Every major change that comes to pass in Keith's life happens in three distinct phases.
When he was eight years old and his dad died, the clock ticked all the way from Monday to Tuesday (a full day past the time when his dad was supposed to come home from his three-day shift) before Keith accepted that something had to be wrong. A full day of sitting around, confused and waiting and utterly oblivious to the tectonic shift that was taking place in his universe. Suffice it to say, when he got on his dirtbike and drove the eight miles to the nearest corner store to ask them to call the fire department, no one at the fire department (or in the entire US government for that matter) even knew that Akira Kogane had a son to his name. After that, for the next few years, Keith's world was chaos. That is, until Shiro. Shiro brought some order back into his life, and although he wasn't a replacement for his dad, he helped Keith finally find some peace in the sore patch of Earth where his dad was laid to rest.
Being a paladin happened like that too. Searching blindly through the desert, digging up etchings and alien runes, seeking out the Blue Lion without knowing what it was she held in store. And then: war, Shiro's absence, lion-hopping, lion-hopping back, leaving for the Blades, coming back... It seemed that equilibrium would never come, but eventually, it did. Everyone is together again, and safe (relatively speaking), and everyone is back in their own lions. Everything makes sense.
So yeah. Three stages. Discovery, chaos, and then, only if he is oh so lucky, equilibrium.
Lance is one equilibrium he never thought he'd be granted. Not after how oblivious he was in the beginning. Not after how riotous the discovery period was. (Spats in bright classrooms, bonding moments under roaming stars, the smell of laser fire, a haunting smirk that wouldn't let Keith go no matter how many walls he threw up between them.) Not after how deeply the chaos period rent their hearts. (Sometimes when he lies down and closes his eyes he still sees Lance chasing down the Altean jet as he left the team to join the Blades, still burns with regret for not stopping to hear him out because he was so afraid that if he slowed, even for a second, he would stay.)
But it did come. The equilibrium, that is. And you'd think if Keith managed to snag Lance, he could do just about anything right? You’d think any storm would be smooth sailing after the hurricane that was learning to love and be loved by one Leandro Socorro Lacoste-McClain.
There's another thing. Just one more little thing that has not yet reached stage three.
Keith is part-Galra.
And yes, he’s known that fact for a while now, but he is very much still in the throes of the chaos period regarding that. It's not enough for the universe, of course, that he learned less than a year after leaving Earth that his life is a lie and he's half alien. Of course he has to start actually looking like an alien too.
It starts small, so small that when someone finally notices it he can only guess at how long it's been going on, the yellow that enters his eyes when he loses his cool. Once he's aware of it, it all goes downhill. Claws come too, but only when he's really pissed. Fangs sometimes to top it off, because why not? Catlike Galra ears that flicker into life on his head between one minute and the next if he listens too hard and forgets to curb the sensation before it takes root, informing him of even more minute sounds he has no business hearing… It's weird, and he doesn't understand it, and judging by the weird looks people give him when it happens, he'll be better off keeping it in check. So he does.
Or, he tries. For a few months, anyway.
Until it's not just about the way he looks anymore.
Until it permeates his entire being.
This part is about Lance, and it also starts with little things. (Sort of the same way their relationship began, Keith supposes.)
Little things like Keith snapping at Lance over mundane shit that doesn't matter. Like Keith snapping at other people over mundane shit that doesn't matter. Like Keith getting angry at himself for snapping over mundane shit that doesn't matter. Rinse, repeat. At first he chalks it up to stress, decides that he's just more irritable than usual because of this or that. If he accidentally growls at a diplomat for looking at him and Lance funny when Lance kisses him hello, it's easy to blame it on his lingering headache from the recent battle. If he accidentally twists a Galra captive’s arm too far for insulting Lance, he writes it off as an unfortunate accident and reminds Allura that they have healing pods if she wants to be hospitable to someone who tried to shoot her in the face earlier. If a shopgirl tries to sell Lance some weird alien cologne and she's really annoyingly close to him and Keith calls her a homewrecker and drags Lance out of the shop—
Okay, so he doesn't have a great excuse for that one. Now he has to temper this weird burning sensation in his gut, ignore how un-Lance Lance smells with that dumb cologne covering up his natural scent, and sit quietly through a well-deserved ten-minute lecture on how “being polite does not equal flirting, you jerk, and also you owe that girl a HUGE apology, she obviously just wanted an excuse to talk to us because we're paladins, you absolute asswipe—”
But he doesn't hear much of anything after that because the thought occurs that if he just makes out with Lance's neck a bit then he would smell more like Keith than that shop, and then he spends the rest of the conversation freaking out and overanalyzing what the hell kind of urge that was supposed to be and why it wouldn't go away once it was there and acknowledged.
That's a thing now. Apparently.
As the weeks go by, a pattern emerges that Keith can't ignore no matter how he tries to. His irritability is targeted. Keith catches himself snapping at other people specifically when they’re talking to or about Lance, or at Lance when he's talking to other people. He doesn't know why, he just… he doesn't know, okay, but sometimes someone will stand just a little too close and it makes him grind his teeth, and he loses control over his tongue.
It gets worse, too.
You'd think once he’s aware of the problem he could start curbing the behavior before it gets out of control, but no. It just gets worse and worse and he hates it. It feels like he's regressed several years in maturity. In the moment he usually just feels this fierce possessive rage, but later he always feels genuinely contrite and embarrassed about what happened, especially when it leads to an argument with Lance and Lance points out how goddamn irrational he's being, because Keith knows Lance is right. So he always apologizes and often fears Lance's patience with him is growing thin.
“Have you ever considered that this might be a Galra thing?” Lance asks him one night, post-fight, also post-make-up-sex. He's carding his fingers through Keith's hair. It's almost like that diplomat never winked at Lance as he showed him to his chair, and Keith never told him to keep his eyes to himself if he wanted to keep them at all, and Lance never stormed out of the meeting room cursing Keith in Spanish. (Keith still isn't fluent but he sure knows what ¡niño estupido! means.)
“...Have you?” Keith asks.
It's a loaded question. The fact that being part Galra might just make Keith a more possessive person is… not the funnest possibility to imagine. It's been a while since knowing he was part alien made him feel like a stranger in his own skin—he's had a few years now to learn his place in this universe—but for some reason, this is a bit too much. He doesn't want to think his DNA is the culprit here; it makes him feel like he's not in control of himself.
“I dunno,” Lance eventually replies, after several minutes of silence. “It's just a thought.”
“I don't want that to be the reason,” Keith says, turning his face into Lance's chest as he admits this.
“I get it,” Lance sighs.
“Do you?” Keith whispers.
There's no way that Lance gets it. It's so physical, this urge that comes over him. When someone looks too long at Lance he wants to grab him by the arm, pull him into a dark corner, and cover him in so much Keith that no one will have any doubt that he’s taken for the rest of his life. He wants to do a lot of things to Lance that you could probably blame on his Galra genes, each one more concerning than the last, but when they're making out and his brain whispers bite him just bite him just bite down—
—he bites down on that urge instead.
Because he doesn't want to be a slave to his goddamn genes, especially when the species that gave them to him are most well known for their (you guessed it) violence. Keith would never in his life get violent with Lance outside a training session. When they're together, actually together, it’s… the only word is soft.
And that's how Keith likes it.
He likes the careful way Lance holds his face between both hands when leaning in to kiss him. The slow and purposeful way he lays his hand flat on Keith's chest to push him down onto the bed when he's really in the mood but doesn't wanna be too pushy before he's sure Keith's in the same headspace. The way he nudges Keith's knees apart with his own, the way he's always gotta be touching Keith somewhere even when it's his turn to get some attention, the way he always takes it slow in the beginning even when Keith begs him to just put it in already, the way it's somehow always tender no matter what they're doing, even when Keith's nails are digging into Lance's back, even when Lance has him by the hair, even after close calls when it's so desperate and fast and rough it feels like Lance is trying to fuck the death-wish right out of him. Even then. There's a deep-rooted framework of softness holding up every word, every look, every touch, every kiss.
And Keith isn't gonna fucking ruin that with this Galra thing. If that's even what it is.
(Deep down, he knows that's what it is. He just refuses to acknowledge it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?)
Lance, of course, is never one to let things lie.
Maybe one of them was always gonna snap first, and maybe it was a miracle that it was Lance and not Keith, all things considered. But either way, it takes exactly one more incident for Lance to snap.
“Here's what we're gonna do.”
