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Lance isn’t really sure when he fell in love with Keith.

When he looks back on Allura, there are so many moments he can think of. He can point each of them out, count them on his fingers easily. The first time he saw her. The feeling in his chest when she complimented him after his bayard change. The look in her eyes when she saved him. The blush dotting her cheeks when she told him to be careful. Their first kiss. Their last one.

With Keith, he fell slowly, like drifting off to sleep.

It’s the warm, fond look in Keith’s eyes right before he wraps the other boy in a hug, all bony angles and desperate hands. It’s the familiar way sharpshooter rolls off his tongue, raspy but flowing smooth like honey. It’s the way Keith can make Lance feel at home in a way he hasn’t known since they left Earth all those years ago.

It’s the way he doesn’t realize he thinks of Keith first when he gets up, not Allura, until it’s a habit.

It’s the way he starts thinking of Keith as his future instead of the past he had with Allura.

 

--

 

Lance doesn’t remember much of the first months after the final battle. Everything back then felt like it was underwater. People floated by, maybe saying something, maybe not; he could never hear anything over the static in his ears, anyways. He remembers only flashes: tears falling thick onto the small stuffed blue lion; his mom thumbing over still-burning the Altean marks; sickly-sweet flowers falling onto an empty casket; and the thick, stifling darkness of his room in Cuba when he woke up in the middle of the night, tears streaming down his face and Allura’s name on his lips.

He remembers Keith showing up one day. Remembers the other boy holding him when he woke up from another nightmare. Remembers him comforting Lance when he finally, finally said all the words he’d been holding in since Allura died.

He remembers his head breaking the surface after so long.

Picking up the pieces of his life is a slow process, and it has a lot of setbacks. Sometimes Lance looks at the picture on his bedside table and wants to cry. Other times, he wants to throw it against the wall and watch it shatter into a thousand pieces. But he does his best. He calls Shiro, finds that Keith was right and they do have a lot more in common than he’d thought. Goes to a therapist. Laughs with his family, who look so relieved the first time he does it that they might cry. Has weekly spa days with Hunk over video chat where they just talk about anything. Visits the Garrison every once and a while and hangs out with Pidge and Matt, even if it’s just to meme at someone in person.

He talks to Keith, too.

He knows the other boy is busy, but somehow they always find time for each other at least once a week. Though they’ve been a lot closer since he came back from the space whale, they never really had much time to just talk back then, now matter how much Lance had wanted to.

If he has to put a time to this whole thing, he thinks it might’ve started then, smiling at each other from opposite ends of the universe.

 

--

 

Lance notices the suit first.

It’s not really anything new; Lance has seen Keith in Blade uniform more times than he’d like to count, but it’s a new suit this time, and for some reason Lance can’t stop looking at him. While Lance generally prefers seeing Keith in paladin armor, he has to admit that Keith looks good in Blade gear, and this one in particular. The blue cowl makes his shoulders look even broader. The grey detailing draws attention to each swell of muscle on Keith’s torso and arms. Somehow, he thinks Keith must’ve gotten even more ripped, if possible.

Here’s the thing: Keith is one attractive dude. Lance has eyes, you know. He can tell when a guy is handsome, knows that a lot of the guys he’s surrounded with are above average attractiveness. But Keith in particular has always been ridiculously pretty, even back at the Garrison. There was always something about the sharpness of his features, the shifting colour of his eyes, the fluid grace with which he moved. (Lance has been trying to figure out the exact colour of Keith’s eyes for about four years now. He still isn’t sure.)

Keith is as beautiful as he is dangerous. When Keith first got the Red Lion, Lance thought it was fitting: just like fire, Red’s element, Keith was deadly and breathtaking. And even though Keith’s temper has definitely improved since his Garrison days, there’s still something about him that feels so wild, so unpredictable, so integrally Keith.

And then Keith left, and then he came back, and Lance remembers that despite the space wolf and the alien mom and all the horrible Altean colony stuff, he could only focus on the broadened line of Keith’s shoulders, the new muscles clinging to his arms and thighs, the flare of his hips. (Also, the height. Lance, for some reason, couldn’t even find it in him to be mad that they’re the same height now.)

Just like he’s doing right now.

Bigger, cooler, grizzled just about summed it up. Embarrassing as it may have been for the words to slip out of his mouth back then, they were true. And Lance isn’t sure if it’s the dizzying adrenaline from the interstellar race they just finished, or the residual warmth from Keith’s never-ending support, but somehow, bigger, cooler, grizzled is even truer now.

“Why do you keep looking at me?” Keith asks, shifting a little uncomfortably beside him. Despite becoming fairly used to leadership by now, Keith still hates attention. (Sometimes when they’re in public, Lance likes to shout out that Keith is the Black Paladin just so he can see the sheer panic on Keith’s face when people mob him. Keith threatened to wear his skin as a cloak last time he did it, but Lance likes to live on the dangerous side of life.)

