Okay. So having the words ‘I think you’re a fucking loser.’ Tattooed on his wrist in an angry red wasn’t the best. So it caused endless mocking by his siblings who all met their soulmate early and got happily married young. So what if he kept his wrist guarded at all times as a consequence out of fear that his peers would mock him too? So what if the guardedness caused him to be labeled a freak in elementary school where no one wore bracelets or guards except him and by the time most of his classmates did the freak label was already cemented? So what if he sometimes catches his mom looking at him from the corner of his eye in concern or disappointment?
Lance was fine. Super fine. He had Hunk at least.
Hunk was the only other one in his elementary school who also covered his soulmate tattoo. As a consequence they were often pushed together by necessity. Hunk never actually wanted to cover his tattoo and so when Lance asked about it he had been quick to take it off and show him the words ‘Tell me, what is the sky like?’ in a soft grey. Hunk’s mother was concerned about him having a soulmate who spoke such strange words and the teasing that would follow. Lance was quick to assure him that it just meant his soulmate was unique and special. They’d been friends ever since. Even if Lance didn’t show Hunk his back then.
If anything his tattoo just made Lance more determined. Even if destiny said his soulmate was going to think he was a loser at first he would do everything in his power to be the opposite. He was going to pick the coolest job and have had all the best girlfriends before they met so there would be nothing his soulmate could think of him as a failure for.
He met Shiro in middle school. Well. Not met so much as saw him for the first time. He’d just got back from his first mission. It had gone so well that the Garrison had decided to use his recent publicity to recruit new students. He’d been nervous at first, giving a lecture about the school and the different jobs available in space to the students who were moving up to high school the next year, but as he’d talked he’d calmed down. In fact the more he talked the more enthralled Lance became with his words. He seemed so calm and passionate when he spoke about space and flying. Lance had never wished so much in his life that he’d sat in the front instead of the back where he could slack off.
The things he said about space and flying resonated so deeply in Lance he could feel his stomach doing back-flips as he pictured piloting a ship through the barely-charted cosmos. And Shiro at the helm. He’d never seen a cooler person before. Shiro had barely left when Lance was running off to guidance to put his name on the enlistment form. Hunk held out until the end of the week. But the way Lance spoke about it after. Hunk had never seen his friend so passionate about something. And when he found out how truly amazing their engineering classes were he knew he had to follow his friend. He hadn’t even thought his soulmate could be an alien.
It wasn’t until the entrance exams that Lance showed Hunk his soulmark.
They were both sitting on the steps of Hunk’s house looking up at the stars when Hunk finally turned to Lance. “Hey Lance?”
Lance was too absorbed in space to bother with his usual blabber. Too busy imagining being up there. This felt like such a turning point in his life that for once he just wanted to breathe. He’d nodded at Hunk to go on.
Hunk cleared his throat nervously. “I’ve known you for a long time now dude, and I’ve NEVER seen you so focused on something before. You’re one of the most determined people I know, but usually you’re not this…Intense about something.”
Lance sighed. “It just feels right. Like something is pulling me down this path. Which, yeah sounds like total junk but…”
Lance looked up to see Hunk’s kind look and frowned. “Actually. Actually, I gotta show you something. You showed me your Soulmark it’s probably about time I showed you mine. Especially if you’re following me all the way to space dude.”
Hunk nodded but let out an audible gulp as Lance undid the hooks on his thick leather bracelet and clutched at his own woven green one. Lance held out the underside of his arm, not wanting to read the words out loud. Hunk sucked in a quick breath as he saw the red words looking almost like a wound on the underside of Lance’s arm. The handwriting was carelessly done, but had a spiky look about it which fed more into Hunk’s initial thought of wounds. Hunk thought it looked like a boy’s handwriting and wondered if Lance had even thought that far past the knife’s edge of the words. He obviously didn’t take the bracelet off much even at home if the difference in skin tone and deep indentations at the edge of where the bracelet sat were anything to go by. It was so different from his own shaky, but gently flowing script and soft coloring that he grasped his wrist again as if it hurt.
He had so much to say to his friend as he was flooded with understanding but all that came out was a soft but intense, “Oh, Lance.”
This was too much for Lance and he snatched his arm back as if burned and cradled it to his chest. He took a second to choke back the tears that had formed in his eyes, before they adopted a determined look.
“This is why I want to become a pilot so bad. Pilots are just. The coolest things in the whole damn world. They get to see the whole universe in a way that’s just a dream to most people. And even-And even if my soulmate does think I’m a loser when I meet them, there’s no way they can keep thinking that way about me if I’m an ace pilot right? And even if they do it’ll at least get my siblings to stop looking down on me and-and maybe my mom won’t care if my soulmate doesn’t love me when I’m flying across the cosmos or pro-protecting people, right? Es asi? Right?!”
Hunk moved closer and put his arm around Lance’s shoulder as he started shaking. “Lance, your family loves you man.”
The tears finally escaped down Lance’s face as he caved in around himself. “I-I know. I love them too. It’s just. They all found their perfect soulmates when they were young and married them and have perfect relationships and are just so wrapped up in things it’s like they don’t see me. And sometimes I see my mom looking at me like-like I’m a disappointment. Her and Dad were the perfect soulmate’s too before he died and now what-what if I can’t be like that with mine? I’m already the black sheep of the family what if….”
Lance dissolves into sobbing and Hunk doesn’t know what to say so he just pulls him closer so he’s leaned against his shoulder instead of hunched in a ball around his own arm.
