The paladins of Voltron had returned from Bob the Inter-Dimensional Being’s insane game show unharmed, well, for the most part.
It had been hours since they’d returned…it had also been hours since any of them spoke. Lance piloted his Lion in silence, unsure what to say to his team. Sure, they made it out alive, and Coran did say that Bob let them go because he deemed them worthy warriors, but he couldn’t help feeling a little hurt about what had happened during Garfle Warfle Snick.
“I’m not the dumb one” he grumbled, the first words he’d said in hours.
Romelle was in the back room napping, which he was honestly grateful for, he needed some alone time; and seeing as the comm lines had been silent since Coran explained Bob to them, he figured the rest of the team felt the same. It was an exhausting and stressful experience, one they nearly didn’t make it out of either, and he was drained.
He looked out the window at the other Lions gracefully gliding through space. The Black Lion fell in line beside Red, and Lance couldn’t stop the flashbacks from flooding his memory. His own words ringing through his head:
I think he’s like, the future
Lance smacked a hand against his helmet, he must’ve sounded so stupid. Okay, so maybe in that moment he was the dumb one, but it was only because he thought they were going to be stuck there forever, and he wanted Keith to know how he felt in case they never saw each other again. He’d be lying if he said some part of him wasn’t hoping Keith voting for him meant the feelings were mutual, but what a slap in the face it was to discover the truth behind why Keith had chosen him to set him free.
I just don’t wanna be stuck here for eternity with Lance
Lance winced just thinking about it. Bob was right, he is stupid…stupidly in love with a guy that couldn’t care less about him. So Lance dealt with it in the only way he could: dramatically.
With a theatrical sigh he threw himself across his control panel like a Disney princess throwing herself across her bed to cry. He forced out a laugh. “When am I ever gonna learn, Red?”
He laid in that position for a couple minutes, eyes closed, trying to think about anything but the boy with a harsh outer shell who’s rare moments of softness could make Lance melt on the spot.
When he was done pouting he pulled himself back into a seated position, but as he sat up a sharp pain shot down his side. Lance froze. “Okay that was…not normal,” he mumbled to himself. Ever so slowly he ran his hand along his ribcage, feeling for any anomalies. That’s when a hot pain singed up his back. “Wha-” he gasped, but in an instant his body was hot all over.
Lance felt like he couldn’t breathe, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get any air into his lungs. White hot pain spread across his skin. He could feel the panic radiating off of Red too. His Lion tried to sooth him but it was to no avail, he had no idea what was happening.
He tried to cry out to Romelle but his throat seized up. He knew he should be especially afraid when black spots began to cloud his vision, but some part of him knew passing out would be a welcomed relief from this agony.
He reached his hands out, grabbing for anything that could help him, but finding nothing. Lance reached towards the windows, towards the other Lions, towards Black, hoping her paladin would be there when he woke up like he was on Arus.
If he woke up at all.
That thought washed another wave of fear over Lance, but he didn’t have time to register it as his body finally gave up the fight and collapsed. He was unconscious before he even hit the floor.
“You’re getting the hang of this,” Krolia cooed as she tossed the knife across the cockpit.
Shiro caught it with ease. “Well it was either get good at it or get impaled so…”
Krolia was trying to strengthen Shiro’s left hand, seeing as his right hand was actually a mind-control device made by Haggar and Keith had to chop it off.
They had been tossing things for hours, they started off with easy objects like pillows, shoes, the first aid kit, but once Shiro was getting good she upgraded him to the knife. Normally Keith would be annoyed, but today their banter was a welcome distraction from Bob’s torturous game show. Besides, sometimes Krolia would pitch it hard and smack Shiro square in the face, which was always enjoyable to watch.
“You know,” Krolia mused as Shiro tossed the knife back at her, “you’re eerily comfortable with someone throwing a knife at you.”
Shiro shrugged. “I’ve had worse thrown at me.” A wicked smile spread across his face. “Especially from Keith’s younger, more rebellious days.”
“What,” Keith protested, the first words he’s said in hours. “I never threw any knives!”
Shiro raised an eyebrow.
Krolia barked out a laugh as she threw the knife back to Shiro. Shiro caught it and spun the knife between his fingers. “Maybe not, but you did throw some mean words at me.” He shrugged. “And words hurt more than anything, Keith.”
Keith frowned as Shiro and Krolia both stared at him with smug smiles, they were enjoying this too much. Part of him hated that they could team up on him now, but another part was glad they were getting along.
“You know Krolia,” Shiro continued, a mischievous tone in his voice. Keith didn’t like where this was going. “I could tell you all sorts of stories about Keith growing up.”
“Okay I think we’re done here,” Keith cut in.
“Like this one time-”
“You’re not getting out of this, Keith.”
“No seriously, be quiet for a second…do you feel that?” A strange feeling washed over him, he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was but he knew something was wrong. He opened up the comm channel. “Paladins, come in. Do - do you guys sense that?”
Pidge’s voice cut in first. “I don’t feel anything.”
“Me neither,” Hunk added.
There was a long pause before Allura spoke up. “I think…yes. It’s Blue, she’s trying to tell me something.”
