“You’re so pretty, you know that?”
Lance ignored the way his heart thumped uncomfortably in his chest, pushing Keith away with a look of warning. “Not now, mullet. I’m waiting to make sure Coran doesn’t die of laughter so he can fix you,” he muttered, turning to glare at the Altean. Coran’s face had practically turned red, taking deep breaths to keep himself from suffocating.
“S...Sorry, my boy. I just never expected such a scene to greet me! You were screaming louder than a wershible running from a coleochi!”
The Altean wasn’t wrong, but Lance hadn’t expected to be woken up by Keith wrapping his arms around his waist and kissing his neck. Sure, it didn’t necessarily register immediately , but once Lance had woken to see what was happening he’d been shocked. He still was, running a hand over his neck absentmindedly and trying to calm his racing heartbeat.
To top it off, the black paladin had refused to let him go until Lance wrestled him off, running out of his room and to the deck where Coran was thankfully working on something.
“It really isn’t that funny, Coran,” Lance muttered.
“It was and you know it,” Coran insisted as he let out a deep breath, unable to look serious with the grin on his lips. “But really, you could have woken up the entire solar system with how loud you were screaming.”
“He was chasing me menacingly !” Lance defended. Keith moved behind him again and wrapped his arms around his waist. Lance tensed at the action, Keith scrunching his nose and resting his chin on his shoulder.
“I was trying to kiss you.”
“ Menacingly !”
Keith ignored the statement, his hair brushing against Lance’s neck as he tightened his grip. Lance looked away with red cheeks, hoping that the other couldn’t feel his heart getting faster at the action. Sure, Lance had hugged Keith before—when they both nearly died in the spur of the moment and when they were excited to have passed a level that no one else could while training—but this wasn’t like those hugs. This wasn’t light and brief.
It was full of intent and emotion that Lance wasn’t used to receiving from anyone.
No one could have seen this coming, especially considering that Keith had been fine when he returned from the mission with Allura. He had talked normally, bantered normally, and even trained normally. The last thing he told Lance was to not get so cocky for an old cargo pilot, but now…
“Lance, are you alright?”
Lance swallowed and used his hand to push Keith’s face away from nuzzling into his neck. “I’m just peachy.”
“You aren’t. I can tell by that face you’re making,” Keith insisted, raising a hand to avoid being pushed away.
Ripping his hand from the other, Lance separated from Keith, about to speak until he saw how shattered the other appeared. If Lance were honest, he was shocked at his own reaction as well, both inwardly and outwardly. The black paladin faltered and backed away. He shifted, rubbing the back of his neck and making the guilt heavy on Lance’s shoulders.
Lance didn’t hate Keith. No, he had long since buried their nonexistent rivalry after all they had gone through. He considered Keith a formidable ally, and he was 70 percent sure that Keith was content with their friendship.
This is where the issue came into play considering that friendship was definitely not the same as a relationship.
Why Lance was even thinking of a relationship when it was obvious this wasn’t the real Keith created a sinking feeling that hadn’t left him since this whole ordeal had begun. Lance raised a hand to his hair, needing to calm down and think rationally about this all. With a pouty Keith, that would be impossible.
Keith and Lance’s shock mirrored each other: Lance raising a hand to his mouth while Keith watched him with utter concentration.
“You aren’t angry at me?”
“No,” Lance said slowly, letting out a sigh as he ran a hand over his face. He was tired after being woken up by Keith and his advances, but he wasn’t angry at the paladin himself. “I’m not mad at you, Keith.”
Keith’s concern melted into relief, eyes flickering with something that made Lance’s stomach lurch. Looking away, Lance cleared his throat.
The Altean motioned for the two to get closer. “Alright, alright. Let’s get you both scanned. I’ll call the princess to come along as well. If she was on this mission with Keith, she may be able to give us some insight into what exactly happened.”
“Well, I’ll be damned...I thought love bugs were a myth,” Pidge whispered in awe, staring at the scans with Coran beside her.
“They are! But Erosichibles aren’t!” Coran said with a nod, Pidge shooting him a look. The rest of the paladins followed her example, Lance the most exasperated as he sat in the corner with Keith behind him and holding him close.
“Same difference. Either way, whatever it is, it managed to get Keith to fall for Lance...so it must be pretty powerful,” Pidge murmured as Lance let out a sound of indignation.
“Hey! I’m loveable!” Lance shouted from where he was seated, Keith behind him and holding him close. The other had his forehead pressed against Lance’s shoulder, eyes closed and breathing even to the point that Lance wondered if he had fallen back asleep. When Keith’s grip tightened, Lance knew that he wasn’t.
“I second that notion,” Keith whispered so only Lance could hear. The noise Lance made was between choked and pained, but the other paladins snickering at him made it turn into more of a whine.