Lance coughs to clear the sudden knot in his throat. “Just admiring the new suit,” he says, not really sure if that’s an appropriate excuse, but it’s better than you look more muscular than before and I can’t get over it. “Looks different.”

Keith, thankfully, buys it, and nods. “Got promoted for the peacekeeping stuff, so Kolivan gave me a new suit.”

“Ooh,” Lance says, faking a gasp, “does that mean you’re one of the big boys now?”

Keith rolls his eyes. “I may only be half Galra, but I can still dropkick you across this planet.”

That is… an interesting proposition, and Lance isn’t quite sure why it makes his brain short-circuit for a moment. Could Keith actually throw him? Once, when they were play wrestling back home, Keith grabbed Lance and swung him over his shoulder like he was nothing. The dude is strong. He probably could. Huh.

It takes Lance a minute to realize he’s blushing. “Uh,” he says finally, like a real idiot. “I’m good.”

(Ridiculous, Red grumbles as they leave Daibazaal later, Keith’s face still stuck in his head. Both of you. Stupid.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lance asks, but Red doesn’t respond.)

 

--

 

(He’s catching up with Hunk and Pidge when he remembers it. “Do you guys think Keith has gotten bigger?” he asks suddenly, leaning back. “Like, more muscular? Is that even possible? He said he could throw me across a planet, which, like, is physically impossible, but how far do you think he could actually throw me?”

Hunk puts his head in his hands. Pidge fixes him with the deadest stare she can muster. “You’re a disaster,” she says, and ends the call.)

 

--

 

He’s in the middle of debating Matt about the cultural importance of an old, awful fanfiction when Keith calls, and it startles him enough that he accidentally throws his communicator across his room. He scrambles to catch it, typing out a quick brb don’t think i’m done w u u HEATHEN to Matt before hitting connect.

“Hey, Lance,” Keith says, smiling softly—a rare occurrence, but thankfully one Lance is seeing more and more of these days—and for some reason, Lance feels his face flush. Keith’s brow creases in response. “You alright?”

“Yeah, sorry,” he coughs, shaking his head a little. “You startled me. Kinda yeeted my communicator across the room. All good.”

Keith snorts. “Glad to see nothing’s changed.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lance retorts, but there’s no heat to it. He hasn’t had to compete with Keith for years.

They talk for a little while about silly stuff, and then Keith drops the bomb on him.

“The Blades and I have our first humanitarian mission next week,” he says all in a rush, the words jumbling together. Lance frowns, a little concerned. “I was wondering if you wanted to come with us?”

Lance feels the world stop for a second.

He won’t deny that he’s gotten a lot better, that he doesn’t wake up every night now with flashbacks of Allura and battle and death. That he can breathe without his chest feeling heavy with pain. But the thought of putting himself back in that armor, with a weapon strapped to his hip is… not a good one. He isn’t quite sure what’ll happen if someone yells too loud, or he says something wrong, or a fight breaks out, or, or, or.

He also doesn’t know how to do any of this without Allura, because she was always the one there to guide them through situations like this, always the one to step in when his mouth moved faster than his brain and things went sideways.

Lance’s grief is a lot easier to deal with after all this time. He misses Allura every day, but in the way an old wound twinges when you move it the wrong way. But in a situation like this that’s rife with so many memories, when her absence can’t get any more obvious, he’s not sure what’ll happen.

“Keith,” he says finally. “I… I don’t know.”

“Do you want to?”

Lance bites his lip. The first answer that comes to mind is yes, because he likes helping people, likes meeting people, likes being a paladin, likes feeling like he has a purpose. “Yes,” he admits, looking away from Keith’s face. It’s too understanding, too soft. Lance doesn’t know how to deal with it. “I just don’t know if I’m ready yet.”

“That’s alright,” Keith says, because Lance knows that if anyone is going to get it, it would be Keith. “Like I said, Lance, whenever you’re ready.” He tells Lance the time and place, just in case Lance changes his mind, and then hangs up.

(Lance spends a week debating whether or not to go. In the end, he wakes up the day before, sees the picture of all of them in front of Allura’s statue, and makes up his mind. He meets Keith outside right on time, and Keith has the stupidest, softest smile on his face, and Lance feels all warm as he says some ridiculous line that everyone rolls their eyes at.)

 

--

 

It’s new, but it’s familiar, too. There’s something about him and Keith going on a mission together that just feels so normal. Lance doesn’t think he’s known normal for a long time, except when he has Keith by his side. Through everything, Keith has always been there. He was the one to pull Lance out of his grief, to teach him how to laugh again, to heal.

Lance tries to tell him that, gratitude deep in every vein, but there’s something about the fond look on Keith’s face that makes him feel too gooey inside, so he’s not too sure the words get across.

If he was paying attention, this would be the second sign.

 

--

 

The ponytail is the last straw.