Keith frowned. “It doesn’t feel like Black, but it feels familiar somehow.” Keith closed his eyes and concentrated on the feeling, trying to figure out where it was coming from. It was a distressed feeling yet, comforting in a way. His eyes shot open. “Red?”
Shiro scratched his head. “Why are the Red and Blue Lions the only ones that can feel it?”
“Lance,” Keith breathed.
Keith’s mind spun through a hundred different worst-case scenarios before he remembered he’s the leader and needs to keep a calm head before he spins out. He recomposed himself as he returned to the comms. “Lance, come in.”
“Lance,” he repeated, already losing some of his composure. He frantically opened the video call between Lions. “Lance is everything-” He froze as an empty cockpit glared back at him. He shot out of his seat. “Here, boy!”
His space wolf appeared next to him in an instant, his fur a little disheveled from the nap he was taking in the back, Keith would give him a treat later to make up for it. “Take me to Red,” he commanded as he grabbed ahold of his wolf.
The cosmic wolf transported them right into Red’s cockpit and Keith’s worst fears were confirmed.
Lance was lying on the floor.
The wolf let out a whimper as Keith ran to Lance and rolled him onto his back. “Lance? Lance!” He called as he pulled Lance’s limp body into his lap. Keith ripped off Lance’s helmet and checked his pulse, it was weak but still existent. He checked Lance for some sign of injury, there were no marks on his armor, no sign of an attack. He ran a hand through Lance’s hair, checking for any blood. Then for some reason, he ran his hand through it again as he stared down at Lance’s slack face.
He opened the comms again. “Lance is down.”
“What?” Hunk’s voice rang through his earpiece. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” Keith hated the growing desperation in his voice, but he felt so helpless in this moment. Lance was in trouble and he had no idea what to do.
Everyone’s voices came over the comms at once, all yelling about what Keith should do. He couldn’t concentrate with them all in his ear. He couldn’t concentrate with his friend looking dead on the floor either. He let out a growl as he ripped off Lance’s chest plate. He desperately grabbed at the black flight suit and pulled it down revealing Lance’s bare chest…and also revealing the problem.
“Oh my god.”
The comms went silent for a moment, then Allura spoke up. “What - what is it, Keith.”
Lance’s skin was covered in blotchy, red burns. Keith’s fingers grazed down Lance’s chest, heat radiating off of his motionless body. “The acid,” he ground out, almost inaudible. “The acid Bob threw him in.” He began yelling, though mostly at himself. “How could I have missed this? We literally watched him get thrown into a vat of acid?”
“It’s not your fault, my boy,” Coran’s calming voice came over the comms. “Fear not, there’s an Altean salve in the first aid kit that reverses such burns. If you give it to him now he should be alright.”
A chorus of voices accosted Keith’s ears once again, all wanting to know what was happening. He couldn’t focus with them all shouting so he spat a quick “I’ll update you later” into the comms before throwing his helmet onto the ground.
Keith scooped Lance into his arms, his head lolling into the crook between Keith’s neck and shoulder. He couldn’t tell if the rising heat in his face was radiating from Lance’s burns or something else…but he didn’t have time to think on that.
He ran into the back room where Romelle was lying on the bed, she jumped up when Keith entered. “Romelle, get the first aid kit!”
Her eyes were filled with fear as she glanced between Keith and the limp body in his arms, but then determination washed over her face as she jumped into action.
Keith laid Lance onto the bed and got to work.
Slowly he cracked his eyes open, letting light flood his vision. He let his eyes refocus, trying to figure out where he was. Lance knew he was lying horizontally, that was for sure. He blinked a few more times, realizing he was in the back of the Red Lion…Correction: He was shirtless in the back of the Red Lion.
Next he realized that his body was covered in bandages…why was he - oh yeah. What happened slowly came back to his memory, the intense burning, the paralyzing pain, the relief of passing out. Thankfully, someone must’ve found him.
That’s when Kieth’s face popped into view, his brows furrowed, his mouth set in a frown. He carefully leaned over Lance, his raven hair draping into his face as he looked down. Keith’s eyes were restless as he scanned Lance’s whole body, then, at last they met Lance’s stare. The boys held the gaze for a couple moments before Keith finally spoke. “How do you feel?”
Lance did a self-assessment. Not great, but nothing like he did before. He shrugged. “Like death…wait am I dead? Because if you’re here then I clearly went to Hell.”
That cracked Keith’s hardened expression a little. A faint smile appeared on his lips as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Shut up.”
All at once it hit Lance just how exhausted he was, he let his eyes flutter closed. He thought he might drift off again, but when Keith placed a hand on his cheek he suddenly felt very awake.
“Hey,” Keith said, not removing his hand from Lance’s cheek. “Do you feel like you’re gonna pass out again?”
Lance stared up at Keith, not really sure how to answer, so he didn’t. “What happened,” he groaned as he tried to sit up.
Keith slid his hand from Lance’s cheek down to his shoulder to help him. “I guess those burns Bob gave you actually did some damage.” Keith let his hands linger on Lance’s shoulders a bit longer than he should, then dropped them once he was steady. “But Romelle said you were awake when she left you, and I arrived not too long after.”