It's well after midnight and Keith is distracted when he walks into their room—he's been putting off coming back for hours now, hoping Lance would be asleep once he got in. Tough luck, though. Instead of being fast asleep under the covers when Keith enters the room, like he’s been desperately hoping, Lance is sitting at the edge of the bed, leaning back on his hands, clearly waiting for Keith to get back. Probably because he acted like a crazy person earlier at the meeting with the rebel fighters. His fangs actually came out when one of the rebels punched Lance's shoulder playfully. That's never happened to him outside a highly stressful battle setting before, so it freaked him out a little (okay more than just a little) if he’s being totally honest. But that's beside the point.
“..What?” he says, because Lance doesn’t look nearly as pissed as Keith expected him to. Instead, a tired grin makes its way onto his face as he stands from the bed. He rises slowly, cockily and with purpose. Keith just stands there frozen as their door hisses shut behind him, because he was fully expecting to come back to a fight. Not... whatever this is. Those are Lance’s sex-eyes. What is happening.
“Here's what we're gonna do,” Lance repeats, crossing the room now. It takes longer than it used to, since they now share a double suite (oh the good old days, where Keith ‘slept over’ in Lance’s room for five solid months before they admitted they were living together and asked for a bigger room somewhere else in the ship). Lance crosses every inch deliberately, and Keith can’t help the way his eyes rake down his bare chest, the brightest thing in the dark bedroom since the only light is the neon blue evening-light shining from above the door behind Keith. It makes Lance shine, and outlines every divot in his stupidly soft skin, from his angular face to his collarbone all the way down the V right above his black sweatpants where they hang low on his waist. Keith swallows thickly, completely entranced. “Because you refuse to acknowledge anything that makes you uncomfortable—”
Aaand he snaps out it. “Hey!”
“—I’m doing it for you,” Lance continues, undeterred. He’s reached Keith at the door now, and his voice changes from smug and playful to soft and serious. “Come on Keith, you've been acting crazy lately.” Gently he cups Keith’s cheek while Keith fumes silently, with a hint of amusement and a lot of patience.
“I know,” Keith breaks. “I’m sorry, Lance, really.”
“It's okay,” Lance laughs. "As it turns out, it's really not your fault. I’ve been doing some reading tonight actually and—”
“It's a Galra thing,” Keith guesses darkly. “That’s what you’re gonna say, isn’t it.”
Lance refuses to be put out by Keith’s mood, though. “Oh shut up. Will you ever quit saying that like it's a curse? I've been doing some research and yes, it seems like a Galra thing, but like.. A, it’s not that big of a deal, and B, I'm pretty sure the only reason it's gotten so bad is because you're repressing it.”
“I'm not repressing anything.”
“Mhmm,” Lance hums sarcastically. “Every time your fangs wanna come out you just let them?” He pokes one of Keith’s canines, leaning in and breathing directly on his mouth. It’s distracting and Lance knows it. “Your cute fuzzy ears? Your cat eyes?”
“Well, no,” Keith relents, “that would freak out our allies. And our friends.” And you, he doesn't say.
“So, you're repressing it.”
“And what about the other stuff huh?” he adds softly, his breath still hot on Keith’s lips. He just wants to abandon this conversation and kiss him, but he knows Lance won’t have it until he’s gotten to the heart of it. There’s a thesis here Keith hasn’t heard yet. Lance always has a thesis. “You repressing anything else, baby?”
There it is. God dammit, Lance always calls him baby when he wants something, and god dammit it always fucking works. And now that he’s pulled Keith’s greatest weakness, if he knows Lance (he does), the fatal blow is imminent. Sure enough, Lance puts a curled finger under Keith’s chin and gets him to look up, staring deeply into his eyes and holding nothing back.
“Come on, Keith,” he hums. “I love you. There's nothing in this universe I wouldn't do for you. Just tell me what you want. Please don't make me drag it out of you.”
“I… okay,” he breathes, “okay.”
If Lance has spent the last few hours reading up on Galra stuff then nothing Keith’s about to say will really surprise him anyway, right? Might as well just get it all out there.
“So, sometimes, when you're talking to other people, I get these aggressive urges.” He pauses here, and Lance nods once, urging him on. “Not against you,” he clarifies, “or against them either. It’s just… It's so intense.” Part of the reason he hasn’t brought this up vocally is because it’s nearly impossible to put words to it, like maybe there aren’t any words in a human language to describe this particular feeling. Idly he wonders if there are words in Galran for it. There probably are. “It's like. I need them to know you're mine,” he finally settles on. “I need you to know it. And it's like my body is screaming at me to.. to...”
Lance runs his hands down Keith's biceps, the way he always does when Keith is getting visibly worked up and anxious. But then he leans in, lips brushing on the shell of Keith’s ear, and murmurs, “To what? To fuck me?”
Keith feels his ear twitch in response, that telltale ticklish flicker of his Galra ears wanting to form. On instinct his hand flies up, flattening across his ear to smooth it back down. Shit. “Lance, don't. Don't do that.”
“Why not? You've thought about it, right? I know I have.”
Shit. Fuckshitfuck. Of course he’s thought about it. He thinks about it all the time. They've had sex so many times he lost count months ago, but Keith has always bottomed. It's just how it's been so far. First of all, because it fucking rocks and they both like it. Second of all, because it's safer and easier that way, at least from Keith’s point of view. There's a lot less risk of giving into that aggressive urge, that part of Keith that surges like fire in his veins and makes his jaw itch with the want to bite down on Lance’s neck hard. Sometimes he makes his own lip bleed from the effort it takes to keep himself from doing it.
So, “I can't,” he says.
Lance snorts audibly in his ear, hands trailing up under Keith’s shirt. “Why? Cause you're afraid you'll hurt me or something? News flash, asshole, I'm not exactly a delicate porcelain doll.”
“That’s not— Lance, I've got like fangs and claws and shit! I'm not gonna be able to keep them in if we do.. that.”
“You're missing the point here, dummy. I don't want you to keep them in. Let it aaall hang loose, baby. You'll feel better, I promise.” He's pulling Keith's shirt up now and, despite his misgivings, he lets Lance pull it over his head without a fight
“You don't know what you're asking for,” he tries, but he’s been with Lance long enough to know when he’s lost.
“Don't I?” Lance deftly unbuckles him, turning as he does so until he’s the one with his back to the door, pulling Keith flush against him by the loose ends of his belt; he does this with so much subtlety and expertise that Keith almost doesn’t even notice the switch. “If I recall, I'm the one who did my research,” he says, and Keith shivers as his lips graze over Keith’s bare shoulder. “Don't think I've ever seen you pick up a single book on Galra biology.”
“You have such a smart-mouth.”
“Shut me up, then,” Lance says (because Lance has a doctorate in making Keith think with his dick and not with his head) and abruptly slides down the door to his knees, leaving Keith to fall forward and catch himself on the door for support with the forearm that was previously snaking its way around Lance’s shoulders. By the time Lance’s knees hit the ground he already has Keith’s jeans halfway off his hips, and before Keith has really even processed this Lance’s hand is on his dick, the warm pad his thumb sliding underneath from the base all the way to the tip. He shivers, and his half-a-boner becomes a hard-on. Smirking up at Keith (because he knows exactly how hot he is and how much he has Keith—figuratively and literally—under his thumb), he opens his mouth and hangs his tongue out, laving him just under the tip. Slowly, way too slowly. Keith sucks in a breath, his hips twitching forward on their own volition—meaning, half his dick ends up in Lance’s mouth.
“S-sorry,” he says, pulling back, because he’s not about to just fuck Lance’s face, okay, he is a gentleman.
“Dude,” Lance deadpans, locking eyes with him. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I’m goading you on purpose. Stop apologizing. I want this, you idiot.”
Groaning low in his throat, Keith pushes forward again. Logic and reasoning are beginning to turn to mush. Why exactly is he against this, again? If he wants it, and Lance wants it, what exactly is the problem? As if in agreement, Lance hums as he grabs Keith’s free hand and brings it to his hair. It's like he’s flipped a switch. Eyebrows furrowed, he winds his fingers into Lance’s hair on the very top of his head and pushes his head back against the door, leaning one forearm on the wall above Lance for support. The sight looking down from here is unparalleled.
This urge? Now this one feels human.
“Promise to hit me if I’m overdoing it,” he says, and when Lance opens his mouth to snarkily reply, he pushes all the way in. A soft noise of surprise escapes Lance’s nose, and the look on his face is absurdly satisfying, like he’s somehow innocently shocked even though he was literally begging for it. It’s such a turn-on, and as he pulls almost all the way out and pushes back in even farther, he wonders what exactly Lance was reading about earlier. Does he know how deep this feeling goes for Keith? Does he really know?