He’s not really sure why it’s that, exactly. But he catches sight of Keith’s hair tied back and something in his brain stops working. Keith with a mullet is (somehow) nice, not that he’d ever let the man in question know. Keith with long hair is nice. But Keith with a ponytail is nice. Very nice.

It’s about then that he realizes that his feelings for Keith, hair and all, are not as platonic as he’d thought. Surprisingly, the realization doesn’t feel nearly as startling as it should be.

He can feel himself stumbling over his words, knows he’s blushing, knows he’s too obvious. Knows Keith has always been able to see through him when it matters. It’s all he can do to try and act as normal as possible and get off the call as quickly as he can, his heartbeat echoing in his ears.

Shit.

He doesn’t know how long he sits in his Lion without moving. Red is patient, thankfully, though he detects an undercurrent of amusement in his mind.

Of all the people to have a dumb crush on, he thinks, something like panic edging the words, of course it had to be a stupid boy with a mullet.

It is… a lot. He’s not really sure which to process first: the fact that after years of thinking Allura was going to be his one and only love, he has a crush on someone else; or that it’s not a girl; or that it’s Keith, his former enemy and ex-leader and now best friend.

Lance rockets up, scrambling for his handheld. Hunk. No matter how exasperated the man gets with him, Hunk has always (well, almost always) been there for Lance. If anyone can talk him through this, it’s the guy who helped him elaborately ask out Sarah Suarez in second grade and then sit with him while he cried over the rejection.

To: Hunkules

hunk

hunk

is it gay to want to run ur hands thru ur friend’s mullet ponytail bc it looks real silky and n i c e

hunk

hunk im serious im having a CRISIS

Hunk doesn’t respond for one long minute, and then a video chat request pops up. Lance hits accept immediately, and then freezes.

Look. Lance has seen about every possible degree of done-ness on Hunk’s face, but this might take the cake.

“Lance,” Hunk says slowly, “two weeks ago you told me how firm Keith’s butt looked in the Blade suit.”

“I was admiring his figure,” Lance hisses automatically, scandalized. “The man is buff, dude.”

Hunk raises an eyebrow. “Three months ago, you freaked out at the idea that he could drop-kick you.”

“I was shook! By his strength!”

“The last time the three of us hung out together,” Hunk continues, pinching the bridge of his nose now, “Keith beamed at you and you tripped over your feet.”

“The ground was uneven!”

“When Keith dropped off the grid for a week while on a mission, you called me twenty times panicking and wondering if he was okay.”

“That was friendly concern!”

Hunk leans forward, completely, utterly serious now. “No, Lance, it wasn’t. And you know it.”

(It is five months ago, and Lance feels warm when his eyes meet Keith’s through the screen as they fly through space.)

(It is one year ago, and Lance is running into the kitchen to tell his mama that Keith is coming to visit, a grin nearly splitting his face in two.)

(It is two years ago, and Keith is the only reason Lance has smiled since Allura.)

(It is three years ago, and Lance is telling Bob that Keith is the future, no hesitation.)

(It is four years ago, and Keith is the first person Lance goes to when he needs comfort.)

(It is five years ago, and they are holding hands, and Lance tells him that they make a good team.)

(It is eight years ago, and there is a new kid at the Garrison, and Lance can’t stop looking at him.)

Lance thinks of the way his breath gets caught in his throat when Keith smiles at him, and the feeling of contentment that comes with it. He thinks of the bitterness he felt when Keith left and the strange relief when Keith came back. He thinks of the way he reeled when Keith said he was gay and couldn’t figure out why.

Lance’s head drops onto the console. “No,” he whispers. “It wasn’t.”

Hunk laughs. When Lance looks back up, he’s shaking his head. “Oh man, Pidge was right. You are a disaster,” Hunk says, but his voice is fond.

“Love you too,” Lance grumbles, collapsing back in his chair.

“You know I love you, Lance,” Hunk says, because Lance does. “And I’d love to have a little gossip sesh later, but I gotta finish this dinner for the meeting with Queen Luxia first, and I have to make sure it’s perfect.” He pauses. “You’re heading up to the Garrison soon, right? You should talk to Shiro.”

Hunk has a point. He’s been talking to Shiro a lot over the last few years, at first to both commiserate and figure out how to heal after Allura, but he likes to think they’ve both helped each other. And become pretty good friends in the process, too. “Good idea,” he says, and then smirks. “Space Daddy always gives the best advice.”

Lance watches the shadow fall over Hunk’s face as the words register. “I take it back. I regret everything that has led up to this moment,” Hunk says, breathing sharply through his nose. “Lance, can’t you ever say anything normal?”

Lance just winks and hangs up.

 

--

 

“So,” he says when Shiro opens the door, looking a little confused. Lance is, after all, a good hour and a half early to the Garrison for the talk he’s supposed to give later, and he’s built a reputation on arriving everywhere at the last possible moment. “I need to talk to you.”