The first time he meets Keith goes something like this:
Lance was loitering with Hunk out in the hallway and loudly proclaiming right in front of a classroom door how hot one of their teachers was. Keith heard him as he was coming out of his class. Normally he wouldn’t have said anything, but Lance’s arm almost hit him in the face while he was gesturing and he had to hit it away.
This immediately got Lance’s attention. “Hey, watch it!”
Lance took a look behind him to see who had slapped his hand out of the air and was left gaping for a few seconds as he took in the boy scowling at him. Hunk had to nudge him with his elbow for him to pick his jaw off the floor. By then Keith had already started off down the hallway. Lance immediately started following him down the hall a few steps, his mind racing to think of something to talk about, finally settling on, “Hey wait! Wait! Settle something for us! Do you think Professor Uhura is hot?!”
Keith barely glanced back over his shoulder at Lance as he said, “I think you’re a fucking loser.” Before continuing up the hall.
Lance managed to shout, “Takes one to know one!”
Keith just turns his head back around and keeps walking. As soon as Keith turns Lance realizes something so shocking he walks straight into a trash can and spills it all over the hallway, landing face first in it.
Keith is long gone by the time Hunk helps him up. Lance had been ignoring Hunk’s hand for several minutes as he stared at the ceiling in a daze.
When he’s on his feet the first thing he says is, “Fucking hell that was my soulmate.”
Lance wasn’t really concerned that his soulmate was a guy. He knew that soulmates could be platonic, but he’d had an inkling for a while that he wasn’t really picky in the gender area. And Keith was hot.
What really concerned him was that Keith hadn’t responded at all. He’d insulted him and walked off and even after Lance’s parting shot he hadn’t acknowledged Lance. It could just be that he didn’t realize that Lance had said his words. That they were soulmates. At least that’s what Lance told himself.
Because he knew that unrequited soulmates were possible. Your soul could be a perfect match for someone but their perfect match is someone else. It was uncommon but not unheard of. And the worse culmination of Lance’s nightmares that he could think of.
So Lance convinced himself that Keith just hadn’t noticed. He was going to make sure he was in Keith’s line of sight all day the next day.
Lance couldn’t believe it was only his second day at the Garrison.
The whole next week Keith didn’t glance in his direction once. Well, unless you counted glaring when Lance got in his way somehow. And Lance wasn’t an idiot. He’d done some digging into Keith. Keith was an orphan that was specifically asked to join the program because a senior officer thought he was some sort of protégé when it came to flying. So Keith wasn’t an idiot.
If he and Lance were soulmates. If KEITH was Lance’s soulmate. Then he would have figured it out by now.
So as time went on Lance got sad.
Why would fate deal him a soulmate that wouldn’t or couldn’t love him back? Why was he such a bad person that THIS would be his fate?
And then he got mad.
By then Keith had soared to the front of the class, becoming a fighter pilot easily. Meanwhile Lance was stuck as a cargo pilot. He’d meant to be trying hard. He HAD tried hard. But he was so distracted by Keith’s perfect mullet hair from the front row, and Keith’s perfect flight simulations, and Keith’s big beautiful eyes when he happened to catch sight of them. And then he’d get mad about the distractions and try to get girls to date him to distract him from the distractions. This always failed miserably.
One day Lance was passing by a classroom and heard voices inside. He couldn’t resist peeking in and eavesdropping when he recognized Keith and Shiro’s voices. He hadn’t seen Shiro since he enrolled. Not since the lecture he gave at his middle school. He’d looked off and on but it seemed that Shiro was always in pretty high demand for missions because of how good of a pilot he was.
Keith seemed really happy to see Shiro. Wearing a cute smile that curved just a bit more to the left and eyes that seemed more open than Lance had ever seen them before. He hadn’t realized before now how tense Keith held himself on a daily basis.
Shiro had his hand on Keith’s shoulder. It was obvious how much the two of them meant to the other. Lance felt his heart twinge somewhere in his chest and told himself he was being silly. Even if Keith was his soulmate he’d barely said two words to the guy. And anyway, he wasn’t Keith’s soulmate. He also ignored the pain in his chest at this thought. That one was a familiar one now. The further he pushed that down the better.
Lance was brought out of his own head by Shiro speaking up. “The Garrison promised to give me a bit of a break from missions so I can assist at the school. That means we can start training again if you want.”
Keith’s smile became a determined grin as he nodded his assent. “Looking forward to it.”
The class usually broke into two groups to do the simulator. That means it took a while before Lance saw Keith fly.
Lance thought his heart had stopped. He’d never seen anything as beautiful as Keith flying.
This is where Lance decided that Keith was his rival. If he couldn’t get Keith as a soulmate he’d get him as something. And maybe if he could fly better than Keith he’d be able to win Keith’s attention at the very least. If Keith could just look at him…
Lance had agreed to send his mom a letter every month to let her know how he was doing. He would have just sent her an email but she wanted some physical sign of his being so he agreed to write paper letters.
Every time he tried to tell her he had met his soulmate he had to stop.
How could he tell her that her youngest son had an unrequited soulmate? She’d be devastated. Did having one mean he was broken? What if she thought it was her fault?
He’d fallen asleep more than once curled around a piece of paper covered in scribbles with tears drying on his face.
Sometimes Lance would sneak out of his dorm to watch Keith and Shiro practice at night. He wished that he could be worthy of a mentor as good as Shiro.
