretty soon, he’d be Lance of nowhere.

He had never found the concept of being completely powerless so amazing before, but now that he had the potential for that, he was elated about it.

He paused at the sound of footsteps, delicate Altean ears twitching.

It was Keith.

“Lance,” He offered by way of greeting, stepping up to the prince’s side.

The moonlight from the gardens made his hair seem darker, and gave his skin an almost silvery tone.

“Keith.” He greeted in return, voice soft, but tired in a way that he didn’t like to show so obviously. Keith’s concern leaked into his eyes, and after a moment their hands seemed to gravitate together, a comfort for the both of them.

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Lance admitted, reaching up and running a hand through his hair. His lips pursed.

Keith nodded his agreement. “Neither can I.” He offered, some small comfort to the both of them. They knew the way that they were being treated here on Altea was intolerable, and that there wasn’t much that could be done to ease the heavy weights on their shoulders.

There wasn’t anything that they weren’t already doing, at least.

“We’ll be free soon.” Lance murmured, ambling through the gardens, though his gaze was turned skyward. Keith hummed his agreement, pacing at his side.

Eventually their wanderings took them from the gardens to somewhere else- they reached Altea’s majestic Juniberry fields, and there the moonlight glowed down on them. Lance’s eyes and Altean markings glowed, and Keith’s eyes were bright enough that they almost cast light upon the rest of his face.

“Keith.” Lance murmured eventually, his heart racing in his chest. He’d sat on this for far too long, it was time to come clean to the person he loved most in the world. He turned to face him, gently gripping both of Keith’s hands in his own. “I.. need to tell you something.”

He needed to buckle down and just do it!

“You can tell me anything, Lance.” His best friend assured, glowing eyes soft and concerned. Gods, he wanted to kiss him.

He took a deep, shuddering breath. “I understand if this… changes things between us.” He started, and felt Keith squeeze his hands gently, coaxing him to go on. “But I can’t keep lying to myself. Lying to you.”

He could tell that Keith was worried about what he was going to say now, his ears had lowered just a little, but his eyes remained supportive and he hadn’t pulled his hands away.

“I love you.” It had been hard to choke out, and hung heavy on his chest where he allowed it to hang in the air. Keith was caught in a stunned silence for a moment, well aware that this revelation of affection was nothing like their past. Their prior. This was not the innocent affection of two kits raised together, this was something more… mature, more adult. As Keith and Lance had grown and changed, their feelings had grown and changed with them. Not so long ago, Keith had told Lance that he was never getting married, and Lance had agreed. They’d told one another that they’d go on to be the most popular bachelors in the Universe, like those books Lance and Keith had read. Lance would have all the girls chasing after him, and Keith all the guys, but they wouldn’t be interested in that. They’d be in it for the adventure and not the fame.

“And I know,” Lance had to clear his throat and swallow hard, “That it’s a little sudden, and I don’t expect you to return the feelings.” He looked over at Keith, who still looked shocked as if he’d been struck.

“I just couldn’t go on without you knowing it.”

Keith pulled his hands out of Lance’s, and for a split second, he felt like he was going to cry. Until he felt chapped lips press to his own, and oh that suddenly made things much more okay again.

Lance took advantage of his now free-hands to wrap his arms around Keith’s waist and draw him close, and the short little Galran’s arms laced around his neck. The kiss could have lasted hours or it could have been mere seconds, but Lance wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone. He couldn’t think of anything else when he had his very best friend in the world in his arms, when he was holding him so tenderly and allowing himself to be held in return. He reached up and threaded one hand into Keith’s hair, using his height to his advantage to loom over the small Galran. What he wouldn’t give for there to be a nearby wall to press him against-

Lance was forced to remind himself of their situation when Keith’s lips broke away from him, and suddenly he discovered that the both of them were breathless and panting. He licked at his lips and saw Keith’s face get redder, but for a moment, their breath lingered, a silver mist in the cold moonlight of Altea.

“I love you, too.”

Lance kissed him again, and this time it was far less gentle.


Keith and Lance had been buzzing with energy all day despite all of their attempts to hide it. Lance had a plan to get the three of them out without getting caught, and he, Keith and Krolia had packed up everything they’d be needing.

“Come on, come on!” They stole through the secret maze of corridors now, Keith and Lance, hauling the last load of their things to the Altean research pod they had commandeered. Krolia waited there already, and together they bolted up the ramp of the ship.

“They’ll know as soon as we activate the ship. Do you have everything?” Krolia spun the pilot’s seat around to face them, meeting the very serious gazes of both boys.

“Yes.” Keith confirmed.

“Yeah, we do.” Lance echoed, putting an arm around his bodyguard. “We have everything we’ll need.”

Keith tucked himself into Lance’s side with a contented purr, eyes closing.. Lance wrapped him up in his arms completely, turning his gaze to Krolia as she turned on the ship. The bay doors still opened for her, the automated machinery hadn’t figured out that this flight was unauthorized, and out they flew. Very quickly the ship was contacted by confused flight staff, but Krolia ignored it.

Ships were sent out after them, and that was when Lance and Keith split from their embrace. Keith joined his mother up front, piloting the vessel, and then Lance stepped back to the Altean-only controls, which he gently set his hands upon. “Ready jump. Prepare to wormhole.”

“Wormhole ready. Let’s go, kits.”

Lance closed his eyes, and his markings glowed a brilliant blue. As soon as the wormhole opened, they were fired upon. Keith fired back in ways to make sure that the vessels chasing them were not damaged so badly the pilots were at risk of death, but they certainly had to land back on Altea.

They zoomed through the wormhole, out in empty space.

Later that night, Lance had his arms around Keith, and they stared out the observatory window. Keith leaned back into his mate’s chest, and Lance’s hands rubbed small circles into his stomach.

It was just the four of them now.

Krolia, Keith, Lance, and the new lifeform that the mates had created between them.


Two months later, Altea was destroyed.