“Yeah, I didn’t even know anything was wrong until I was on the verge of passing out. How did you find me anyway?”
Keith crossed his arms. “Red and Blue were going crazy so I came to check on you.”
“Ah, the girls are always worried about me,” Lance laughed weakly.
“Oh my god, Lance.”
“…at least someone was worried about the dumb one,” Lance added quietly. The words were out before he could stop himself, but his mind couldn’t stop wondering back to the game show.
Keith pulled his hands away from Lance’s face as if he’d just been stuck, his eyes wide. “You’re not dumb.”
“Really,” Lance bit back, unable to hide his hurt any longer, “because you guys made it very clear that I was during the game show…and so did Bob, the inter-dimensional, all-knowing being.”
Keith shook his head. “Clearly he’s not all-knowing, because he doesn’t know you, the real you.”
“Well apparently you don’t either.”
“How can I when you hide behind a facade?” A thick silence settled over the room. Keith looked down at the floor, and in that moment Lance was sure his team leader would leave, just as he always did when they started talking about feelings; but much to Lance’s surprise, Keith didn’t move. “Lance, if you felt this way you should’ve told us.”
“Sorry if the way you acted during Garfle Warfle Snick deterred me from wanting to do that,” Lance grumbled.
“Well you should’ve told us about the burns at least,” Keith snapped back.
Lance pinched the bridge of his nose. “I genuinely had no idea anything was wrong until it was too late.” He leaned against the wall and stared absentmindedly at Keith. He truly did not have the strength to do this right now, and yet, he wanted - needed to clear the air with the boy sitting in front of him.
Keith studied Lance, a sadness clouding in his eyes. When he spoke again his voice was soft. “Did it hurt… when you were in the vat?”
Lance shrugged. “No, but I guess it’s like the frog in the boiling pot analogy.”
“You know.” Lance scratched the back of his neck. “If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will jump out because it’s too hot, but if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly boil it the frog won’t realize until it’s too late.”
“Oh wow I didn’t-” Keith paused, his eyes drifted down to Lance’s bare chest, his gaze resting on each bandage for a moment before moving to the next. He did this with every bandage until his stare finally returned to Lance’s eyes. “That was an… intelligent observation.”
Lance suddenly felt the need to change the conversation. He cleared his throat. “Well anyway, it appears I’m going to be out of commission for a little while longer.” He gestured to his almost naked body, as he was stripped down to his underwear, making it impossible to ignore the bandages that covered his arms, legs and torso. “Seeing as Red reached out to you it seems your link isn’t completely gone so you can fly her and have Shiro take Black-”
“Absolutely not-” Keith cut in.
“-I know,” Lance continued. “Bob the Omniscient Being referred to you as the ‘team leader’ so going back to Red might feel like a demotion but-”
“I said no,” Keith growled, the anger in his voice catching Lance off guard. “You are a vital member of this team, my right hand man and my friend. You are irreplaceable and no one is piloting Red but you.”
Keith’s words made something in Lance’s chest ache, but as much as he was saying what Lance needed to hear right now, they had to put the fate of the universe first. “But what if you need to form Voltron? You need all the paladins on their A-game, think of the universe, think of what’s important.”
“I am thinking of what’s important.” Keith ran a hand through his hair as he let out a half-hearted laugh. “One of the most important things in my life, actually.” Keith’s gaze met Lance’s, his violet eyes searing right into him, making him feel even more naked than he already did. Keith let his head drop. “Lance, I - Voltron needs you more than you’ll ever know.”
And all at once, everything caught up with Lance. The lack of support from his team, the feelings of inadequacy, the aching of his bruised body. “It doesn’t feel like it,” he whispered, his voice cracking as he spoke. He hated how weak he sounded, but the floodgates were open, he couldn’t hold these feelings in anymore.
He averted his eyes from Keith, too embarrassed by his own insecurities, which he was now dumping on the member of Voltron who probably was the worst with emotions. But in an instant, Keith was grabbing Lance’s shoulders and pulling him into a hug.
Lance was shocked at first, too shocked to react, but after a few moments he melted into it. He tucked his face into Keith’s neck and breathed him in. He felt comfortable, like he belonged there, as if he fit there perfectly, like two puzzle pieces completing one another. Keith let his head drop onto Lance’s shoulder, his hair draping down Lance’s back like a curtain. He could feel his leader’s heart beating, it was going a million miles a minute, but then again so was Lance’s.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Lance,” Keith mumbled into his shoulder. “You’re not dumb, I know that, and sometimes I forget that you need to hear that too.” Keith slid one of his hands into Lance’s hair and cradled the back of his head. “I don’t care if Bob is an all-powerful being, if he ever calls you the dumb one again I’ll kill him.”
Lance laughed at that, although part of him knew Keith wasn’t joking. He would one hundred percent fight a cosmic being if given the chance. Lance wrapped his hands around Keith’s flight suite and held onto him even tighter.
For a couple of minutes they hugged in silence, just breathing together, nothing more. But eventually Keith’s voice broke the silence. “Lance?”