“How cute,” Allura said from where she stood, arms crossed and amusement seeping into her tone. “So... so cute.”
“Watch it, princess,” Lance warned, crossing his arms and feeling his eyes burn from wanting nothing more than to close for the next few hours. “So what is this Erosich-thing and how does it work?”
Coran admired the closeness of the two paladins for a moment longer, only clearing his throat when he was sure Lance might develop supernatural abilities with how deep his glare was. “Erosichibles are creatures that feed on strong emotions. These emotions can be anything from fear to hatred to…” Coran began, Lance’s breath hitching as he felt one of Keith’s hands moving to his hip to keep him from squirming. Swallowing hard and coughing to hide his embarrassment, Lance nodded and did his best to continue listening.
“Love, as you can see,” Coran finished. “There are a few things to keep in mind, however.”
“Those being?” Lance asked, shoulders drooping as he attempted to simply breathe through the number of nerves he felt in his bones. Sure, at first this was all fun and games. It was funny to think about, but these were Keith’s emotions. Keith would no doubt hate this if he were able to think clearly and Lance…
“You must remain with him at all times, as we aren’t sure what distance can do to him right now. It was probably why he sought you out in the middle of the night,” Coran explained as clearly as he could.
“Makes sense,” Pidge chimed in earnestly, fingers tapping at her chin as she thought. “Once Allura and Keith got back, you two were stuck at the hip anyway,” she pointed out. “We all ate together and you two even went to train before going to sleep. There wasn’t a moment of distance.”
She…wasn’t wrong. Lance hadn’t noticed it at first, but he and Keith had already been together until they went to their rooms to rest. And even then, their rooms were next to each other. If that amount of distance was too much for Keith, then…
“So what you are saying is…”
“You’re the only thing grounding number 4 right now. The longer you remain together, the sooner we may be able to figure out how to cure him!”
Lance blinked, pushing himself to his feet as Keith slumped forward in surprise. He had fallen asleep and while Lance felt awful for waking him, he also shouldn’t have been holding on that tightly.
“You’re saying he is stuck like this until further notice?!”
Pidge grinned. “No,” she said smoothly. “He’s saying that you are both stuck like this until further notice.”
“You—!” Lance started until Allura, finally managing to regain her composure and come to her senses, clapped her hands.
“Alright, we’ve had our fun with teasing, however, this raises a dire concern. If we should need to form Voltron, Keith’s mind must be clear of all distractions. He cannot do that if he needs to remain at Lance’s side. The distance between lions during battle is not possible to estimate and could end up disastrous.”
“The princess is right,” Hunk said, hand raised in the air like a schoolchild asking for permission. “This could end up hurting them both. We just learned to form Voltron as a team again. Losing two more paladins would mean losing Voltron completely.”
Lance hadn’t thought about that, blood going cold. He trembled, but he wasn’t sure what was causing the action. Was it remembering that they’d lost Shiro? Or concern of the future that seemed much less predictable?
Or was it just plain fear?
He sucked in a breath when he felt Keith’s hands grab one of his own to ease the tension. He looked over at the fellow paladin and watched as his lips twitched with the beginnings of a smile. It didn’t take long for Keith to take advantage of Lance’s distracted state, lacing their fingers together and squeezing his hand. The action alone had Lance wanting to laugh and cry.
“We’ll be fine,” Keith insisted, expression confident and relaxed. “We’ll adjust.”
Lance had a feeling the “we” in the situation wasn’t inclusive of the other paladins, the fact solidified by how Keith was watching him so carefully. It had Lance wondering about what would have happened if Keith had been in this situation.
If it had been Lance that wouldn’t let him go, what would he do? Keith was stubborn. He was their leader for a reason and would never let one of them get hurt if he had a chance to stop it…which meant as his right hand, Lance had to do the same to keep him safe, right?
‘To keep everyone safe,’Lance corrected internally, a bit embarrassed that he’d been swept up in Keith’s words so easily.
Deciding the only right option, Lance rolled his head back and let out a deep sigh. “Alright, mullet. I’m all yours,” he said as Keith perked. “Ah, ah ah! Within reason and no funny business!” he quickly added as the fellow paladin snorted.
Their hands remained laced together, useful when Keith pulled Lance along. To the surprise of the others, Lance allowed it. The red paladin turned to see his teammates watching with a mixture of emotions, Lance finally feeling some amusement of his own.
“If you need us, we’ll be sleeping!” Lance called, waving like a maiden that’d been swept off her feet. If this was their situation, Lance might as well make light of it and hope for the best.
It wasn’t like they hadn’t experienced hardships before, this would end up resolved and things would go back to normal.
“Lance? You look upset.”
“…It’s nothing, mullet. Let’s just get some sleep.”