Judging by the airy way Lance’s hands flutter over Keith’s hip bones before settling there, softly enough so as not to interrupt the rhythm, he knows. “I thought this whole thing would freak you out,” Keith says—pants, maybe— “but you like it, don’t you?”
Obviously he can’t answer, but he does groan in response, and the vibration makes Keith see gold behind his closed eyelids. One of Lance’s hands disappears from Keith’s hips.
When he looks down and realizes this is because Lance wanted a hand down his own sweatpants, his hips cant forward just a smidge farther than he meant them to. Lance makes a choking sound and then he’s tapping Keith’s hip and Keith is pulling out in one millisecond flat. “Are you—” okay, he was about to say, but Lance cuts him off.
“Fuck me,” he says, breathless and thoroughly debauched.
And wow. Fuck.
When you say it like that.
Keith steps back, reaching down to hook Lance under the arm and pull him to his feet, leveling him with a steady gaze. He knows his eyes must’ve gone yellow because he can see a tiny yellow glint reflecting back at him in each of Lance’s dark eyes, easily visible in the dim room. He glances back and forth between them, hands hovering just off his hips, aching to just give in and give Lance exactly what he wants. But he needs to be sure.
“Can you stop overthinking this?” Lance huffs before Keith could even finish piecing the question together on his tongue, bringing one hand to the back of Keith’s neck and locking their foreheads together. It’s hard to tell who’s taller, these days, now that Lance has grown up and stopped demanding height checks every other month. Keith honest-to-god doesn’t know who’s a centimeter taller than who anymore. Either way, their eyes are level. Always level. And Lance is using them to his full advantage now, blinking slowly at Keith as though he’s a cat Lance is trying to lure into the house from the rain, as though the promise of warmth and safety and permanence is something he knows Keith won’t understand and so he’s using the only thing he has: soft hands, a steady voice, and those fucking eyes. “I know you don’t want to hear all this, and I know you’re uncomfortable feeling like you have no control over yourself, but just trust me okay?”
He moves his mouth down to Keith’s shoulder, bringing his hands down to Keith’s where they’re resting on his hips and gently grasping them, manually moving them from the cloth of his sweatpants to the bare, hot skin above, and then pushing them down, down underneath the band and the drawstring. Keith’s stomach floods with fire, flipping over hard, leaving him weightless and reeling with vertigo. God, he will never stop getting butterflies from Lance, will he? No matter how long they live.
“From what I’ve read,” Lance hums against his neck, “Galra are kind of hard-wired to feel like that about people they're into. So it’s okay if seeing a stranger get all touchy-feely with me makes you wanna push me down on the bed and mess me up a little. It doesn’t bother me, Keith—kinda the polar friggin’ opposite, actually—so if we just indulge that feeling a little, then what’s the harm?”
Keith groans; pushing his hands all the way inside Lance’s sweatpants, reaching around to explore the soft, malleable skin of Lance’s perfect ass. There isn’t any inherent harm in indulging a little rough sex, of course, except for one tiny little problem: Lance hasn’t addressed the biting thing. He doesn’t seem to know about that, even though it’s the definitive nucleus of this entire messed-up atom bomb of a problem. Everything else is window-dressing on the fact sometimes Keith literally wants to sink his fangs into Lance's skin just hear the sound he'd make.
But.. it’ll be okay. As long as he doesn’t just up and do that, right?
Our actions are what define us, Shiro always says, not our thoughts.
Besides, all Lance thinks is that Keith wants to top for a change and maybe go a little heavy, and he can roll with that. It’ll surely relieve this unbearable tension at least a little.
“Fine,” he breathes, his hands straying ever farther, “but I’m not fucking you.” Lance huffs indignantly, but Keith insists. “It’s your first time, so you’re getting the same treatment I did.”
Lance tries to laugh at Keith’s attempted chivalry, but his breath hitches dangerously as Keith’s fingers stray into the cleft of his ass, dragging upward until he finds what he’s looking for. “You calling me a romantic or something?” Lance jokes, but he already sounds wrecked even though Keith hasn’t so much as pushed a finger inside him yet. It sends adrenaline surging through his veins.
“Yes,” Keith hums, and pulls his hands free of Lance’s pants again, grabbing the steadily slipping waistband of the sweatpants with his right hand on its way out, and promptly begins dragging Lance toward the bed by the waistband.
Lance whines ; a high-pitched broken thing. “God, why is that so fucking hot,” he says, and Keith feels a surge of confidence as he pushes Lance backwards at the bed, causing his knees to bend and for him to fall flat on his back with a bounce. He hasn’t even stopped bouncing by the time Keith is pulling his pants off, taking the boxers with them in the same smooth movement because he is a fan of efficiency and he wants to be deep inside Lance like three goddamn years ago.
Kneeling down to finish tugging them off his ankles, he takes his time kissing up the inside of Lance’s thigh, letting his hands roam; just because Lance wants to make this about the Galra thing didn’t mean Keith isn’t gonna enjoy this for what it is. He is gonna make this so good for Lance. It’s what he deserves, at least for his first time. Not some cheap, possessive fuck in a dark alley like Keith sometimes fantasizes.
But... he does lowkey wanna carve a Lance-shaped imprint onto this mattress.
“Ugh, Keith, stop teasing me,” Lance whimpers, at which point Keith realizes he’s doing exactly that, the way he’s taking his time. “Come on.”
“Alright, alright,” Keith jokes, “fucking impatient, jeez.” He rises to go over to their dresser and dig through the top drawer for the lube, and when he comes back Lance has already scooted into the center of the bed and gotten sinfully comfortable there, hands behind his head like he owns the whole place. Watching Keith cross the room like he owns Keith too. It’s so irritatingly hot, just like everything else Lance does.
He falls on Lance with the express intent of wiping that triumphant look off his face. He wants Lance panting, gasping, throwing his head back in pleasure, unable to joke anymore, unable to smirk, unable to feel or see or touch or taste anything but Keith. “O-oh fuck,” Lance breathes when Keith rolls off to Lance’s side, using the distraction of kissing down his neck to hike one of Lance’s legs up and push one finger immediately inside him. “Thought you were goin’ for slow and romantic.” His voice wavers as Keith gets him used to the feeling.
“I said romantic,” Keith hums. His voice is so low and gravelly in his throat that the sound of it surprises him. “Never said anything about slow.”
He doesn’t miss how Lance’s leg lifts a little higher upon hearing this, widening the gap between his thighs, allowing Keith a little easier access. It's a green flag; liquid nitrogen set to explode. This small physical invitation goes miles farther than any of the verbal ones, like a neon motel road sign that says ‘one vacancy left,’ and he feels his body reacting to it in an equally physical way, guided forward on invisible strings; mine, it says, mine to protect, mine to love, mine to hold, and keep, and keep, and keep—
“Ah,” Lance hisses, and Keith realizes he’s pushed a second finger in, at which point he consciously yanks his brain back down from the clouds. His ears twitch and he buries his face into Lance’s neck at the tickly sensation, not wanting him to see what Keith knows has happened. Those stupid cat ears. They’re little more than a glaring red flag that shows up unannounced, practically spelling out NON-HUMAN HAVING INHUMAN THOUGHTS.
He has to focus hard on making sure his claws aren’t making an appearance either.
The worst part about these physical Galra changes is that he understands exactly what is happening. He understands exactly why it didn’t start overwhelming him until he came out here into space and into war and into the knowledge of his heritage. He remembers how he wasn’t put in a public school with the other kids until after his dad died, when it was up to the state. He remembers how his dad didn’t keep any mirrors around the house, and how he didn’t really question the motivation behind that until years later; didn’t think anything particularly odd about the faded outline on the bathroom wall above the sink marking where the mirror used to hang, which the framed picture of a California beach was a little too small to cover up. He remembers how when he used to start getting real upset when he was kid, young and feisty and still learning how to emote, his dad had tricks to help him calm down.
Where are your toes, Keith? Count them. Where are your fingers? Count those too. Where are your ears? How many teeth do you have? What color are your eyes? Focus on my voice, buddy, what color are your eyes?
Keith would resist at first, stomping and fuming, but eventually he’d give in and humor his dad with the thought-exercise, and it always worked in the end. It always calmed him down.