“What’s this scar on your back?”
Lance slowly pushed Keith back so they were face to face, a small smile pulling at his lips. “Come on, Mullet, you don’t remember? From Arus when the crystal blew up.”
“Oh, I remember.” Keith pouted. “Apparently more than you do.”
Lance bit back his urge to laugh. He couldn’t believe Keith was still hung up on that, and yet some selfish part of him loved that Keith considered their bonding moment to be such an important memory, important enough that he brought it up at least once a phoeb.
“Yes well, I took the brunt of the impact from Coran so…” Keith’s face fell, and for some reason, Lance couldn’t stand that, so he quickly added, “but I’m thinking of making a t-shirt: I Survived A Balmeran Crystal Explosion And All I Got Was This Stupid Scar.”
Keith didn’t laugh, he didn’t say anything actually, all he did was get off the bed.
“I’ll take that as a no on the t-shirt idea then?” Lance called after him, he didn’t want Keith to go, not just yet.
But instead of leaving, Keith plopped down on the bed behind Lance. “Your scar isn’t stupid Lance,” Keith said, “…although your t-shirt idea is.”
But Lance could hear the smile in Keith’s voice. “Hah, you like it, Samurai. Don’t worry, I’ll make one for you too.”
“I’ll wear it for my Christmas card,” Keith chuckled. Then he fell silent. Lance could feel Keith’s laser focus on his back scar. His team leader hovered one of his hands over his bare back, so close he could feel the energy between their skin. Lance wanted to close that gap, to lean back so Keith was touching him, but he wasn’t sure if that was crossing a line for Keith, if that was too close for comfort, so he stayed where he was. After an eternity, Keith finally spoke, “Lance, may I?”
Lance couldn’t muster any words so he merely nodded, but that was enough for Keith. He gently let his hand fall on Lance’s back, and then, ever so slowly, he began tracing it with his fingers. No one had ever touched Lance’s scar before, no one even talked about it since he got it. It was now occurring to him that the team probably didn’t even know he had it. They all had scars from their time in space, both emotional and physical, Lance was just terrifyingly good at keeping his hidden, even the one that encapsulated most of his back.
“I can’t believe you almost died on our third day of being paladins,” Keith mused.
“Almost being the key word there,” Lance chimed in.
“And then the next day you almost lost your Lion to Rolo and Nyma.”
“Almost, that’s an important part of the story here.”
Keith brought his other hand to Lance’s back and let his fingers grace down his spine. “Jeez, you almost died.”
“If you say ‘almost’ again I’m gonna hit you.”
Lance turned his head and gave Keith his best puppy eyes. “Even though I’m injured?”
Keith just snorted as he playfully pushed Lance’s head away. Before Lance’s brain could catch up with what his body was doing he brought his hand to Keith’s cheek. He doesn’t know what god or demon compelled him to do it but he did it nevertheless. When his fingers brushed Keith’s skin the Head of Voltron’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head.
“You’ve got scars too.” Lance traced his fingers down the scar on Keith’s cheek, when he reached the jawline he let his fingers trickle down Keith’s neck until the scar disappeared under the armor. Once he reached the end he just left his hand there cusping Keith’s neck. “I’m pretty sure you’ve almost died more times than I have, and Shiro-”
“Technically Shiro diddie,” Keith corrected as he reached up and wrapped a hand around the wrist Lance still had on Keith’s neck. “But I still think you’ve almost died more, Shiro only had that one time.” He thought about this for a moment before adding, “it was just one big time.” He smiled at Lance. “Me on the other hand, I’m always putting myself in harms way, always itching for a fight, whereas every time you’ve almost died it’s always some stupid selfless act like when you saved Coran from the crystal or when the castle tricked you into thinking someone was trapped in the airlock.”
“Or the time you saved Allura,” came a voice from the doorway. It was Romelle coming to check on them.
“Yes exactly - wait, what?” Keith recoiled away from Lance in confusion.
Romelle shrugged. “Allura told me when you were in the quantum abyss they were defending an omega shield from Sendak. There was a blast meant for Allura and Lance pushed her out of the way and his heart stopped.” Romelle spoke casually as if she was talking about a baseball game and not Lance literally dying, it almost made him want to laugh, but he didn’t think that was appropriate in this moment. “Then Allura revived you with the Altean knowledge she learned from the White Lion.”
Keith watched with increasing horror as Romelle spoke. His eyes darted between the two of them, not sure which one of them to accost with questions. “What… Are you…How is this the first I’m hearing of this?”
“Okay so, I can understand why you’d be mad.”
“Hey so,” Romelle cut in. “Everyone’s just wondering how Lance is doing so maybe just tell me how you’re feeling on a scale from 1-10?”
Keith ignored her. “I almost came back from the quantum abyss to find out that you died while I was away?”
“Okay,” Romelle said, turning for the door. “I’m just gonna tell them you’re awake and doing great.” And with that, she left just as quick as she came.
Keith dropped his head into his hands. Lance wanted to comfort him but wasn’t sure how, he wasn’t even sure what Keith was feeling right now. Was he mad that no one told him? Upset that Lance died? Confused that nobody ever talked about this? All of the above?