Sometimes he’d decide to stay in and stare at his ceiling. Sometimes he’d wonder if Keith and Shiro were platonic soulmates.
Sometimes he didn’t know who he was jealous of. Keith for getting the mentor Lance wanted or Shiro for getting to spend time with Keith while Keith let his guard down.
This went on at a steady pace until the end of Lance’s junior year. Everybody in Lance’s class was in the cafeteria when the News played the story. The Kerberos mission had failed. All crew members presumed dead. Pilot error.
Lance had barely processed what he was seeing when Keith stood up and left the room.
Once talking had broken out again Lance quietly got up and left as well. Hunk was the only one to notice and he didn’t follow.
Shiro was his hero.
Now he was dead.
Lance could see that Keith was a wreck. He pulled even farther away from everybody then he was already. He didn’t pay attention in class. He got distracted in the flight simulator. He spent all his time in his room. Lance didn’t know what he was doing.
He wanted to say something to him. Anything. How much Shiro meant to him. But when he thought about it he couldn’t imagine it going well. How could his hero-worshipping Shiro mean anything to the guy who saw him as a mentor, or maybe even a father or brother figure. How could his pain ever compare to Keith’s? What right did he have to comfort Keith? What right did he have to talk about how this affected him? How it made him realize that this job was dangerous and pilots didn’t always come back. That people died doing this.
As motivated as he was in the simulators before in his effort to beat Keith he stepped it up a hundred times. He wouldn’t be a pilot that fucked up and killed his crew. Even if he still couldn’t really believe that that was what happened.
On nights where he used to follow Keith to watch him train with Shiro he now sat in the hallway outside Keith’s room in the dark with his head leaning against the wall by his door and hope that he was okay in there.
Sometimes Lance would sneak out and sit on the roof and watch the stars instead. Would wonder what had actually happened up there and what it would be like to break through the atmosphere.
It was while he was doing this one night that he ran into Keith for the first time in a while.
Keith walked right out the door and stood surprised in it while staring at Lance who was staring back. They spoke almost simultaneously. “What are you doing here?”
Keith wasn’t wearing the Garrison uniform. He was wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt under a red jacket and black fingerless gloves, probably to hide his soulmark. His red boots matched his jacket and he had a belt around his hips that held a knife. Lance was having trouble keeping his eyes off his hips. The uniform was not very form flattering.
The staring between the two went on for a beat too long and Lance forced himself to break it. “I’m-I just snuck out for some air. I like actually seeing the stars.”
He hadn’t meant for it to come out quite that fast or awkward but it got the point across.
Keith sighed and a miracle occurred. His features loosened as he relaxed for a second and tilted one side of his mouth up as if he was almost smiling.
It only lasted a second before he was striding over to Lance and then to the side of the building he was sitting on the front of where there was a ladder down to the ground. “Well I’m just passing through so I won’t bother you.”
As Keith passed behind Lance, Lance panicked and grabbed his arm. Keith immediately stilled and tensed again. They made eye contact.
Keith broke the silence while Lance was still floundering. “What. I won’t tell anyone you were up here if you don’t tell about me. I don’t even know your name.”
Lance squeaked out, “Lance.”
Keith looked even more confused.
Lance took a deep breath. “My names Lance. I’m a cargo pilot. I just- I just I guess wanted you to know that I’m sorry about Shiro and that I don’t think it was pilot error either. He was the best, he wouldn’t have—“
“No he wouldn’t.” Keith’s voice sounded dangerous his hands clenching into fists.
“Look.” Lance tried to tread carefully even as he cursed himself for opening his mouth in the first place. “I really looked up to the guy. I saw how you walked out when it was announced. I just wanted to tell you that I-I miss him too. Not as much as you obviously. But he was a good guy.”
Keith’s fists unclenched. He pulled his arm away from Lance’s grip. “Yeah he was.”
Lance let his hand fall slowly down onto the roof. Keith walked away. Just before his head went below the roof he spoke again with a sigh. “My name’s Keith.”
Then he continued down the ladder. Lance whispered after him. “I know.” But he knew that Keith couldn’t hear him.
Lance watched the middle distance for a while, still not believing that he had actually said that to Keith. When he saw a land vehicle leave the senior officer’s garage and head out into the desert he decided to head to bed.
The next morning it was all over the school. Star pupil of Lance’s class had driven off some time last night. They were caught coming back in the morning and ended up punching a commanding officer. Some students that were nearby heard something about the Kerberos mission come up but not the details. But the student had gotten expelled right before end of the year exams.
That meant one cargo pilot would move up to fighter pilot.
Since the moment Keith left Lance was filled with an empty feeling that bubbled up deep down in his stomach and kept expanding up through him. All the way through finals he worked harder than he ever had in an effort to distract himself from the feeling of loss.
Hunk kept trying to talk to him but Lance kept blowing him off to study. Lance hadn’t talked about Keith out loud in so long Hunk had almost forgotten that he was Lance’s soulmate. For the last year or so whenever he mentioned Keith it was just to yell about his rival. Hunk figured that Lance’s extreme work ethic had more to do with proving himself than mourning Keith’s departure. So he left him to it.
Lance got off the bus that had taken him home deep in thought. What was Keith doing now? What would he do for two months with Hunk off visiting his grandparents in the pacific? With how much he thought about Keith, with how bad he was feeling, would he be able to hide it from his mom?