Maybe that’s why he still used that technique long after his dad died, whenever he felt himself losing control of his emotions and beginning to dissociate into a pool of rage or sorrow or grief or whatever the hell else, felt that surge of an uncontrollable something hounding at the seams of his body like the water behind a breaking dam. He’d remember his dad’s voice, and use the same dumb little baby trick he’d used to keep himself in check since he was a baby.
It was only when he was an adult—when he was in a war, when his life was in constant danger, when the lives of those he loved were in constant danger—that these tools began to fall short, and he began to understand why his dad had given them to him in the first place.
Sometimes he wonders what else his dad would have given to him if he hadn’t died so unexpectedly young. He wonders if there’s a sealed, dusty letter somewhere in the attic of his childhood home that reads, "Dear Keith, in case I die tragically, you should know that you’re half-alien, and I trained you like a puppy to make yourself look more human than alien, but I did it because I love you. I always meant to explain when you were older, and I’m sorry I never got the chance.” But, his dad was never a big-picture kind of guy, so. Probably not.
He can’t feel any real anger toward his dad. Not for this. Not for trying to keep his son safe on a planet full of humans that knew nothing of the universe outside their little solar backyard, the only way he knew how. By teaching him how to hide. Teaching it so well that Keith didn’t even know he was hiding until he was seventeen fucking years old and it all came spilling out at once.
But he’s not bitter.
The only problem is that such a lesson is really damn hard to unlearn, and moments like this are conflicting; because Lance is currently reaching backwards to card his fingers through Keith’s hair, and he feels the ears there, and he’s groaning about it like it’s the hottest thing he’s ever felt. But Keith cannot let the claws come out while his fingers are inside Lance, so he takes a deep breath and breathes out, focusing on the shape he desperately wants to be and not whatever shape his body is trying to be.
“Nnn no,” Lance complains breathily when the Galra ears start to flick and go back down under his exploring fingers. “Keith, stoppit. You promised.”
“Trying not to stab you,” he rebuts, and to illustrate his point he pushes a third finger in and slides deep, pressing the flat side of his middle fingertip right into the spot he’s been ghosting at for the last minute or two and staying there, pressing insistently, causing Lance to choke on a sharp gasp. “See? Don’t want a claw there, do you?”
“God, then just get inside me already,” Lance demands, keening as he bucks his hips back against Keith’s hand, desperate for movement, “I’m ready, dude.”
“Yeah, well, you need to be pushed, sometimes,” Lance says as Keith pulls his hand out and away, and his voice is oddly level this time. It makes him think he’s not talking about sex at all.
“No condom still okay?” He asks, even though they don't even have any anyway, and he's already begun spreading the lube on without it. Seems silly to be worried about things like infections or viruses or whatever when they have hyper-futuristic healing technology that can purge it from your system in one hour flat, but old habits die hard, and it never hurts to double-check.
“Duh,” Lance says, “stupid ques— ah.”
A little blip of satisfaction flitters through Keith's head at the fulfillment of Lance's teasing request earlier to ‘shut him up.’ (One of best parts about being together is being able to actually follow through on those teases; gone are the days of hopeless pining when he had no idea whether Lance was serious or not.) But that small satisfaction is eclipsed by the larger satisfaction that comes with sinking into him in every way. As he pushes in slowly, hiking Lance's left thigh up even higher to make room for his own hips, he melts into Lance's side and half-upturned shoulder, molding the shape of their bodies together.
The sound of Lance's voice fills his ears, fills his brain with pleasant fuzz, a vibration that runs deep through his chest. He moves his palm there so he can feel it, too, and the heartbeat pushing the blood through his veins so loud that Keith can hear it.
It feels like it takes a thousand years to bottom out. Lance's breathing is stilted, so he waits. When he begins to pull back and Lance’s response is to suck in a breath, he asks, “You good, baby?”
Lance mutters inaudibly in Spanish for a moment before reaching back and pushing his hand back into Keith's hair. “Since when the fuck have you ever called me baby?”
Keith stills. “Too much?”
“No, dios, idiota, te quiero tanto, ¿por qué tendría un problema con el romance supremo?” he hisses in one unbroken string of words, in one shuddering breath, “a veces ni siquiera sé cómo terminamos juntos cuando ambos somos tan estúpidos, please don’t stop.”
Keith's heart melts as the tidal wave of Spanish washes over him. He’s trying to learn it, but it's slow going with only Lance to teach him, and when Lance gets to rambling like this it's still impossible to understand. He catches some of the words though. Idiot, have, romance, together, stupid… He gets the picture. “I love you too,” Keith hums as he pulls out and finally, finally pushes back in, assured that Lance is golden. “You know that?”
“Yes,” Lance whispers. He shifts just a little, allowing Keith to push a little deeper.
“Do you?” Keith mumbles, his mouth dragging against the side of Lance’s neck, drowning in the heat of him. Lance is ambrosia, and Keith is drunk. “Do you really?”
“K-Keith,” Lance says, his voice wavering, a hint of confusion peaking through.
“I love you so fucking much,” Keith says, and he doesn’t feel like these words are even coming from him, they’re just spilling out, totally beyond his control. He hikes Lance’s leg higher; he’s only been inside him for like a minute and he's already seeing stars. It’s too much and yet, not enough. Not nearly enough. He turns into Lance even more as he speeds up until he’s lying fully on his side, scooting down an inch so he can angle his hips up with more momentum. Lance lets out a small whine, and fuck, it’s not enough— “Can I—” He pulls out, hand coming to rest on Lance’s hip, gripping hard, “—could you turn over?”
“God, yeah,” Lance breathes, and he’s just barely started to turn before Keith is rolling over too, straddling him, pushing him stomach-down onto the bed. “ How have we not done this yet?” he asks, voice muffled by the fabric. “You are so into this, Kogane.”
“So are you,” Keith redirects. He watches goosebumps rise in his wake wherever he trails his fingers on Lance’s back, fading into nothing where that age-old scar from the Arus explosion once wrecked his skin, leaving a pale, bubbly starburst. The familiar sight of it sends a surge of rage through him, fierce and protective; it’s so severe that for a second his vision goes white and spotty. It makes his veins light up, a lit match dropped on an oil spill. It makes him want to fold Lance into his arms and never let anyone in the world touch him ever again, makes him want to never leave his side, makes him want to look into the eyes of the person who did this to his lover as he returns the favor tenfold.
The sound of Lance’s voice brings him back, and as he blinks his eyes back into focus he realizes his hand has begun to fade purple where his hand is pressed palm-down over Lance’s scar. Lance is craning his head around to look at him and he has to wonder how long he zoned out for. It was only a few seconds, right?
“You okay, babe?”
“Yeah,” Keith hums, and gently presses his hand down, urging Lance to relax into the crumpled bedspread so he can line himself up again. “Just relax and let me do all the work.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Lance laughs, but it turns into a sigh as Keith pushes in again—it’s an easier fit the second time around, and this angle is way better. He doesn’t know why they didn't just start out this way in the first place. This view is just.. to fucking die for.
He leans far over Lance’s back, stretching his legs out and pushing Lance’s thighs apart a little more with his own, resting on his forearms so that he can reach the back of Lance’s neck and shoulders to pepper them in kisses as he begins to move again. The new position allows him to put a lot more weight into every thrust, and it’s so damn worth the few seconds it took to shift for the sounds Lance is making now. Keith had already classified him as a pretty loud person during sex. This, though? This is a whole new level of loud, and he only gets louder with every thrust. Keith wonders just how loud he can get. He wonders what it would take to make him scream Keith’s name. He wonders if by some terrible cosmic joke he and Lance are not meant to be together forever, and maybe Keith is destined to burn bright and die young just like his dad, and someday somewhere Lance will be with someone else, if maybe he'll still think of Keith then, provided that Keith loves him hard enough right now. The urge to just love Lance so explosively that he'll never meet another who loves him the same way is a live thing, a wild animal, pounding through Keith’s veins, shaking him to his core. He funnels all of this emotion into physical love, holding nothing back, finally letting it all go.
“ Fuck, Keith, fu -u-uuck,” Lance pants, his hands fisting in the bedspread, “oh my god. ”
Keith can’t speak anymore. The feeling of Lance is consuming him, drowning him, raising him up to the clouds. Maybe Lance is right (Lance is always right, a voice his head agrees), maybe it’s good for him to just give into this feeling and indulge it a little because god damn it feels so good, so good, so good.
“Yeah,” Lance agrees, “s’good, Keith..”
Keith groans into his neck; did he speak aloud? Or are he and Lance just that much on the same wavelength? “Ngh, say it again.”