Lance slowly placed a hand on Keith’s back. “In my defense, it’s a very hard thing to bring up in conversation. What am I supposed to say? ‘Hey Keith welcome back to the team by the way I died while you were out bonding with your long lost mom?’”
“Don’t make me laugh I’m mad at you,” Keith mumbled into his hands.
“I’m not trying to make you laugh, it’s not my fault that I’m naturally funny.”
Keith popped his up to glare at Lance.
“Hah, made you look at me.”
Keith narrowed his eyes, but he didn’t go back to sulking so that was a win in Lance’s book.
Keith glared at him in a very stoic manner, but Lance knew there were a thousand different emotions pulling at Keith behind his composed facade. He reached for Lance’s knee and gave it a small squeeze. “You should probably get some rest.”
And although he was sure Keith meant it in a caring way, for some reason Lance was insulted. Keith was coddling him, and Lance did not need to be coddled.
Keith blinked. “What?”
“I said no, Keith.” Lance hopped off the bed, which was a big mistake because his wounds screamed in agony, but he couldn’t let Keith see that. He grabbed the blanket from the bed and draped it over his shoulders. “I can pilot, it’s fine.”
“Come on, Lance, I think you’d fee better if-”
“You don’t get it. I gotta prove myself to the team.” Lance sighed. “Everyone else got voted out of Bob’s game show for these beautiful, sentimental reasons, but you only voted for me because you didn’t want to be stuck with me.” Lance headed for the door but Keith jumped off the bed and grabbed his wrist.
“Yes? You said so yourself.” Lance tried to wiggle free but Keith had a death grip on him.
“I’m not letting you leave this room until you’re better.”
Lance tried to push away but Keith only pulled him back. Lance, however, was used to this sort of game, he did grow up with siblings after all. He twisted his arm in all sorts of crazy directions until Keith had to release, and in that moment he made a b-line for the door. Somewhere down the line, though, he underestimated Keith, because before he could reach the door his team leader was there, scooping him up and carrying him back to the bed.
“Put me down,” Lance pouted, although some part of him could not believe Keith was carrying him bridal style right now. He might even be swooning if he wasn’t trying so hard to break free.
Keith put him down on the bed. Lance immediately tried to get up but Keith grabbed his wrists and pinned him down, just like Veronica used to do when they wrestled as children.
Lance struggled mercilessly beneath Keith’s hold. “Come on, I’m tying to be more than just the dumb one.”
“You already are, of course you are,” Keith growled.
“Really? Because that’s not what you said to Bob.”
“You threw me off guard.” Keith was practically yelling now. “I didn’t expect you to choose me or to call me the - the future.” Keith swallowed. “I was feeling so many things, and in the moment I couldn’t put myself out there and say the truth about why I chose you.”
Lance was too tired to keep going, so he gave up his struggle. He breathlessly stared up at Keith who’s grip hadn’t lightened in the slightest, probably because he didn’t trust Lance not to try and break free again. Smart man.
Lance shook his head. “So you just let me put myself out there first and then you embarrassed me?”
Keith let his head fall. “God, I know, I’m sorry, I’m the dumb one.”
He let go of Lance’s wrists and let his body fall to the side. He slumped his back against the wall and let his legs swing off the side of the bed. Lance remained lying down, unsure of what to do now. Did he just break Keith?
The silence that followed was the longest of Lance’s life. It settled thickly over the room like a fog, and for a moment, Lance though he would have to leave before it suffocated him. But something made him stay, well, someone made him stay, he always does.
He tried to sit up so he could speak with Keith face to face, but his aching body said “not this time” as he rose. He let out a sad little wheeze before falling onto his back again.
“Here,” Keith said as he gently slipped his hands under Lance’s back and pulled his head into his lap. “Let me tell you the real reason I voted for you.” He said, smiling down at Lance. “You are courageous yet kind. Everywhere we go, every alliance that we make, you are there making friends and taking pictures. You have an infectious personality that everybody loves all over the galaxy, and that’s an important factor in building trust with the coalition. If you think I’m the future then you must be the trailblazer.” He absent-mildly rested his hand on Lance’s head and began rubbing a thumb along his forehead. “You have to believe me, I really was gonna say that.”
Lance smiled. “Really?”
Keith’s eyes lit up. “And I can prove it.” He whistled and suddenly a giant space wolf appeared next to them. Lance jolted in surprise but Keith was unbothered. “Hey boy, go fetch.”
The wolf disappeared then reappeared seconds later with a pillow.
Keith frowned. “No.”
The wolf disappeared again then rematerialized with a knife.
He tried again.
“That’s Coran’s shoe.”
Keith dragged a hand down his face.“No, no. Go fetch the thing you always get. The piece of paper you’ve been chewing on.”
The wolf finally appeared with the paper and Keith gave him a scratch behind the ears.
“Maybe he’d listen to you more if you actually gave him a name,” Lance teased.
“Just shut up and read this.”
Keith handed him a piece of paper, it was torn and covered in drool but still legible. Lance read it only to find exactly what Keith had said about him written down. In the corner was Bob’s letter head, so Keith truly had written this during the game show, so this truly was the reason he voted for Lance.