Shiro’s eyebrows go up, but he nods, stepping back to let Lance in. “I’ve got a few minutes.”

Lance follows Shiro over to the couch, sinking down onto it gratefully as Shiro settles into what Lance has dubbed his Therapist Chair. “All right,” Shiro says, and then grabs the pair of glasses sitting on the coffee table, settling them onto his nose with little grace. Lance snorts. “What’s on your mind?”

So. Here’s the thing. Lance has… not thought this through.

He can’t exactly tell Shiro that he saw his younger brother and lost all brain function. Hey Shiro, I just realized the kid you basically raised is super hot and I kind of want him to slam me against a wall now. No.

Shiro’s waiting patiently, eyes curious. Lance tries again. Hey Shiro, after assuming I was straight for my entire life, I suddenly realized dudes are really pretty, specifically those with bad tempers and even worse hair. Hey Shiro, Keith could punch me in the face and I’d thank him. Hey Shiro, I’m having a big gay crisis. Hey Shiro, I think I like guys.

That’s it, he thinks, and opens his mouth.

Except what comes out is, “Keith has a ponytail and I wanna die.”

Shiro is doing an awful job of hiding a smirk. Lance’s eyes widen when his words register and he immediately drops his head into his hands, screeching. “That’s not what—díos, that’s not what I meant to say—fuck me gently with a chainsaw—”

Lance,” Shiro reprimands, but it’s more amused than anything else.

“Pidge said it first,” he says quickly, voice still muffled by his hands, and then, right after, “you’re not my dad.”

“Jesus,” Shiro says, but Lance thinks Shiro catches the panic in his voice because he adds, “just take a deep breath and try again when you’re ready, Lance. We’ve got time.”

It takes Lance exactly thirty seconds to raise his head from his hands. Thankfully, Shiro’s rearranged his features into something mostly blank by then, though Lance knows he’s still trying not to laugh. “I think,” he starts again, biting his lip. “I think I like guys, too? I don’t know? This is very new for me? Like—” he checks his communicator— “four hours new?”

“Okay,” Shiro says carefully. “You know that’s okay, right?”

“Yeah,” he says immediately, because his sister is a “big fat lesbian” (her words), and Keith and Shiro are some of his best friends, and he’s never had a problem with any of them, but. “It’s just—it’s not what…”

“What you expected to happen?” Shiro finishes, smiling softly.

Lance nods. “Just… I’ve always been about girls. That was my thing. Loverboy Lance.”

“That’s fair,” Shiro says. “But you’ve never just been Loverboy Lance. You’ve been the blue paladin, the red paladin. Fighter pilot. Sharpshooter. A brother. A friend. Even just a boy from Cuba. You can be many things at once.”

Lance stretches out on the couch, keeping his eyes trained on the ceiling. “How did you know? That you were gay?”

“Oh,” Shiro says, and suddenly there’s a small air of awkwardness about him. “I, uh, didn’t for a long while? Matt told me one day that I just stopped working every time an attractive guy looked at me, and then I just kind of… realized that wasn’t how most guys reacted to other guys.” He pauses for a second. “I maybe didn’t realize Adam and I were dating until Adam called me his boyfriend?”

“Oh my god,” Lance says, kind of impressed. “Keith’s right. You really are a disaster gay.”

Shiro rolls his eyes. “Like he has any high ground here. I found out he was gay when he got detention for fighting because the other guy’s face was ‘too pretty’. He was, like fourteen, and his automatic response to feeling attraction was punch.

“Wow,” Lance whistles. That’s the guy you have a stupid crush on. Lance can’t find it in him to be exasperated. “Sounds like him.”

Shiro chuckles. “He grew out of it, thankfully. But back to you.” He leans forward. “There’s no right way to find out you’re not straight. It’s different for everyone, and it can be even harder when you like more than one gender. It took Curtis a long time to realize he was bisexual because he thought you could only like one. But that’s not true. You know that, right? That it’s okay to like more than one?”

Lance nods. “Yeah,” he whispers. “it’s just… a lot. ‘Specially because it’s Keith.”

Shiro places a hand on Lance’s shoulder, warm and comforting. “It can be. But owning up to who you are makes you a better person.”

Lance laughs, though it’s a little wet this time. “You’ve been waiting to say that, haven’t you?”

“Maybe.” Shiro squeezes his shoulder. “I’m proud of you, Lance.”

“Thanks,” Lance says, and swallows hard. The Space Dad thing might be a joke, but Shiro actually is an extra father figure to him, and the praise means a lot.

“And Lance?”

“Yeah?”

“When I first started seeing Curtis, it felt almost like I was betraying Adam. But Keith reminded me that Adam would’ve wanted me to be happy above all else. So now I’m telling you that Allura would want you to be happy. Follow your heart, Lance. You deserve it.”

 

--

 

The speech goes surprisingly well. The cadets seem to hang onto his every word, and even some of the officials seem impressed.