He got his answer when he looked up at his house and saw his mom standing on his front step with her arms held open. He smiled with gritted teeth and ran up to hug her. As her arms wrapped around his waist and he brought his head down to rest on her shoulder he was finally able to feel something for the first time in weeks. He was home.
The tears and the feelings he’d been trying to hold in for weeks came pouring down his face. His mom just closed her eyes and ran a soothing hand through his hair, rocking slightly.
“Mom”, Lance sobbed on her shoulder.
She only hummed in response.
“Mom I met him. I met my soulmate. Me encontré con él. I met him three years ago mom.”
His mom’s whole body froze. But Lance just buried his head deeper in her shoulder, a deep sense of shame creeping up under the pain.
But he couldn’t stop the words now that they were finally leaving his mouth. All the years of skirting letters and visits home where he’d spend long nights hiding at Hunks, or in his room, or off someplace to avoid his family for long periods of time. Just so he wouldn’t have to admit this. Admit his biggest failure to the people who mattered most to him.
“Mom. Mom, he’s my soulmate but I’m not his. And-and I never told him. I never said more than a handful of words to him. But-but he was always there. él siempre estaba ahí. He was always there and now he’s not. Now he’s gone and I don’t know where he went and I don’t think I’ll ever see him again. He’s gone forever and he didn’t even know mom. He’s all alone somewhere and he left me here he doesn’t even KNOW.”
Lance kept repeating, “He didn’t even know, Ni siquiera se sabe, he didn’t even know.” Quieter and quieter into his mom’s shoulder.
He couldn’t see how sad she looked or the tears slipping down her face silently as she started stroking his hair and shushing him again. “Oh carino, lo siento. I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”
She felt a deep stab of guilt that she had missed her youngest son being in so much pain for three years. But that was Lance she thought grimly. If he doesn’t want you to know something you wouldn’t. He used his loud and somewhat abrasive personality to his advantage. You’d only look where he wanted you to.
Lance never knew, but after he passed out on his bed shortly after coming home his mother had called an emergency family meeting. She told them all about Lance’s soulmate and how hurt he was over it. It was hard for them to believe at first, but it just brought to their minds that picture of a scowling little boy who on his first day of preschool had demanded a wrist covering. Whining about his sibling’s teasing about his soulmate’s poor first words. Picking fights with older kids in elementary school who had tried to see his words. Who picked on him for wearing a bracelet when he was so little. Most people didn’t wear one until around thirteen. The little kid who fought hard and worked hard and demanded to go and learn to be a pilot so he could fight harder. Who wanted to be great. Who sought out attention but tried to pretend he never wanted it in the first place.
They promised not to bring up soulmates around Lance unless he brought it up first. They promised to stop picking on his words. They barely thought at all about Lance’s soulmate being another boy. All they thought about was how much pain Lance must be in.
Lance survived his visit home. He managed to forget about Keith for a few seconds sometimes. He managed to ignore how empty he felt by filling himself with the presence of his family. He reminded himself that no matter how they made him feel sometimes his family loved him and he loved them. They re-inspired him and motivated him to keep living life the best he could. Maybe this was all he needed. This and becoming a great fighter pilot. This and Hunk. Maybe Keith’s leaving was for the best for him. Now he could move on.
The sense of loss he felt when he thought of moving on was unimportant.
His whole family was there to see him off on the last day. They all hugged him close and ruffled his hair and told him to make the family proud. That they’d be there to see him graduate.
His mom held him extra close for longer than anyone else. Whispered how much she loved him in his ear. Told him to be careful.
It was with tears in his eyes that he boarded the bus back to school. He likes to think that he still would have gotten on the bus if he had known what was going to happen.
If he had known that he wouldn’t be seeing them at graduation.
That he wouldn’t be seeing them for a long time.
Hunk was already on the bus when Lance got on. He’d come home the night before and his house was a couple stops before Lance’s.
Lance was smiling when he sat down next to Hunk. They hugged and greeted each other, but before Hunk could start ranting about his trip Lance cut him off.
“Hey Hunk, Don’t, don’t mention Keith to me again okay? He’s gone. I’m gonna move on! This is going to be my best year yet!” Lance was still smiling as he said it, but his face seemed tight.
Hunk didn’t know if he should be worried about him or not. But he agreed to pretend Keith never existed.
Lance had barely dropped his stuff in his room and changed into his uniform before he was dashing down the hall, Hunk close at his heels to look at the class and team lists posted on the bulletin board. Even if he didn’t move up to fighter pilot with Keith’s absence the seniors get divided into teams to practice for real jobs. He might combust if Hunk wasn’t his engineer.
Lance danced when he saw that not only had he made fighter pilot, but Hunk was his engineer. That Pidge guy seemed okay, if a little weird and nervous. It was a shame they had to run off. Lance was a firm believer in needing to trust your comrades.
It wasn’t until later that Lance was alone with the sudden realization that he was finally a fighter pilot. He finally reached his goal.
It only took his soulmate leaving.
Lance was going to do everything in his power to earn this place. Maybe if he worked hard the feeling of inadequacy would leave and the emptiness that hid behind his joy would fill.
When five months later the instructors were still using every chance they could to remind him that the only reason he was a fighter pilot was because Keith left he told himself it didn’t matter.
Lance had no idea that him wanting to blow off steam with Hunk after one particularly bad day would change his life forever. Would lead him not only back to Keith but to his destiny.