“Why didn’t you just say this, you jerk?” Lance tossed the paper aside, and caught sight of Keith looking down at him. There was something about the fond look on his face, something about the way he only looked at Lance like that, and something about lying in Keith’s lap that gave Lance the confidence he needed to reach out and touch Keith.
He lifted his hand and brushed the hair out Keith’s face, but before he could finish his motion, Keith grabbed his hand and held it there, curling his fingers around Lance’s own.
That’s when Lance noticed the red dusting along Keith’s cheeks. Lance squinted…is that? No, it couldn’t be. He let out a laugh. “You’re as red as your old Lion, Kogane.”
He thought he would catch Keith off guard and make him turn even redder, but Keith’s face didn’t change for a second, he just continued to look at Lance with that affectionate look in his eyes. When he spoke, his words were as soft as his expression. “And when I saw you lying on the floor I felt as blue as your old Lion.”
Lance practically did a double take. “Did I just witness Keith Kogane make a pun? Now I’m sure I died.”
And in that moment, Lance felt something fuzzy in his chest. At fist, he wasn’t sure what it was, were his wounds re-opening? But no, he’d been feeling this for a while now, and it was finally time to accept it.
He sat up like a shot, despite his body’s cries not to, but he had to say this while looking his leader in the eyes. “Keith I…” but he stopped himself. His body was very clear that he could not sit up that fast again, and now it was time to face the consequences. “…I’m going to pass out.”
And with that, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and everything went dark. He felt himself lurching forward but familiar arms were there in a second. He waited for Keith to lower him into the bed, but he didn’t, instead he pulled Lance into his chest and laid the two of them back together. Lance fought to stay conscious, he wanted just a few moments to enjoy the fact that he was literally using Keith as a pillow. He tried to flutter his eyelids open but he lost that battle and drifted off once again.
When Lance woke up again he still felt sore, but he also felt better, more alert…and cold, cold because he was still shirtless, and his human body pillow was gone. It was probably for the best Keith had left, he deserved to rest. Lance closed his eyes again, a smile appearing on his face as his mind replaced the painful words from the game show with new ones:
If you think I’m the future then you must be the trailblazer.
Without opening his eyes he absentmindedly patted the bed in search of the blanket, when his fingers finally grazed it he pulled it all the way up to his chin, which prompted a groan to arise from someone beside him. Lance’s eyes whipped open. He turned his head just in time to see Keith pulling the blanket off of his head.
Keith was still in his armor, he was sitting on the floor although he was clearly sleeping with his head resting on the corner of Lance’s bed. He looked slightly annoyed that Lance had just woken him up by smothering him with a blanket, but he looked much better rested than he did before.
Keith seemed a tad disoriented from sleep, he glared at Lance for a moment, but then clarity came back to his eyes as he remembered where he was. “You’re awake,” he breathed.
They held each other’s stare, as if neither could believe the other was in front of them. Eventually, Lance broke the silence. “Were you…watching over me as I slept?” Keith suddenly became very interested in something on the floor, but Lance loved being able to make Keith squirm for once. “Wow, the fearless leader of Voltron was protecting little old me?”
“I was just-” Keith yelled, then he stopped himself, cleared his throat, and continued at a normal volume, “just making sure you were okay.”
“It looks like you fell asleep though.” Lance let out a dramatic gasp. “Did a group of sheep attack and the only way to protect me was to count them? How can I ever thank you, brave Paladin?”
Keith stared blankly at Lance, although the corners of his lips twitched ever so slightly, which Lance knew meant he was fighting a smile.
“Whatever,” his team leader mumbled. He pulled himself off the floor and sat on the edge of the bed. His gray eyes carefully scanning Lance all over before settling on his face. “Romelle actually sent me away so I could get some rest, but I couldn’t stop worrying so I came back here and I guess I fell asleep.”
Lance tried, he tried so hard, but he simply could not stop the smug grin from forming on his face. Keith couldn’t stop worrying about him.
Quiznak. He really did have feelings for this boy, didn’t he?
Admitting that to himself made Lance suddenly feel very hot. He threw off the blanket, but then felt very exposed as Keith’s eyes immediately dropped to his shirtless chest. Lance pulled the blanket back on. Too hot again. He scrambled to his feet. “I’m feeling pretty good I should probably put my flight suite back on.” He forced out a laugh. “I can’t have all the ladies ogling me, you know?”
“Oh that’s not the problem,” Romelle said, appearing in the doorway. She had a bowl in her hand and was eating what could only be described as the Altean equivalent of cereal. “Every time I came in here Keith was all ‘don’t touch him, don’t look at him, don’t even breathe near him.’”
Lance blinked at her. “…That - that was a spot on Keith impression,” he croaked out weakly.
“Thanks.” She shoveled another spoonful into her mouth, then continued speaking as she chewed. “So if anyone was ogling you it was him.” The only noise in the room was Romelle crunching her cereal. If she noticed the bomb she just dropped she didn’t seem to care. Her face was completely indifferent. “Anyway, glad to see you’re alright, Lance.” Then she left, leaving the two boys to unpack what she just said.