But the entire time, the only thing Lance can think of is Keith’s stupid ponytail.

“Get it together, man,” he tells his reflection as he twists the taps off, wiping his hands on his uniform pants. His marks are glowing. He hated them for a long time, because they reminded him too much of Allura. Hated that all he had was these stupid blue crescents he couldn’t get away from. Once he tried to scrape them off, leaving his skin red raw. He doesn’t mind them so much anymore, though; now that the hurt has faded a little, he’s glad for anything to remember Allura by.

But right now, they make him feel more than a little guilty.

He loved Allura. From the moment he met her, he knew he was in love with her. Allura was beautiful and wicked smart and stronger than anyone ever knew, and he loved her. Lance’s mama always said he loved too quick and too deep, and that was how he loved Allura. But he likes Keith, too. Maybe even loves him. But it’s different. Allura was like the most spectacular adventure, and one that he thought would never end. But Keith… Keith is like coming home.

Would Allura be mad? Would she think that meant he didn’t love her after all? That he was just trying to hide what he felt for Keith?

Lance has always had so many unanswered questions when it comes to Allura. He thinks this is just going to be another one.

Allura would’ve wanted to you to happy, Shiro had said. Lance knows he’s right, but the guilt still lingers a little bit even when the door shuts behind him.

 

--

 

Lance finds Keith in Pidge’s lab, and can’t help the grin that spreads over his face when the other boy rushes up to him. Somewhere behind him, he hears Matt meme-wow and Pidge snort. He doesn’t really care.

Keith, he thinks, is even prettier up close.

He’s in deep.

 

--

 

Lance is in the middle of watching Keith scarf down his mama’s maduros—despite being the most emo asshole alive, Keith has the biggest sweet tooth Lance has ever come across—when Marco calls his name.

Entonces, Leandro,” he says, smirking wickedly, and Lance knows immediately that he’s been caught. “Si supiera que tu novio estaba visitando, habría vestido mejor.” Luis and Veronica, like the assholes they are, both start cackling.

Lance nearly chokes on his food. “No no no no no. ¡Cállate! No es mi novio. Somos aseres. No somos novios. ¿Por qué pensarías eso? Díos, Marco. ¡Cállate! No digas eso.” He wants to call his brother a swear word, but he knows his mama is listening, so he just calls him ugly instead, and has the sinking feeling he’s just doomed himself to an eternity of teasing.

(Luis and Veronica just cackle harder. Yeah, he has.)

 

--

 

He asks Keith later that night, when they’re lying in the field again. Lance comes here a lot nowadays; it’s hard after everything to not feel connected to the stars.

How did you know you liked boys?

Keith doesn’t say much. But Lance knows Keith is waiting for him to say something else, so he does. “I think I’m bi.” (He pretty much knows at this point, but it’s a lot easier to say I think right now instead of I know.)

Keith doesn’t say anything for a long moment, and Lance thinks he’s said something wrong, thinks maybe Keith doesn’t believe him. Then, he realizes Keith’s brow is furrowed, lips pressed together carefully. It’s the leader face, the diplomat face. He’s not angry; he’s trying to do his best to say the right words, even though words have never been his forte. For some reason, this gets Lance more than anything else.

“Cool,” Keith says finally. “Welcome to the non-straight club, my young padawan.”

Lance bursts out laughing, turning towards the other boy. He’s not quite sure what he expected, but Keith has a habit of surprising him in the best kind of way. (It also gives him an adorable mental image of a young Keith watching the Star Wars movies with Shiro and geeking out over them, but that’s neither here nor there.) “God, Keith, could you be any dorkier?”

“Do you wanna talk about it?” Keith asks carefully, touching Lance’s shoulder. There’s still humor on his face, but Lance can see the concern, too.

Lance bites his lip a little too hard. Keith flicks his nose to tell him to quit it, and Lance gives him a look. “I don’t know,” he says. “I always just… saw girls. I didn’t really think about anything else. It never occurred to me that there could be anything else.” He stops for a second. “And then there was Allura, and that was it. It was just her.” And for a long time, he thought it would only be her, that he’d never fall in love again. “But I don’t know anymore. Sometimes you just see something a little different one day and realize maybe it’s been there all along, you know?” He forces a grin, because even though his mama tells him he wears his heart on his sleeve, he’s never been good being this honest when it counts, and he’s pretty sure if he keeps talking he’s going to tell Keith all about the big fat crush he has on him. “Hey, maybe my hero worship for Shiro was a little more homoerotic than I thought, too. Have you seen the guns on that man?”

The line has its intended effect. “Oh my god, Lance, that’s my brother,” Keith hisses, shoving Lance away. Lance grabs his hands to hold him in place, laughing. He tries not to think too hard about the other boy’s hands in his, but it’s kind of the only thing he can think of right now. “Don’t ever say that to me again.”