“What,” Lance laughs into the pillow, biting his lip as Keith licks along on the crest of his shoulder where it meets his neck, “Keith?”
“Yeah,” he breathes, opening his mouth a little more, sucking hard to elicit another one.
It works. “Keith,” Lance gasps. Keith doesn’t know if he was really fulfilling the request or if it was just a gut reaction, but either way, the effect of Lance saying Keith’s name like that is profound. It always is, but right now the effects are bass-boosted beyond belief. Keith sucks even harder on the warm skin under his tongue, knowing on some level that there is gonna be a dark hickey there later, and driven even crazier by the sheer thought of it. He doesn't think he’s ever given Lance a hickey before, although Lance has definitely given him a few. He remembers poking at the first one in the mirror, his face red as he realized everyone was gonna know exactly what they'd been doing because they had just gone public, remembers the sheepish way Lance stopped by his room to offer concealer, and how embarrassed he’d been when he realized of course, of course Keith couldn’t use his concealer, he was as pale as a ghost… So he just walked around with that hickey for a week. No one asked about it but everyone knew, and fuck him sideways he liked that so much, he pretended to hate it but he fucking loved it.
The motion of his hips grows erratic at the memory, his panting heavier; he moves his right hand to the back of Lance’s hand where it’s gripping the bedspread tight, threading his fingers through. He swears he can taste everything about Lance in this moment, just from this one spot on his neck; how turned on he is, how wrecked, how happy, how excited, how at peace, how in love. He wants to take this sensation and bottle it, as something to turn to whenever he’s lost. He wants to keep it forever. He wants to keep Lance forever, and the desperation of this feeling drives him steadily toward the edge. It’s overwhelming. Nothing really lasts forever, but for as long the universe will allow it, Keith wants Lance. The desire consumes him, and he hopes Lance is close because he is pretty sure he’s going to come any se—
“Ow,” Lance mumbles, then hisses sharply, more focused, “fu— Ow.”
Keith’s brain slams back into itself and he releases his grip on Lance’s shoulder, realizing with dawning horror that he was, in fact, biting him. He pushes himself up onto his forearms again, freezing as he looks down at the fresh shape pressed into Lance's otherwise smooth skin; he hasn’t broken the skin but he must have been biting hard to make that many indents.
A second passes in still silence.
Then, Keith jumpstarts back to life so fast he’s tripping over his own legs as he gets up and off of Lance, moving backwards toward the other end of the bed.
“Wha— Keith, what are you doing?” Lance says, touching his neck absently. “It’s not a big deal, dude—”
“Stop— stop fucking saying that!” Keith snaps, burying his face in his hands so he doesn’t have to look at Lance. Unfortunately, he can feel on his palms how his fangs have come out to play, and he doesn’t have nearly enough wits about him to remember how the hell to put them back again. “It is a big deal! I just fucking bit you—”
“Jesus, can you stop panicking for like five seconds? We’re having hot sex and you got caught up, that’s not even a Galra thing, that’s like a regular human thing, babe.”
“No,” Keith says into his hands, because it isn’t fair now that Lance doesn’t know, he has to come clean, “it’s not, it’s not a human thing, I promise you.”
There’s a tick of silence before Lance speaks again, his voice a little heavier than before, although Keith can’t tell where the weight is, or what it means. “Elaborate?”
“I.. I didn’t tell you everything,” he admits, feeling small and stupid and just so damn unworthy. “I…”
“Keith. Spit it out.”
He chances a glance up at Lance, who’s now sitting up facing him on the other end of the bed, looking very invested in Keith’s next words. “I might wanna bite you,” he whispers, “just a little.”
To say Lance looks gobsmacked would be a supreme understatement. He looks absolutely blown away.
“You wanna bite me a little?”
“No,” Keith says.
“No, not just a little. A lot. A wanna bite you a lot. Not bite you a lot, but just like? Once, hard? And just.. never stop? Like really hard — I’m sorry, I know it’s fucked up but that’s—yeah—and I know that’s not a fucking normal thing to want and it doesn’t even make sense, and I know it’s—”
“Keith,” Lance says, for what feels like the hundredth time in the last thirty minutes. But this time it’s so sharp and somehow soft at the same time that Keith immediately shuts up. “Keith, you really..?” Slowly Keith lowers his hands from his face the rest of the way, taking in Lance’s expression with fresh eyes. He doesn’t look freaked out at all. Quite the contrary, actually. His eyes are wide, his jaw slack; the closest thing Keith has ever seen to this expression on Lance’s face was the day Keith finally snapped at Lance’s jokey flirting and yanked him into an alcove to kiss that smirk off his face. “That’s seriously what’s gotten you so worked up these last few months? I thought—I thought you were just like, mega sexually frustrated, because the symptoms lined up, so..”
“Yeah,” Keith admits. “I mean.. That too, I guess? And the sex is great, but it’s.. yeah.. I’m just.. Lance, are you okay?”
Lance is now running one hand through his hair and down the back of his neck, staring at Keith indecipherably, a smile flickering once, twice, three times across his face without quite catching fire. Keith isn’t sure what was happening, here, but he’s starting to feel like he’s missing something.
“Yeah man,” Lance says, “I’m just— I’m surprised. I read about the biting thing too, actually, it’s a totally normal Galra thing, I just never would have thought…” The smile flickers back again, almost catching this time, but still not quite. “I, um.” He clears his throat, schooling his expression into something tempered, an attempt at playing cool. Keith has known him long enough to read straight through it. He's not freaked out. Just nervous. Excited-nervous. “I would, um, be into that actually, if that’s really something that you want.” He traces one pointer finger in circles on the bedspread, squinting in disbelief. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
“What? Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”
“No, cause I’m the one who read up on this stuff, and it’s obvious that you don’t know jack shit about your own biology. Maybe we should chill and you should let me explain a little?”
Keith’s body screams a resounding no to that. “I don’t wanna chill,” he pouts, “but I don’t—I don’t wanna know the intricacies of my stupid biology, especially when it’s this fucked.”
“It’s not fucked,” Lance snaps, and Keith’s jaw drops open. For the first time all night, he sounds genuinely angry. “Keith, you have got to stop with this. There is nothing wrong with you. Do you know how many aliens we’ve met that were half this and half that? There’s nothing wrong being mixed race. Hell, I have like seventeen different ethnicities in me if you trace my heritage back more than two generations.”
Keith is at a loss for words, and therefore he says nothing as Lance scoots forward toward the foot of the bed where Keith is sitting and takes Keith by the wrist, pulling him away from the end and back toward the middle. When Keith acquiesces and scoots forward to meet him, Lance crawls into his lap, coming to straddle him. They’ve gone half-soft from the rude interruption, but the feel of Lance’s warm skin against his is sure to quickly rectify that. Breathing deeply, he settles his hands on Lance’s hips as Lance takes his face in hand, gazing down at him with the softest, fondest, most affectionate expression. It's grounding.
“Every culture expresses love differently. They’re all different, babe. And yours? They’re just a little bitey,” Lance laughs, and that smile that has been threatening to catch fire finally does. It breaks over Lance’s face like a dawning sun, lighting Keith’s heart up with the light of day, filling it with gold, chasing away the night. “So can you stop being emo for a sec and hear what I’m saying?”
“I’m listening,” Keith answers, his hands tightening on Lance’s hips.
“Cool,” Lance breathes, and one of his warm hands leaves Keith’s face. His cheek feels cold in its absence. “So I just have three stipulations,” he says, holding three fingers up. Keith nods intently. “One, I get to pick where you bite me. Two, I want it to be here.” As he says this he points to a spot on the side of his neck where it meets his shoulder, pretty much exactly where Keith was trying so hard to leave a hickey a few minutes ago. God, perfect. This time his nodding comes off a little eager, and Lance has to snicker. “Three,” he says, and his voice becomes softer, almost reverent; “I want to be facing you.”
“Oh,” Keith says, stupidly. Because he doesn't know what he was expecting the last rule to be, but that was... endearing. God, it was so endearing. “Okay,” he murmurs, leaning in to nudge Lance's finger away from his neck, replacing it with his lips. “Here?” he affirms, just to make sure.