Lance decided he’d try his favorite tactic: ignoring the problem.
He finds his discarded flight suit on the ground and sticks his legs in. He not-so-gracefully pulled it up over his underwear and shimmied it up to his chest. He got his arms in and reached around for the zipper, but his tender wounds wouldn’t allow for that kind of movement. The universe was really testing him today, wasn’t it? He let out a sigh. “Keith, could you…could you help me zip it up?”
When Keith didn’t respond Lance turned around to see what the problem was. He almost laughed when he saw Keith is still staring at the door, his mouth agape, his eyes wide. Lance made a mental note to congratulate Romelle later for making Keith Kogane, the moody, brooding leader of Voltron look like a hurt puppy. “Uh, Keith, buddy?”
Keith jumped. “Yes. What? Yes.”
Lance gestured to his unzipped suit and Keith seemed to understand what he just agreed to. He made his way behind Lance and took the zipper in his hands. Lance waited for him to zip the suit but nothing happened.
“Ugh, I can’t do this,” Keith growled.
“Do what? Zip it up?” Lance shook his head. “I think if you can lead Voltron you can do this.”
“No! That’s not - I can’t - I can’t watch you get hurt again.” Keith dropped his head onto the back of Lance’s neck, inadvertently nuzzling his face into the crook, and inadvertently making Lance’s heart pound a million miles a minute. “I just saw your back scar again and I can’t watch you get hurt again, you’re too important.”
“To the team?”
“No, well yes! But-”
Lance shook his head. “Keith, what are you talking about?”
“To me.” A silence fell over the room. “You’re too important to me.”
Lance stared at the wall, unsure of what to do now. The man he was so clearly falling in love with had his face buried in Lance’s neck and was admitting that he cared for him too. In theory he should whip around and kiss Keith senseless, but he should probably let Keith get his emotions out first, he does only let them out to pasture about twice a year, so he shouldn’t cut him off early.
Keith slipped his arms around Lance’s waist. Lance hated himself for immediately thinking they felt so strong and safe.
Keith pulled his head away from Lance’s neck. “I’m sorry, I’m making you uncomfortable aren’t I?”
Keith began to pull his arms away but Lance instinctively grabbed them. “No!” He took a deep breath. It was time to tell the truth. “I mean I am uncomfortable but that’s because my back is cold, so if you would please zip up my flight suit so I can turn around and kiss you, that would be great.”
Lance felt Keith’s body stiffen against his, but then, as if working on auto-pilot, he zipped Lance’s suit up, spun him around and kissed him.
Lance couldn’t help but let out a small laugh against Keith’s lips. His fearless leader pulled back to say something but Lance wasn’t done yet, so he pulled Keith back in to finish what they started. Keith wrapped those obnoxiously sturdy arms around Lance’s body again and held him even tighter.
Finally, he let Keith pull away, which was a mistake, because the star-struck look on his leader’s face made Lance want to pull him back in again.
Keith shook his head. “You feel the same way?”
Lance rolled his eyes. “Yes, I think I’ve made that pretty clear.”
“What about Allura?"
“What about her?”
Keith shot Lance a knowing look.
“Okay fine.” Lance crossed his arms. “Yes, I was fixated on her, but only because I was trying so hard not to fixate on you.” His eyes fell to the floor. “Especially when you were gone with the Blades.”
Keith placed a hand under Lance’s chin and lifted it so their eyes met. “Hey,” he said in a soft voice. “I really am the dumb one. I should have never of left someone who makes me as happy as you do.” He leaned in closer. “I should’ve told you that day in my room, when you nearly broke my heart by suggesting you give up your Lion,” he breathed against Lance’s lips.
A genuine laugh bubbled out of Lance, but Keith swallowed it by pressing their lips together again, apparently unable to resist any longer. Lance’s fingers carted through Keith’s hair, something he’s wanted to try since Keith came back from the abyss, all older and grizzled with a flowing mane.
It seemed Keith had been holding back for a long time too as his one hand grazed up and down Lance’s back, unable to settle with holding just one part of his right hand man, needing to touch more and more. His other hand remained on Lance’s cheek as he gently rubbed a thumb up and down his jaw.
Keith kissed Lance like he was insatiable. He walked Lance backwards until they reached the wall, then Keith pressed against him, a smile forming on his lips. “I never thought this day would come. I almost gave up entirely.”
“Lance I swear to god if you say that one more time I will tell Coran you wanna know the story of how Altea was named…and that’s one of his longer stories.”
Lance’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”
“Oh but I would.” A mischievous look flashed across Keith’s face. “And I wouldn’t help you either. I would just laugh and laugh.”
Lance playfully poked his chest. “You’d save me…eventually.”
Keith looked away. “Maybe.”
“Come on Kogane, admit you like me.”
“Like you?” Keith’s eyes met Lance’s. “What are we, children on the playground?”
“Do you like-like me?” Lance taunted, ignoring Keith’s jab.
“Like-like?” Keith laughed, but then his expression fixed into something more serious. “We’ve been in space together for a couple of years now, I think it’s grown into more of a love feeling now.”