“Duly noted, samurai.”

They go quiet for a while, both of them watching the stars above them. Keith’s hand is still in Lance’s, and his entire body is tingling a little, and the warmth of Keith’s hand is all Lance can focus on.

“Keith?”

“Yeah?”

Lance wonders if Keith feels the intimacy of this moment, too, of just the two of them staring up at the sky, holding hands. But he has to ask, because it’s been eating him alive.

“Do you think you can love two people at once?”

He hears Keith let out a long breath, but he squeezes Lance’s hand. “I think… I think you can love different people for different reasons but in equal ways. But that doesn’t mean any of those loves is lesser than the rest.”

Keith doesn’t have to say it; the implied Allura would want you to be happy, Lance, hangs in the balance between them, unspoken. The I want you to be happy, too does as well.

And for the first time, Lance finally believes both of them.

 

--

 

To: Hunkules

do u ever just look at someone and ur heart goes uwu

 

--

 

“How’s the crisis going?”

Lance doesn’t even bother looking up at Veronica from where he’s star-fished on the floor. Keith left about two hours ago, after about a week of him wearing Lance’s clothes and sleeping next to him under the glow-in-the-dark stars his mama stuck to his ceiling when he was ten, and look. There’s only so much soft, sleepy Keith that Lance can take, especially when the other boy is wearing his old softball t-shirts and looking far too at home in them. “How does it look like it’s going?”

“What a mood,” Veronica says, plopping down onto his back. Lance tries to throw her off, but she’s surprisingly heavy. “C’mon, tell your sister about your big gay panic.”

He shifts just enough to squint up at her. Veronica, ridiculous as she is, has always given off an air of coolness Lance has never been able to achieve, though that will never stop him from trying. “What about it?”

She swats the back of his head. “Cut the shit, Leandro. I recognize this stuff when I see it.” She pauses for a second. “I pity you right now, so I’m going to tell you a little story.” She gets off him, finally, and Lance pulls himself up beside her. “Before we got close, Acxa and I were sparring and she flipped me over her shoulder and onto the ground.” There’s a dreamy smile on her face. “I looked up, saw that she was crouched over me with the flat of her hand against my throat, and thought have my babies.

Lance muffles his laugh in the shoulder of his sweater. “Wow, okay.”

“This is a safe space,” Veronica says primly. “And don’t act like you don’t want to get roughed up by a half-Galra too, hermano.”

Lance thumps his head back against the wall. “Pidge told you, didn’t she?”

“Yep. Seems like you have a kink for aliens who can literally destroy you.”

Mierda. How long have you known?” He pauses. “Not the kink thing, the Keith thing.”

Veronica snorts. “You’re going to have to be a little more specific,” she says. “Do you mean when did I first get suspicious? Because if so, that would be the summer after your first year at the Garrison, when you wouldn’t stop complaining about the stupid emo boy with the mullet. But if you mean when did I first know you had a crush on Keith, that was when I asked you if Keith was single and you went on a two-minute rant about how stupid his hair and his love for knives is.” She stops for a moment. “Or, if you’re talking about when I realized you were in love with him, that would be about twenty-four hours ago, when you saw him playing with Nadia and Sylvio and had the dumbest smile on your face.”

Lance groans. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

She nods. “If it makes you feel better, I don’t think anyone else in the family noticed until about a week ago, when you freaked out over Marco referring to him as your boyfriend. Except Mama, of course, because she knows everything. But with the moon eyes the two of you have been giving each other for the last few months, I’m pretty sure everyone has some idea.”

“Do you think Allura knew?”

Veronica tilts her head up to the stars as she considers it. “I think she knew something. But even you didn’t know your own feelings about him. I doubt she would’ve realized entirely. But she knew you loved her, Lance.”

Lance blows out a long breath, fingers tapping against his knee with anxious energy. Veronica takes his hand in hers and stills it. “Sometimes what we want isn’t what we need. And if the last few years mean anything, you and Keith need each other.”

 

--

 

(Shiro calls to tell him that he’s engaged, and Lance screams at him in excitement, because he’s pretty sure he’s gonna cry if he doesn’t, and then Shiro asks him to be one of his groomsmen and he actually does cry. Look. He loves Shiro a lot and if anyone deserves to be happy, it’s him, and Lance is just happy he’s allowed along for the ride.

“No strippers at my wedding,” Shiro says, just as Matt texts him strippers??? yes or yes.

“Of course not,” Lance says, texting i like the way you think back to Matt.

“Somehow, I don’t believe you,” Shiro says, just like the dad he is.

He calls Keith after, and Keith’s eyes are pretty red too, so he doesn’t think he’s the only one who’s a little emotional.

“I have allergies,” Keith says when Lance asks him if he’s been crying, scowling at Lance. Lance raises an eyebrow. “Okay, fine, sue me. My idiot big brother is getting married and I’m proud of him, alright?”