Finding Pidge sitting at his old spot on the roof was a surprise. They’d gotten a bit closer to him over the last five months, but still didn’t really know much about him. Hunk had taken this as an offense to his friendship skills and had vowed to dig up anything he could.
Lance didn’t really appreciate that his teammate was keeping things from him either. Hearing that Pidge didn’t think that the Kerberos mission had been pilot error was a relief and a punch to the gut at the same time. Sitting up here, talking about the Kerberos mission. It brought vividly to mind the last time he’d seen Keith. The ‘Time He Was Not Thinking About’.
Hearing the word Voltron felt like an alarm dully ringing in the back of his mind, but he couldn’t believe that aliens had anything to do with it even as a real alarm started blaring through the school and a ship fell from the sky.
He couldn’t believe it. Shiro was alive. It was aliens. Voltron.
His hero was alive and no one was listening to him. Keith’s mentor was alive. He had to do everything possible to get him out of there. No one that amazing should be treated like that.
When as soon as the word distraction left his lips and explosions went off a feeling he couldn’t describe filled his being. He knew even before he looked that it was Keith. He could feel his presence nearby in the back of his mind as an energy that told him that his other half was here.
Of course he’d rescue Shiro.
He wasn’t going to one-up Lance this time. He’d pay attention to him if he saved his hero.
Pidge screaming after him that he didn’t know who Keith was seemed unbelievable. It was hard for him to remember that Keith had left before Pidge joined the Garrison. How could anyone not know who Keith was? Lance never answered him.
They got to the door just as Keith was cutting Shiro free. Lance only hesitated a second before walking over to Shiro’s other side and putting his arm over his shoulder.
“Nope. No, you-- No, no, no. No, you don't. I'm saving Shiro.”
“Who are you?”
“Who am I? Uh, the name’s Lance.” Lance couldn’t believe it. It felt like a blade of ice straight to his heart. Keith really didn’t recognize him? He had made sure he was in the same room as Keith almost every second he could. He tried to make sure he was at least in his line of sight whenever possible. He’d harassed him and tried to surpass him and Keith didn’t even know who he was? He didn’t even remember their last meeting? Maybe he shouldn’t be surprised. Keith didn’t feel this connection that he felt to him.
“We were in the same class at the Garrison?”
“Were you an engineer?”
But he was mad. He’d thought they’d had something. Did he not remember him from that last night?
“No, I'm a pilot! We were, like, rivals. You know, Lance and Keith, neck and neck.” The anger may have tainted Lance’s answer. He needed an outlet. If this rivalry was the only way to get Keith’s attention then so be it.
“Oh, wait. I remember you. You're a cargo pilot.”
“Well, not anymore. I'm fighter class now, thanks to you washing out.” It may have come out more bitter than he’d meant it. More bitter than he usually liked to show even Hunk. More mean spirited than he’d have liked. He couldn’t believe the fact that he was a cargo pilot was the only thing Keith remembered.
Thanks. You’re only a little late.
The ride back to Keith’s shack was the ride of his life. He’d have given anything to be riding a hover cycle with Keith five months ago. But now. Now the words Who are you run through his mind on a bitter loop that he just wants to go away. Keith’s insults barely register. That he was playing along with Lance’s rivalry barely registered. The words Trust me only hit because of the adrenaline from driving straight off a cliff.
Lance didn’t really have a choice did he?
So this was where Keith was hiding out after he left. Again Lance wished that it was five months ago.
He was less than surprised when Keith disappeared outside after Shiro after less than a minute.
Lance sat on the couch and tried to pretend he was listening to Hunk tell Pidge about how Keith got kicked out of the academy while he watched Keith and Shiro out the window. Just like back at the academy Keith’s whole body seemed to relax at his presence. His shoulders loosened under Shiro’s hand and a small smile lit up his face when he turned to look at him.
Lance almost forgot what it was like. To see them together. To see the way Keith relaxed. To see how happy they were in each other’s company. To feel the jealousy simmering just below the surface. To feel the pull to go and be there, but knowing it would cause Keith to tense up. To throw up his walls. He’d never have Keith.
Lance was jarred out of his thoughts by Hunk loudly saying “Right Lance?!”
He shook his thoughts off and turned to fully look at Pidge and Hunk. Pidge looked confused.
Hunk nodded his head slightly. Lance got the message immediately, “Right yes!”
Shiro and Keith came through the door only a second later and Lance thanked god for Hunk as he stood up from the couch to hear what they had to say.
He was still having trouble believing that Shiro was in the same room as him when he held out his hand to shake. Lance hadn’t noticed before that his right arm was now just a robotic prostatic. He hesitated a moment in horror. Shiro was right handed and it was his right hand that was cut off. That meant that his Soulmark was cut off too. One of the most horrible things you could do to a person.
But this was Shiro and Lance had wanted nothing more than to shake his hand since he was fourteen so he gripped it tightly and smiled, trying not to think about how this man would never find his soulmate. How unfair it was that someone so good would be alone. Half a soul. It was one thing for Lance’s trash self to have an unrequited soulmate and another for someone like this to just be alone forever. And his soulmate must be amazing to be the other half of his soul. And they’d be alone too.
Lance was angry about this lion thing. How come Keith felt such a strong connect to it but not to Lance? Lance felt that because of this he was justified in being as much of a jackass about it as possible.
That is until he entered the cave. As soon as he was in there he could feel the pull, the energy reaching out to him. He couldn’t resist touching the lion on the wall.