Lance froze, not really sure how to process those words. He nodded slowly, saying the first thing he could think of. “Do you…love-love me?”
“Oh my god,” Keith chuckled as he leaned their foreheads together. “Yes, I suppose I do.”
Lance closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Good, because I love-love you too.”
Keith’s eyes widened, Lance figured he wasn’t expecting to hear it back, and honestly, Lance wasn’t expecting to say it back either; but now that it was out there it felt right. Some part of him knew he had been falling in love with Keith all this time, but he had spent so much time fighting it, now that he was admitting it all those repressed emotions were flooding back. Yes, he was in love with Keith Kogane, which was good, because apparently the feeling was mutual.
Lance wouldn’t trade the smile that formed on Keith’s face for all the Gac in the universe. “Well then come on and kiss me again, and don’t miss, Sharpshooter.”
“I never miss.”
And with that, the two boys pulled each other in once again.
Keith wasn’t really sure what happened. All he knew was that Lance got hurt and he couldn’t stop worrying all quiznaking day, that when Lance finally regained consciousness and said something stupid his heart nearly pounded right out of his chest, and that when Lance admitted he loved Keith in return Keith nearly proposed right then and there (thank god he didn’t, though, Shiro never would’ve let him live that one down.)
Keith had known for a while now that he had fallen for Lance. He didn’t really sort his feelings out until those two years in the abyss, and Krolia had helped him too. Before that he didn’t understand what he was feeling towards Lance.
However, when he returned from the abyss, Lance and Allura seemed to be an item, and Keith didn’t want to impede on Lance’s happiness, so he didn’t say anything…but now this was happening. They were kissing. Lance McClain was kissing him.
Keith pinned his right hand man against the wall, pressing a hungry kiss against his lips. “Keith,” Lance breathed against his skin, making Keith want to go absolutely feral. “Keith, I’ve wanted this for-”
“Me too.” Keith pulled Lance into his arms. “God, me too.”
Keith was suddenly overwhelmed with a wave of selfishness, now that he had a little bit of Lance he needed more. Needed to make up for all that time he wanted him but didn’t think Lance felt the same way, all that time he was wrong.
Keith hoisted Lance up, but Lance didn’t miss a beat as he swiftly wrapped his legs around Keith’s waist. Keith was aware he literally just put Lance’s flight suit back on but he couldn’t hold back any longer. He unzipped the back and pulled it down, revealing Lance’s chest and bandages once again.
Keith went right to work kissing each and every bandage, wound and scar he could find. He may not always be able to prevent Lance from getting hurt, but he sure as hell could be there to help Lance recover.
Lance grabbed a fistful of Keith’s hair, and Keith would be lying if he said he didn’t absolutely love it. He stopped to look up at Lance again, he didn’t think this moment would ever happen, that Lance would ever return his feelings.
That fond look on Lance’s face was enough to make him melt. Resisting telling Lance how he felt was by far the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in his entire life, harder than leading Voltron even.
“You make me really happy,” Keith sighed.
Lance let out a laugh so pure it left Keith’s stomach in knots. Then he gently brushed the hair from Keith’s face. “Yeah, well, ditto.”
“So,” came a voice from behind them. “Can I tell the others you’re feeling really good now?”
Keith whipped around to find Romelle leaning on the doorframe, a wide smile spread across her face. She’d been with the team the shortest amount of time, yet somehow even she knew this was a long time coming.
Despite her playfulness Keith felt his protective instincts kick in. He threw his arm into the wall, blocking Romelle from Lance. “Could we get a little privacy?”
She wiggled an eyebrow at him.
He gritted his teeth. “Please.”
“Should I just tell the team you’re having a bonding moment or-”
“Get out Romelle!” He growled.
“As you wish,” she laughed as she dipped into a dramatic bow. She turned to leave, but not before giving Keith a little wink first. He rolled his eyes, she really knew how to get under his skin; although, truth be told, she already felt like a little sister to him, and based on the way she was already teasing him like Shiro does, she seemed to feel the same.
Keith returned his attention to the amazing boy in his arms. “So, uh, where were we?”
Lance snickered. “Wow, got anymore smooth lines, Romeo?”
“Shut up,” Keith said, diving in for another kiss. He placed a hand on Lance’s cheek and tilted his head, allowing him to kiss the paladin even harder. Lance unzipped Keith’s flight suit and pulled it down so he could get to his neck. Keith let out a breathy laugh as Lance placed kisses down his bare skin. “I think my lines are just fine, thank you very much.”
Lance let out a laugh against Keith’s skin, causing goosebumps to appear all over his body. Lance slowly ran his nose up Keith’s neck until they were eye to eye. He held his stare for a moment before cracking huge, heart-warming smile. “Oh yeah? Does this sound familiar… ‘leave the math to Pidge?’”
Okay, Lance had him there. Not his smoothest line. If it was Shiro bringing it back up, Keith would’ve strangled him, but it wasn’t. God Keith really had it bad for Lance, because he had no desire to kill him right now.
Instead, his face turned beet red. “I know, shut up!”