“Yes,” Lance says, his voice low and steady. Keith's breath hitches when Lance reaches down between them to stroke them both. It’s almost as if there was no interruption at all. He sighs with content and shifts, getting his hands underneath Lance’s thighs to help him shift too so Keith can line up once again and push inside him. Lance threads his fingers into the hair at the base of Keith’s neck pulling his face up to meet his as he settles slowly back onto Keith’s lap. He has this habit of nibbling once at Keith’s bottom lip before diving into a kiss that’s going to be especially deep, and Keith can never decide whether this habit is cute, charming, or outrageously hot, and right now it’s a maelstrom of all three. And then Lance is diving in, turning his head, slotting their mouths together, slipping his tongue in as he begins to roll his hips in a slow, deliberate rhythm. Keith’s fingers dig into his sides, the room around them fading out of existence as he relents to the moment, and to Lance.
As Lance steadily picks up pace, responding to Keith’s grip as he urges him on, they gradually lose the ability to kiss with any coherency. It always happens, and Lance usually goes on trying to kiss him until he’s literally incapable of controlling the moans escaping his chest. So this time when Lance’s tongue grows sloppy and every other breath is coming out in shudders, Keith threads his fingers into Lance’s hair and pulls his head back, just far enough to separate their lips, just far enough look at him. Lance gazes down his nose at him, fingers clenching and unclenching around his shoulders, his irises dark and flecked with gold where they reflect Keith’s, his pupils—which should have been dilated wide in the dark bedroom—pinpoint small as he stares into Keith’s eyes.
Keith’s gaze flickers down to the spot on Lance’s neck, the one he pointed out with such confidence. ( Almost like he’s thought about it before, Keith realizes belatedly, with a sudden flare of curiosity.) As soon as Keith’s eyes fall there, Lance angles his head away, baring his neck a little more. It’s just a micromovement; barely visible to the naked eye, but still there.
It sends a lightning bolt through his entire body, and the next second he’s tipping forward, sending Lance onto his back and following after fast enough so that they don’t have to separate at all on the way down.
It's messy, of course, and maybe the jostling hurts his dick just a little, but who the hell cares. He's miles away. But, he's also never felt more present as he does in this moment as he gives in and fucks into Lance without holding back. Wildly, he wonders if this is what stars feel like when they collide. It's crazy, right? Keith has always thought it crazy that as vast and infinite the known universe is and despite the unfathomable amount of dead empty void that sits between every star, so many stars still manage to collide. Stars flicker behind his eyelids as he moves in Lance, hearing his every breath as though the universe itself is breathing, and when he opens his mouth and lets his fangs ghost along Lance's skin and Lance holds his breath, the whole universe holds its breath too.
But not Keith. Keith pants and opens his jaw wider and gives in, just a little, testing how it feels to put some pressure on. Just a little. Nothing compared to the heavy roll of his hips into Lance's, deep and unrestrained.
Not yet, anyway. When Lance doesn't complain, just holds him tighter, Keith bites a little harder. Tastes a little more.
“Oh fuck,” Lance whimpers. His hands are on Keith's ass, pulling him back faster every time he so much as stutters, and the harder Keith bites the more he hikes his knees up, ankles ghosting against the sides of Keith's hips. It's visceral and fever-inducing and strange, the high coursing through him because of this simple thing. The effort to keep himself from biting any harder is monumental, but Keith manages it, even though he has tunnel vision and feels like he's going to spill lightning.
That is, he manages it until Lance throws his head back against the pillow and locks his ankles on Keith's lower back, then lets out a long, drawn out, orgiastic moan that lights Keith's every cell ablaze on a molecular level. “Keith,” he moans, “Keith, fuck, god, s-siente tan bien, no te detengas, allí mismo, allí mismo — ” Spanish, again; it showers Keith like scattered raindrops, most missing him, just a few landing. Right there, right there. “Ngh.. harder,” Lance begs, his fingers burying in Keith's hair so tightly it hurts, his voice like cracking honeycomb, “you can go harder,” and Keith doesn't know whether Lance means the biting or the fucking so he answers with both.
“Ah,” Lance whines as Keith bites down harder than he's ever bitten anything. The taste of hot, wet iron mingles with the taste of sweat and hormones and blueberry mint body wash, and then Lance is shuddering against him. His hold on Keith's hair goes limp. He's hanging on but not for dear life anymore, just hanging on, still hanging on when Keith flies over the crest of oblivion and comes crashing down the other side so hard that for a solid minute nothing else exists in the universe, not even Lance or Keith. It's just this feeling; atomic and crystalline and pure. That's all there is.
It takes another minute to come back to himself.
He's never come that hard in his life.
The first thing he becomes aware of is that his teeth are still sunk into Lance's neck, and it's with rising concern that he realizes that the taste of iron isn't just part of the sex-high sensation-overload, but that he has indeed broken skin. He unclenches his jaw and Lance sucks in a sharp breath that doesn't sound too pleasured this time, but also doesn't sound terribly agonized either. Maybe it's not that bad. Although, he is definitely bleeding. The bedroom is dim, but not so dark that he can't see the dark patch there on Lance's neck.
Resisting the urge to poke at it, he pulls out and sits back on his legs. Lance shudders as he goes, and when Keith sees a generous glistening patch coating Lance's stomach a thrum of satisfaction rings through him. For those last few minutes, he was so out of it that he wasn't sure if Lance even came or not. But clearly, he did. So he couldn't have been in that much pain, right?
“Jesus,” Lance whispers, and touches his neck briefly before sitting up, maneuvering to the edge of the bed to get up.
“Sorry,” Keith mumbles, even though he knows Lance doesn't want him to apologize anymore. He can't help it. “We should probably put you in a pod, just for an hour or so.”
“What, no,” Lance blurts, his head snapping toward Keith, eyes blown open wide. But he regrets it instantly, hissing in discomfort as he twists the fresh wound and pressing his hand there to quell the outcry of pain as he gingerly straightens his neck out. “No, no pod,” he says.
Keith can only gape at him. “Why?”
Lance huffs, standing and stretching, as though Keith should already know why. “Just because. Now come rinse off with me, hot stuff. You can tenderly wash the blood off me while I wax poetic about how much I love you and how fucking world-shattering that was.”
“You're so dramatic,” Keith laughs in utter disbelief, but he accepts the offered hand and curls his fingers into Lance's as they cross together toward the bathroom door on the far side of their quarters. (Yet another perk of moving into a double suite.) Keith trips over Lance's pants on the way and would probably have biffed it if not for Lance's steadying hand.
As Lance sets about turning on the shower and adjusting to the heat settings, Keith sets about digging through the drawers underneath the sink, looking for the emergency Altean first aid kit that he knows is somewhere in here. If Lance won't go into a pod for whatever crazy, dramatic, romantic reason, then the least Keith can do is treat it and make sure it doesn't get infected. He catches sight of himself in the mirror and quickly looks away. Later, once Lance is asleep, he'll have a rough time getting his body back to normal. When the ears and the eyes are both out at once and his shoulders begin to fleck purple and the faint outline of strips start to appear on his cheeks and chest and back… the farther he lets it get before checking it, the harder it is to go back. This might be the farthest he's ever let it go. Jesus, Lance didn't even say anything. It really doesn’t bother him at all, does it?
Heart going all soft, Keith glances at Lance, who doesn't seem to have a care in the world. He's practically dancing as he checks the water temperature.
“Just a quick rinse,” Keith tells him as he climbs in, “I wanna look at that in the light.”
“Yeah yeah,” Lance says, already in the spray of water, “now get your butt in here with me.”
They take a lightning round shower, and at the end, Keith cups some warm water and tips it onto Lance's neck, rinsing away the blood to reveal the full bite mark in all its glory underneath. Keith's stomach churns with a confusing mixture of guilt and satisfaction.
“Is it gnarly?” Lance jokes.
“Something like that.” He shuts off the water and leads Lance's out and to the sink, directing him to lean against the counter as Keith puts some alien equivalent of Neosporin on it and gently rubs it in with his thumb, making sure to attend each individual tooth mark, and spending extra time on the two rawest punctures (thank you, canines). To Lance's credit, he doesn't so much as flinch.
The room is silent throughout this whole process, but it's not awkward or strained in any way. It's comfortable. Silence with Lance in general, that is. It's comfortable in a way that Keith has never experienced with anyone in his life before. He didn't even know this was a possible benefit that would come along with being in love with someone and sharing your life with them, this ability to just exist in the same space together and know you're in sync without the need of any words to confirm it.
Of course, silence never lasts terribly long with Lance.
“You know,” he hums, as Keith finishes pressing the rectangular sticky-bandage into place, “I like this look on you, Keith.”
Keith rolls his eyes, double checking that the bandage is on right. But Lance catches Keith's wrist, pulling it away, and bringing one curled knuckle under Keith's chin, tipping it upward, forcing him to meet Lance's gaze.