It was when he was sitting in his lion that he realized what it felt like. It felt like a soulbond. The same sort of energy that drew him to Keith, but bigger. More in his head. He wondered if Keith was feeling it because he was Lance’s soulmate or if that was just wishful thinking on his part.
Either way Keith would never hear the theory.
Flying in Blue was like no other flying Lance had ever done. He never had to think of which button to push or which switch to pull. His mind and hands moved on instinct with what he wanted to do. Sometimes it even felt like he was flying through the air on his own, not surrounded by any metal. He’d never felt more at home in an aircraft.
The alien spaceship was a sharp punch to the gut. He remembered when he thought Shiro died and how he came to be aware of how dangerous this job really was. And that was just regular piloting. Adding this Voltron stuff could only make it worse.
Taking down the ship made Lance feel really strong for the first time. He could really do something to protect people. Protect the planet. His family. The people that he cared about that were all crammed into his lion with him. His soulmate.
Jumping through the wormhole wasn’t really a big decision for him. He wasn’t thinking about never seeing his family again. He wasn’t thinking about himself. He was thinking about Shiro. About his hero. About how he’d already gotten captured and probably tortured once and lost his arm, his soulmate. About Hunk. About how Hunk was so afraid of heights and still joined the Garrison with him. About how Hunk has always been there and he wanted him to always be there. About Pidge. About how even though he didn’t know Pidge very well yet he was still an integral part of his team. About how smart they were and how young. About how they searched the skies for aliens because of course it wasn’t pilot error.
He thinks about Keith. About how he barely knows Keith any better than he knows Pidge. About how alone Keith must feel sometimes in that stupid shack. About how he’d been so cut up about losing Shiro he’d punched a senior officer. The way he relaxes sometimes and you can see how much he holds in. The way his smiles tilt to the left. The way he’d looked at Lance up on that rooftop. How beautiful he looked flying. How determined he was when he trained. The way he’d sighed before telling Lance his name. The way he looked at Shiro before he cut him loose. The way he’d drove straight off that cliff. How he spent all his time looking for Lance’s lion. How great his hips looked in his jeans. How soft his hair looked. How piercing his eyes. Even the bitter burn he felt when he didn’t remember him, and how sharp his glares were, how he’d clenched his fists at him on that roof too.
He’d never get to know Keith better if he fell into Galra hands.
Then they were through the wormhole.
Allura was probably the prettiest girl he’d ever met. After the initial shock of her falling on him though, the flirting was mostly just reflex. He’d never be able to flirt seriously with anyone else while Keith was standing right there.
Forming Voltron was like nothing else. He’d never felt this connected to anyone. He could feel them all at the edge of his mind. All focused on the same thing; protecting the castle and each other. Protecting Allura and Coran. Fighting back against the monsters that’d kidnapped Shiro and corrupted the cosmos.
When they are unable to form Voltron the next day Lance wasn’t surprised. He couldn't feel them at the edge of his mind anymore. The only one he felt anything from was Keith in the usual way that he always had. Now that’d he’d gotten Keith’s attention though he couldn’t stop aggravating him to get a response. It was too addicting to feel the weight of Keith’s full attention on him.
The shielding exercise was going fine for Lance once they were down to just him, Keith, and Shiro until Keith had told him to focus on keeping him safe and he’d thought I always wanna be able to worry about that and dodged a laser the wrong way while thinking it.
The maze was worse. Once he’d heard Keith on the mic he’d panicked.
Driving Blue blindfolded sounded like fun until Lance challenged Keith instead of focusing on her like he was supposed to and ended up stuck in the sand face down.
Lance walked back into the training room rubbing his sore neck and automatically grabbed the head piece that Coran was holding out for the team to take as they came through the door back into the training room.
It wasn’t until Coran started talking that Lance felt the panic rush back through him. “The most important part of paladin training is being able to meld your minds and focus on one thing: Voltron. Everything else has to fade away. This technique will be essential every time you form Voltron. So, relax and open your mind. No walls, no secrets between paladins.”
The machine’s turned on before Lance was ready. Lance saw that Keith was thinking of his shack, Shiro some sort of Garrison base, Hunk Earth food, and Pidge that picture of his girlfriend Hunk had found in his bag. But Lance had been thinking of almost nothing but his soulmark and mate all day. Lance’s image flashed a staticy picture of the word Loser in angry red and spiky letters before Lance forcefully managed to shift it into a picture of his family. The brief picture looking more like wounds than a word. Hunk panicked when he saw them and his picture flashed briefly to that night out on Lance’s front step, a close up of slightly lighter skin and deep indentations. When he realized what he’d done he immediately forced it back to food.
The both of them had only had the condemning thoughts pictured for less than a second, although Lance’s family kept turning red when he slipped. Keith was too busy focusing and hadn’t noticed anything. But Shiro was shooting Lance a concerned look. He wasn’t sure what that was, but it hadn’t looked good. Pidge was more curious than concerned. It was hard to believe Lance had anything to hide.
They didn’t have long to ponder as Coran forced them to focus on getting their minds to form Voltron.
Lance was never more pleased with Pidge than when they called the whole thing off.
Everyone eased up a bit after the food fight and Lance, almost high on endorphin's, told Keith he didn’t hate him. He supposed that was close enough.
They could form Voltron. They could beat the bad guy.
Lance was actually having fun at the party. Keith was really and unexpectedly cute about the cheer. It was nice to relax after a big battle.