“Heard you were Best Man,” he says instead of the tease he wants to say. “That’s a lot of responsibility.”

“I think I can handle it,” Keith snorts. “Shiro said he was gonna ask you and the others to be groomsmen, too. Also, you and Matt are definitely not allowed to hire strippers for his bachelor party. Shiro’s suffered enough.”

¡Madre mía!” Lance gasps in the best imitation of his tía he can muster. “How dare you. Matt and I are angels. Pure souls. Not a mischievous thought in sight.”

“Why don’t I believe you?” Keith says, looking torn between fondness and exasperation.

“You probably shouldn’t,” Lance says, and then cuts the call.

To: Mattematics

so we’re definitely going to try and hire a stripper, yeah?

From: Mattematics

tired brain: hire a stripper

wired brain: BE the stripper

To: Mattematics

MATT N O

 

--

 

He tells Matt and Pidge a couple weeks later, after another of his lectures. Matt, who’s “taking a break” beside him, fist-bumps him and says congrats. Pidge pulls her soldering mask up just enough for Lance to see her quirked eyebrow. “Neat. When are you gonna confess to Keith?”

Matt chokes on his water pack. “Pidge,” he says, even though Lance can tell he’s amused.

“What?” she says, shrugging. “We were all thinking it.”

“Let me guess,” Lance says, flopping onto the ground. “You guys already knew.”

“If it helps,” Matt says, poking Lance with his foot, “I only figured it out a couple months ago.”

“I’ve known for years,” Pidge says, like the gremlin she is.

“Why am I always the last one to figure this stuff out?” Lance sighs, turning his face into the floor.

“Because despite your many redeeming qualities, you can be pretty dense sometimes,” Pidge says helpfully.

Lance peeks up at her. “Was that a compliment?”

“Katie, I’m so proud,” Matt says, wiping away a fake tear.

Pidge fixes both of them with a look. “I take it back. Perish.”

“Bad gremlin,” Lance says, pointing at her. Pidge gives him the finger.

Matt coughs to hide his laugh. “Oh, hey, I almost forgot! Pidge hates my new hair and I think I look stunning as always. I need your opinion. Hunk says it’s nice, and Shiro says I look twelve.”

Lance squints. “Um. You looked better with the ponytail?”

“Oho,” Matt says.

“Ohohoho,” Pidge echoes, grinning.

Not for the first time, Lance feels like he’s missing something.

 

--

 

(Is this weird for you? Lance asks Red one day. Y’know, your current paladin having a crush on your former paladin? He pauses for a second. Now that I think about it, you’ve had a lot of non-straight paladins.

Bold of you to assume any paladin of mine has been straight, Red answers, something sly in his voice.

“WHAT?!”)

 

--

 

From: Samurai

i think veronica is teaching my lieutenants gay memes

today when we left for a mission ezor shouted “let’s go lesbians”, but only her and zethrid are lesbians?

Lance snorts, shaking his head fondly. Hunk, face lit up on the screen in front of him, wiggles his eyebrows as much as he can with a face mask over his features.

To: Samurai

as she should!!!

that’s what u get for associating w mcclains :)

“So,” Hunk says, dragging out the vowel. When Lance looks up, he’s still trying to smile despite the hardened mask. “What did Keith say?”

“Ronnie taught Ezor to say ‘let’s go lesbians’,” he says absently as another text comes through.

From: Samurai

there are worse things, i guess

:)

“HUNK,” Lance shouts, shoving the phone towards the screen. “HE SENT ME A SMILEY FACE. I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON.”

“The good ol’ Lancey Lance charm, I guess,” Hunk snorts, but his eyes are soft. “Y’know, as your best friend, it’s my job to tease you about this stuff, but I’m really glad I get the chance to do this again.”

Hunk,” he whines, “I’m already emotionally compromised! You can’t just throw that at me!”

“Looks like I just did,” Hunk says. “And I mean it. I’m happy for you, Lance.”

(The next time he goes on a mission, he makes sure to scream, “LET’S GO LESBIANS!” at the top of his lungs. Keith facepalms to hide his smile and Acxa and Zethrid look super done, but Ezor loves it. She’s Lance’s new favourite.)

 

--

 

He tries to visit Keith whenever he can. Tries to make time for everyone else, too. Spends time helping Hunk bake and making sure Shiro isn’t flying off the handle with wedding prep and meme-ing with the Holts. But Lance finds that he gravitates more and more to Keith. He makes a point of stopping by Daibazaal whenever he goes to New Altea, and tries to time it so he catches Keith after missions.

Unfortunately, that also means he runs into the others a lot more, which leads to some very awkward small talk with Kolivan that ended with him screaming about the weather; an intriguing conversation with Krolia where she told him not to hurt Keith while very pointedly polishing her knife; and the beginning of a surprisingly wholesome friendship with Ezor.