“I'm serious,” he insists. “And you know, I have this theory, too. I have a couple of theories actually. I've been thinking about this a lot lately.”
“Oh god,” Keith jokes. “Lance? Thinking? We're all doomed.”
“Fuck off, Kogane!” Lance lunges at him and the conversation derails into a ten-second slap fight that ends with Lance elbowing the facewash off the counter and behind the toilet.
“Leave it,” Keith giggles, pressing Lance back to the counter before he can bother bending over to retrieve it. “Tell me about your theory, Lance.”
“Okay,” he hums, hands trailing down to settle at the towel on Keith's hips. “Well… don't get upset, okay babe? Just hear me out. I've been wondering. What if this,” (he pauses to gesture vaguely at Keith's ears, and face, and down his torso where the patches of faint off-color stripes have come in down his sides, lavender in the bright bathroom light), “is what you're supposed to look like? What if this is actually your default setting?”
The question hangs in the air, unanswered, and Keith's jaw hangs loose on its hinge. Because, how. How does Lance just know when Keith has been refusing to let himself consider the possibility no matter how much sense it makes? How can Lance just look at him and know?
“Your expression mystifies me,” Lance laughs nervously. “Just listen. It makes sense if you think about it? Like…” he trails off, tapping his finger on his chin with deeply furrowed eyebrows before continuing. “It's like the Goldilocks Zone. You know,” Lance waves his hand when Keith still looks lost, “the habitable zones around stars where life can form on a planet?”
“I know what habitable zones are, you moron,” Keith defends, “we both studied astronomy.”
“Humor me,” Lance quips, and then one of his hands leaves Keith's hips. Keith watches with rising interest as he draws a little one-inch circle on the fogged up mirror with his finger. “Every star is different, and the habitable zone changes accordingly.” He draws a wide six-inch circle around the star, and points at it. “Any closer to the star than this, and the planet’s way too hot for life to ever evolve there. But get much farther,” he says, “and it’s way too cold. You gotta be in that small sliver of space where the weather is just right. You gotta be in that golden orbit.”
“And what’s your point?”
“My point,” Lance huffs, “is that I think you’ve been flying too close to the sun for pretty much your whole life.” His face softens, and he raises a hand to one of Keith’s ears, running a finger underneath it soothingly, the same way he scratches the base of Keith’s neck when they’re falling asleep. “Don’t you feel more comfortable like this? More relaxed? To just exist, as you are, no concentration required?”
Leaning into his touch, Keith has to bite his lip to keep from grinning.
“When the hell did you start understanding me this well? How? Should be illegal...”
“Easy,” Lance hums back, leaning in close to press a kiss to the crest of Keith’s jaw, and run his hand softly down Keith’s spine until it elicits a small chill. “It’s easy, honey, because you and me found our golden orbit a long time ago now. And Keith..?”
When Lance leans back to look him in the eye, forehead to forehead, Keith senses something shifting in the universe.
“I have no intention of ever leaving it.”
It’s still dark in their room when Keith wakes up, which means the day cycle on the ship hasn’t begun yet. Still too early to nudge Lance awake. Too early to even be awake.
But once Keith is up, he’s up. It’s always been that way. He lays there breathing for a minute, watching Lance’s silhouette rise and fall in the darkness with each steady breath, allowing the sound of his breathing to wash over him. His eyes eventually fall on the bandage on his neck, and Keith rolls the memory of last night over on his tongue, considering it all from a freshly rested perspective. Brushing the edge of the bandage with one finger, he wonders idly if they should have stopped so Lance could explain a little more. He wonders why Lance was so very adamant about not going into a pod. He wonders why Lance was so flustered and surprised and schoolboy shy about it.
Eventually, the curiosity is too much, and Keith finds himself sitting up in bed. Lance stirs at the movement, rolling toward him and trying to capture him with a wandering arm and a sleepy complaint, a barely audible mmnn…
So Keith smooths Lance’s bangs away from his forehead, kisses him on the temple, and rolls out of bed before Lance can secure him there too tightly.
As he stands there in the dark and stretches, clenching his fists automatically, his claws dig into his palms and he realizes that he went to sleep without going through his customary 'putting all the alien bullshit back where it came from’ routine that he normally suffers through whenever the Galra features come out like this. Sighing, he lets his arms fall and brings the claws toward his face to look at them. He's not a fan of these; they’re definitely his least favorite part of the whole package. So he takes a deep breath and spends a moment patiently requesting his body not to have them anymore. It's slow going, but after twenty or so seconds he can clench his fist again without feeling like he's gonna stab his own palm.
As for the rest of it…
He frowns at the faint purple marking resting innocuously on the back of his hand. Maybe the rest can wait. It's not hurting him, after all, and maybe Lance was right last night.
(Lance is always right.)
Maybe Keith has been shoving this all down and ignoring it for far too long.
Making up his mind, Keith crosses the room to the dresser, cracking his neck tiredly on the way, and picks up Lance's computer from its resting place at the top. Keith is familiar with the way Lance researches, so he knows that whatever articles he read yesterday will be saved here for later, and if Keith is lucky there'll be some notes to peruse too. When he settles on the floor with his back against the bed to open up the laptop and sees the desktop completely covered with saved articles on Galra biology and behavior, all he wants to do is crawl back into bed with Lance and kiss him a lot. The sentimentality is stronger than usual this morning.
But, he has some catching up to do.
So he starts clicking.
Aaaand he’s immediately overwhelmed. There are just so many sources, and it quickly becomes apparent that most of these are not articles at all but whole textbooks. It’s several entire fields of science about which they know nothing, so of course it’s overwhelming. How could it not be? The titles swim in front of his sleepy eyes.
The Daizabaal Diaspora…
Galra & Sexuality: A Comprehensive History...
The Unique Challenges of Being Half-Galra…
The Relationship between Society and the Individual (Galra Edition)...
Keith groans as he exits out of that one upon seeing it's six-hundred-something pages long. That's it. He is just gonna look for Lance's notes, that way he knows everything that Lance knows and they're at least on the same page. He's interested in what Lance knows about the biting thing more than anything else, and he's not sure he can go on with the day until his curiosity is quenched. Luckily for him, he was right about the notes. There's a brand new word document saved in the upper left corner of the messy home screen.
[last edited 10.6 vargas ago]
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OKAY askljdf wow ok htis is a lot to parse lol
uhhhhhhhhh just gonna make note of some important things, mostly shit I wish I knew a long time ago dfkgdfl
THE GROWLING AT ANYONE WHO LOOKS AT ME THING:
- k so apparently galra are extra possessive over sexual partners. that,, makes sense. would explain keith's absolutely ridick behavior lately. feelin kinda bad for all the times i yelled at him and called him a stupid boy now
- sounds like it gets more extreme when they repress it, so it lines up
- there's a complex biological explanation that's more than just thinking w ur dick but ksjsj it's a lot. read more abt it later
- hypothesis: get him to fuck me and the aggressive galra urges will leave him alone
- better make sure to test that hypothesis at least 4000000 times lol
THE ‘“IM GOING GALRA’’ THING:
- so from what im reading……. a lot of his biology doesn't actually line up with other half-galra ppls biology
- like, as in, galra do not have shapeshifting
- that's not, like.. a thing that they can do
- there are no accounts of other half galra who can change their appearance at will as far as I can see
- nobody else 'goes galra’ like Keith does
- so like.. new theory?
- keith is not just half galra but possibly 50% human 25% galra and 25% ….?
- first guess is altean obviously, but do NOT broach that theory with allura and coran till we're sure, cause that means there's more alteans alive somewhere. how many species in the universe can shapeshift like alteans though? are there even any others?? ive never seen any. ask pidge to do some research just in case but i looked pretty hard and couldnt find any
- if im right about this then it means keiths mom is probably half galra/half altean. if we can confirm that w blood tests on keith then it could make finding her SO much easier - not to mention how damn excited allura and coran are gonna be. im still reeling tbh. canmt believe no ones thought of this before
- seriously tho. take this one slow. dont get anyone all excited before you know for sure. maybe enlist hunks help to test keith and know for sure before telling allura and coran?
- even more importantly >>
- this confirms that keith is actively hiding NATURAL physical features. wtf man. isnt that fucking uncomfortable??? That means he has been doing it consciously for his whole entire l i f e literallywhat the f u c k. make him fucking stop!!
- how do I make him stop????