Until he opened his big mouth when talking to Hunk. It started with an innocent enough comment, “guess we should get used to this space juice. Who knows when we'll get back home again?”
Then Hunk dropped the bomb, “Yeah, if ever.”
“What do you mean?” Lance didn’t want to think about it.
Hunk didn’t take the cue. Didn’t pull any punches because he didn’t know it was something that Lance needed. “I mean, if this Zarkon guy has been ruling for 10,000 years, how long do you think it will take for us to fix it? You know, if we live.”
“Right. That.” Lance wished for maybe not the first time, but one of the few times, for Hunk to just stop talking. He didn’t want to think about it.
Hunk didn’t stop talking. “Hey, what do you think the chances are of us landing on a nacho planet?”
The tide just flowed out of Lance’s mouth. He could no more control it than his thoughts at this point, “Well, there's only one planet with Veradera Beach, pizza shack looking over the water and the garlic knots and my mom's hugs... I'm sorry. I think this Nunvill is getting to me. I gotta go.”
It was all he could do to hold his tears in. He couldn’t let anyone see him crying over this. Not at a party. Not ever really, he had to be strong. He had to. He wasn’t weak. He wasn’t a loser, the old mantra whispered in his mind as it had since he was a kid, in every moment of weakness he had.
He’d tried. He’d tried really, really hard not to think of his family. Of the last time he saw them. Of his dream of seeing them at his graduation when he would have been assigned a fighter plane. Of how his mom wrapped him up in her arms and listened to him cry about his soulmate. Of how the deep, piercing loneliness he felt creep up the back of his throat sometimes that only being surrounded by his family could help with.
He thought of how he’d pushed them to the back of his mind when he went through that wormhole in favor of saving his friends. He wondered if his family would be proud of him for that or disappointed.
He wondered what they’d been told about his leaving. Did they even know he’d left? If they did know what had the Garrison told them?
Did they think he was dead? That it was pilot error?
The tears finally rushed out before he could stop them.
He hadn’t seen Coran following him. But even though Coran showed him just how far he was from home he felt grateful that Coran was willing to talk him through this mess. He couldn’t even imagine what it was like for Coran not only being away from home, but not having a planet to go back too.
Lance knew the crystal was going to explode.
He knew it was going to explode and he knew, knew, that they could never replace Coran, but if push came to shove they could find a new blue paladin. Besides, how ungrateful would he seem if he let Coran comfort him and then let him get blown up?
I’m sorry mom was his last thought before he was swallowed by an all-encompassing pain and darkness.
Lance didn’t know what was going on. Through the levels of pain he felt an energy calling out to him. It seemed like the hardest and easiest thing in the world to respond to it.
When he woke up next it was because he could feel Keith next to him. He forced himself up through the layers of pressure in his own head to see Keith holding a hand out to him.
If Lance were feeling better he might have denied the hand out of spite. But he wanted to take it so bad and everywhere hurt and he just couldn’t fight himself anymore. He thought Keith was just going to try and get him standing.
When Keith just sat next to him, still grasping his hand a little tighter than could be casual, Keith’s words not getting through to him so much as the ringing through his soulbond was, Lance couldn’t stop the words bubbling up his throat even if he wanted too. “We did it. We are a good team.”
Keith’s eyes widened and mouth dropped open. Lance was growing concerned when the look of shock slowly melted into the best smile Lance had ever seen. His heart beat loudly in his ears and he felt his soulmark tingle. Lance couldn’t think of a better last sight to have before the darkness creeped up on him again.
Emerging from the healing pod was like waking from a long sleep. Lance was so happy to see everyone and know they were fine.
But he could also remember everything he did last time he woke up. Could remember Keith’s smile and holding his hand. He couldn’t. He couldn’t let Keith know anything had changed.
Fighting with him and flirting with Allura, pretending nothing had happened, was his best option.
Even if Hunk hugged him a bit too hard and pinched his side in warning.
Keith’s face looked indignant as he sat on the table looking at Lance. “We had a bonding moment! I cradled you in my arms!”
Lance felt his insides melt at the look on Keith’s face. For a minute Lance felt as if something had changed in the air. Had shifted slightly between them.
Then the bitterness he’d tried to ignore came rushing up through them. Before he could get a grip on it he’d already denied Keith. Of course he didn’t remember. It had nothing to do with Keith not remembering him from the academy. Nothing at all.
Lance didn’t think he’d actually get anywhere with that alien girl. He just wanted to fuck around in front of Keith. By the time he was in her lap in his cockpit he was already panicking and was going to call everything off, but as soon as she mentioned Keith the panicking changed tempos. He couldn’t lose Keith to her. Even if he didn’t actually have him. Lance said a silent apology to Hunk as he drove her around the moon.
He did not expect to get himself chained to a tree. Or Blue stolen.
Hearing Keith through his helmet telling him that he had saved Blue was one of the best things he’d ever heard. He deserved the sass.
It was Hunk who came to cut him loose. He was not impressed.
Despite the snag with the handcuffs, Lance felt more connected with Keith than ever on their mission to save Shay’s people and the Balmera. Keith still sassed him, but it also felt like he listened more, took him more seriously. They worked in a manner that made Lance feel as if they were practically conjoined or stuck in a surface level mind meld like when they piloted Voltron.