He’s pretty sure he’s being the most obvious being in the universe, but Keith’s never said anything, just lets him into his life in a way that Lance wouldn’t have expected even a couple years ago. He’s so unsubtle that Zethrid has taken to muttering “stupid boys” under her breath every time she walks past them, and Ezor keeps asking Lance about him and Keith. He’s also pretty sure Keith knows at this point, too, but he’s being polite and giving Lance space to think things through in his own head.

It’s weird how easy things are between them. If you asked Lance three years ago if he would be waltzing into Keith’s room and throwing his entire body over Keith’s back, he probably would’ve asked if you were nuts. But somehow he is doing that exact thing, and Keith just huffs and smiles fondly, reaching up to clumsily pat his shoulder in greeting. It makes Lance feel a little tingling all over, but it’s not exactly a bad feeling.

“Bad day?” Keith asks when Lance doesn’t say anything, shoving him off to roll over and face him. “You’re quiet.”

“Eh,” Lance says, voice muffled by Keith’s threadbare sheets. “Okay? I guess? The kids kept asking about Allura and all the bad guys we killed, which was… not great.” Keith squeezes his hand, which is another new and probably not platonic thing they’ve been doing recently. Lance can only take so much, damn it. “But I’m here now, so that’s good.”

He says the last part mostly to make Keith blush, which it does. “You’re so cheesy,” Keith groans, hitting his shoulder lightly. “Say something dumb like normal.”

Lance considers. Then he cocks his head and grins. “Hey Keith, have you ever heard of My Immortal?

 

--

 

Lance decides to visit Blue the next time he visits New Altea.

He’s not really sure what he’s hoping to accomplish, but he knows part of Allura’s consciousness is still in Blue, can feel it in the back of his mind. Blue might not talk to him anymore, but especially in the beginning, he could feel both her grief and something distinctly Allura.

“Hey, ‘Llura,” he starts, shifting around. This is the first time he’s visited Blue since her death, the first time he’s been this close to her since she died, and it’s a lot. “I miss you. I think I always will. But Keith… he’s been helping. I think I love him, Allura. I’ll always love you, but I love him, too.”

He can see himself in the reflection of Blue’s eyes. He’s changed a lot the last few years, physically and mentally. His hair’s longer now, his face thinner and more defined. There’s a scar across his eyebrow he didn’t have when he first left Earth, and he’s got stubble now he has to shave off every other day. He holds himself different now, too.

He’s not that scared boy anymore, alone in a universe without a clue if he’d see his family again. But he’s not the broken boy who just lost the love of his life, either. He’s crumbled down to ash and built himself back again. Stronger. Better. Wiser (maybe).

“You were everything I could’ve asked for, Allura,” he whispers. “But Keith… Keith is my future.”

He knows. Knows that Allura, wherever she is, understands. She always has. Tears spring to his eyes once again, but they’re not sad this time.

Lance is lucky to be loved by two people.

 

--

 

When they finally kiss, Lance has never been more certain of anything. He spent so much time not knowing who he was, or what his place was in the universe. But these last few years have taught him as much as they hurt him. Voltron gave him a purpose. Allura taught him love. But the universe taught him pain, too. Loss. As soon as he had a purpose and a goal, he lost both; Voltron was over, and Allura was gone.

But Keith retaught him how to live. When Lance spiralled, he was there to pull him back; when he was scared, Keith was there to hold his hand (metaphorically and literally). He was there to make Lance smile and remind him that the universe could be pretty damn good, too.

Kissing Keith feels like the start of something beautiful. Kissing Keith is the lull of the waves in Varadero, the warmth of his mom’s cooking, the adrenaline in his veins as he runs through space. It’s the sunset over the Garrison; a soft, secret smile, just for him; and the tingling in his chest of a thousand tiny explosions.

Keith is the future. Keith is his future.

“Hi,” Keith says when Lance pulls back, thumbing over the scar on his cheek in awe. There’s a sappy smile on Keith’s face, ridiculously soft and dumb, and Lance is in love with this boy.

“Hi,” he whispers back. The glow of his marks reflects off Keith’s eyes, vibrant and bright.

“Been waiting for you to catch up,” Keith says, and it’s so Keith Lance can’t help but laugh.

“Took me a while,” he says, and takes Keith’s hands in his because he can, bringing them up to his mouth to kiss each finger. Keith lets out the cutest little giggle, face blooming red. Holy shit. Lance files that away for later. “Wanted to be sure I was ready. But I think you’ve always been what I needed.”

Keith surges forward and kisses him again, their smiles meeting. They kiss again and again and again, teeth knocking against each other. “Easy there, tiger,” Lance whispers, tucking a stray piece of hair behind Keith’s ear. “We’ve got time.”

“Yeah?” Keith asks, curling his hand around Lance’s collar. His face is so open, so warm, so carefree. But that’s not what grabs Lance’s attention.

Keith’s eyes are violet, and they hold the entire universe inside them.