IDEAS FOR MAKING HIM STOP:
- tell him you love him no matter what
- come clean about thinking his ears arent just cute but also genuinely attractive and damn hot.. at the risk of pidge calling you a furry forever. dfgklhndklsdfgklf just remember its for keith ok its worth it
- point out that the whole look (god especially when those skin markings come out) boosts his intimidation factor by like 146 points. he'll love that. its a battle bonus
- im pretty sure his sight and hearing are better w those eyes and ears even tho he wont admit it and like why wouldnt he love that?? its awesome
- remind him being part galra doesn't make him evil that is fucking dumb
- ugh he's not gonna listen
- kskdkdkKDND WHY IS THIS SO HARD
- come back to this later ig
THE BITING THING:
- definitely not related to keiths current behavior but I could not help reading more abt this once i stumbled onto it
- apparently long-term monogamy is not … a thing, for galra
- the history is long and ridiculous but it has to do w the war
- apparently it's seen as weakness to tie yourself to one person like that, just by like, galra society in general. kinda sucks. pretty much lines up with the empire’s MO i guess but why do they gotta be like that
- BUT !!! APPARENTLY there's this whole rebel counter-movement where people just say fuck it and do it anyway
- ‘it’ being sticking with one person for life, that is, instead of going it alone, and declaring it publicly instead of keeping it DL like a lot of other galra do. its like a taboo i guess and its a really big deal. its not something youd ever see a soldier do, for instance, but more like, civilians and rebels
- I guess galra do this thing where they uhh they just straight up bite you if they wanna be ur Forever Guy
- it sounds kinda hot lol ngl. also cute.
- more notes about the biting specifics:
- usually on the neck. its supposed to be visible, thats the whole point, and i guess doing it in a place where they could kill u is a sign of utmost trust and love. its kinda insane but also.. I totally get it? I get how thats romantic
- so the scar is important. it has to be done hard. cool cool.. defintely not getting super turned on or anything
- apparently they frequently do it during sex too,,,
- definitely no t getting a raging boner rn,,
- its a naturally occurring evolutionary urge they get but I guess most of them just ignore it now or don't allow themselves to get attached enough to ppl for it to even happen - but these rebellious ones that believe in love or whatever still do the biting thing with each other on purpose
- its like a protest against the militant way of life. a rejection of enforced loneliness
- highkey want keith to bite me now
- but he's gonna think its stupid probably :/ or maybe he wouldnt even want to.. it might take some convincing. even if he does ever want to, hes gonna be all edward cullen about it lol. calling it right now
- I mean idk
- maybe if I broach it slowly I could get him to consider it?
- oh shit. ok so according to this book it's pretty much the equivalent of getting MARRIED - its the only thing they have that's even close to marriage as a concept - and so most galra don't even consider it unless they have concrete plans to spend the rest of their life with the other person
- hmm. ok so..
- in that case, maybe don't ask him if he wants to bite you until after you give him the ring
Keith slams the laptop shut as soon as he sees that line; a loud, plasticky crack in the dark and silent bedroom.
There were pages and pages of notes still to read after that, but his heart is pounding and his head is swimming, and the room is blurry as his eyes attempt to readjust to the lightless room after staring at the light of the computer screen. A million thoughts have been flying through his head ever since he started reading, getting louder every second like the hammering of monsoon raindrops on a tin desert roof; Altean blood, clues to finding my mom, Lance understands, he knows, love him so much it hurts, should’ve just talked to him directly about this months ago, he always knows, god he loves me so much what the fuck, what did I do to deserve him, holy shit I basically proposed to him without even knowing but he knew and he said yes— but, overriding all of that now is a piercing flatline. I was not supposed to see that. I was not supposed to see that. I was not supposed to see that.
“Mmm, babe?” The sound of Lance’s voice cuts through the whirlwind of emotion in Keith’s head (what’s the halfway point between euphoria and panic?) and after a bit of rustling behind him he turns to see that Lance has sat up in bed and is rubbing his eyes. “Whatcha doin’?”
“Nothing,” Keith blurts, and slides the laptop off his lap, shoving it under the bed in a moment of guilty, gay panic.
Lance blinks; his eyes have those tiny yellow pinpricks in them again—the reflection of Keith’s yellow eyes in the dark. “Okay. That’s not suspicious at all,” Lance giggles sleepily, and starts to lean over the edge of the bed to get a better look at what Keith is hiding.
So Keith crawls back up onto the bed to distract him, trying to calm his galloping heart as he goes, and crawls into Lance’s lap. “Alright,” he admits, “so I was doing some reading. On the biting thing,” he adds when Lance seems more inclined to wind his hands sleepily around Keith’s waist and kiss at his bare shoulder than he does to listen. This catches his attention though.
“O-oh,” Lance says. “Did you... Shit. I-I should have explained what it meant before I let you do it. I just—”
“It’s fine,” Keith interrupts, leaning down and pressing a kiss right near the bandage on Lance’s neck. Lance wants to marry me. It’s a perpetual whisper in his brain, clouding all his other thoughts. He bought a ring already. It’s probably hidden somewhere in this room as we speak. “It’s more than fine, Lance. I.. I’ve been thinking about it since before we even started dating if I’m being totally honest. My mind’s been made up on you for a long, long time. And I..” He stamps on his rising nerves and forces himself to go for it. “I-I guess it’d be cool if you gave me one too. You know, to flex on the other Galra during battle,” he jokes to cover up the fact that he’s nervous as all hell to be asking for this, and he knows in that moment that he’s been spending too much time with Lance because that’s his coping mechanism, not Keith’s.
“Really?” Lance hums thoughtfully, and Keith’s heart skips into the next planar dimension when Lance moves from pressing ticklish kisses on his shoulder to the space where it meets his neck, and breaths out, hot and heavy. “Here?”
“Y-yeah,” Keith stammers, but Lance just presses another light kiss there and then rises to lean his forehead against Keith’s.
“In that case,” Lance says, “maybe we should just go ahead and get m—”
“Yes,” Keith blurts, and Lance’s eyes sparkle mischievously.
“Hmm. That was a fast response,” he intones slyly, a smirk tugging at his lip. “Almost like you were being a sneaky little shit and snooping through my notes while I was sleeping and spoiled the damn surprise, huh?”
“I knew it!” Lance hollers, and then Keith is being tackled to the bed at light speed. “You little shit, you were on my laptop! I’ve been planning it for months and you just go and—”
“It’s not my fault!” Keith yells, and the amount of love in his chest completely takes away his ability to fight back as Lance climbs on him and shakes him, eventually devolving into tickles which is just not fair. “You always let me use your laptop so how was I supposed to know?! You’re the idiot who put the shit about the ring in there! Fuck, stop— I just wanted the SparkNotes on the biting thing!”
“Okay, well, you got them,” Lance laughs, finally abandoning his attack to settle heavily on Keith’s chest, “and now you have to marry me.”
“I don’t have to do jack shit,” Keith grumbles, but his voice betrays him and catches in his throat because Lance is settling between his legs and breathing on that spot on his neck again.
“It’s too late,” Lance hums. “No take-backs. You already said yes.”
“Hnn.. yeah,” Keith breathes, drawing Lance in further, folding into him like the easiest origami. Maybe he’s just half-asleep still and high on life and this thought doesn’t really make sense at all, but for this split second in time it makes perfect sense. They’re just the right shape, he and Lance, and they were made for each other. They’re one shape. “I guess I did, huh.”
“Gonna make you mine now,” Lance speaks against his throat, and Keith rolls his hips up sleepily as Lance tries to pull his boxers down without getting off of him. It’s messy and stupid and totally inefficient, but it’s so endearingly Lance, and Keith wouldn’t have this moment any other way. Time slows down as Lance settles his teeth tentatively on Keith’s neck, and for a moment it’s like Keith can see a hundred divergent futures;
Stars. Gunfire. White picket fences. One house in the desert, one house by the sea, and one house under the most distant sun...
He doesn’t know what the future holds. Doesn’t know if he can ever hope to live on Earth again with Lance someday with these purple stripes and these yellow eyes. But he knows Lance will be there, no matter where they go or what follows in the years to come, and for now that’s enough. It’s enough to let go and wrap his arms around Lance’s back and feel okay. It’s enough to reach the last habitable zone that’s eluded him for so long, and he knows with a shining certainty this is a place where he can grow and evolve and thrive, regardless of whether he ever finds his mom or what kind of blood she has, regardless of whether he ever truly makes peace with the things his dad did to protect him, and regardless of what anyone else thinks about him.
It’s a place where he can live for the rest of his days.
And so, he does.