Something felt different when Hunk activated his canon attachment to Voltron to save the Balmerans. It didn’t feel like when Keith did it. It felt like Hunk was glowing on the inside. It made Lance vaguely wonder what he’d missed in his friend’s life while he was wallowing and making bad life choices.
When everyone was sitting on a hill of crystals watching the sunrise Lance couldn’t stop himself from glancing at Keith out of the corner of his eye. His stupid, soft looking mullet was blowing gently in the breeze and his grey eyes seemed to absorb all the colors the sunset took on, making them a bright fiery color that Lance couldn’t help but appreciate. He let out a quiet, “¿Por qué eres tan estúpidamente bello?” That he hoped nobody heard.
He wondered like always what Keith was thinking about.
It was while they were all taking a break from an intense group session with the Gladiator that some things finally came to light. It started with Hunk.
“Hey princess? Do other alien cultures have soulmates? I-I think I found mine. No, I’m sure I found mine. I just-I just want to understand it a bit more.” Hunk wasn’t looking at anyone, but instead fiddling with a new yellow and grey woven band that was around his wrist and blushing.
Lance felt himself set his water pouch down absently. Hunk had seriously found his soulmate? And Lance didn’t know about it? What kind of rock had he been living under? Soulmates generally got matching bands to hide their soulmarks once they’ve accepted each other and the bond. When did Hunk get a new band?
Allura lit up at the question. “Yes! Most cultures in the universe have soulmates! Humans are interesting though, in that they get their mate’s first words to them. Most races get the first words their soulmate says that touches their heart. Then again though, humans have a much shorter lifespan than most other races and therefore less time to spend with their bonded. ANYWAY. TELL US ALL ABOUT IT! PALADINS SHOULDN’T HAVE SECRETS FROM EACH OTHER~”
Hunk reeled back and blushed, but didn’t hesitate to start undoing the laces on his bracelet. “It, ah, it was Shay. I realized back when we first went to Balmera, but we didn’t have time to confirm it before we had to leave with the crystal. We decided it was almost definitely platonic and shouldn’t let it affect our dating pool. See? I made us the matching bracelets on our way back over.”
Hunk’s shaky light grey writing was on full display. Lance wasn’t sure how to feel. He knew Hunk wasn’t as concerned with keeping his soulmark hidden as Lance himself was, but it felt weird to see it aired out like that. He was also kicking himself for not noticing that Hunk had found his soulmate and on top of his obliviousness had held Hunk up from rescuing her. But he smiled big and congratulated Hunk along with the rest, pulling him into a side hug.
No one noticed Keith seeming oddly focused or concerned.
Hunk tied his bracelet back around a little shakily.
Coran spoke up from where he was standing behind the couch. “You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if your drive to protect your soulmate helped you activate your canon. We never even thought to ask if any of the rest of you were mated yet. I myself was the Altean equivalent of married to my bondmate before I was put in cryo-sleep. A spitfire of an engineer she was. Specialized in weapons.”
Allura was getting even more excited. “Yes! Please share your soulmarks with each other. Soulmates can wield much power. It would be great for team building.” Lance and Hunk exchanged panicked looks and hoped nobody would notice and Lance made his way back to his spot on the end of the sofa. Keith slammed his left hand down over his right. “Here, in the interest of teambuilding I’ll go first.”
Allura had a sort of silver gauntlet over both of her wrists and unclasped the one on her right. She took it off to reveal black, neatly printed, but sort of blockish words which spelled out I’m not leaving you. “I haven’t found them yet unfortunately.”
Shiro was smiling cheerfully at everyone. “I think it’s a great way to bond. Unfortunately my soulmark was on my right arm, and so was taken with it. I tried not to pay it too much mind before I was captured, for some reason, so I don’t remember what it said either. I’m hoping it won’t matter too much and my soulmate will let me know when we meet.”
Pidge sighed. “I feel like at this point if I don’t show you you’ll just make me later. It’s not a big deal though. See.” Pidge’s bracelet was electronic, silver and green with several tiny buttons on the underside of it. When they hit the right buttons the metal folded in on itself. The words revealed were a hastily scribbled I’m going to be the best big brother ever, written in a dark green.
Pidge’s face looked kind of wistful as they looked down at their wrist. “As you can see I have a platonic soulbond with Matt. He made us these matching bracelets when he was still in school. They can pick locks too. I wonder sometimes if the soulbond is part of why I miss him so much. His just says Matt. It was the first real word I was able to say to him as a baby.”
Shiro put a hand on Pidge’s shoulder in comfort and Hunk put his on their other shoulder. Pidge tried to hide it when they used the back of their hand to wipe at their eyes before they clicked the bracelet back into place.
Lance had used everyone’s distraction to move back to where he was sitting at the end of the couch. Now that everyone was focusing on Pidge he started to slide himself off the side slowly in the hopes that no one would notice he was gone until it was too late.
He didn’t count on Keith paying such close attention to him. Just as he thought he was home free a hand reached out and grabbed his wrist. He let out a squawk like a wounded goose and jumped a mile high.
The squawk made everyone look over from Pidge to Lance and Lance broke out in a sweat.
“Where are you running off too? This seems like exactly the kind of thing you’d want to brag about.” Keith’s face was weirdly serious and more invested than Lance expected when he looked over at him.
Lance looked around at everyone in a panic. Now that his sneaking had caught their attention though, he knew there would be no escape. Even if not from their stares and in Pidge’s case, oncoming smirk, then from the way Keith’s hand was still clenching and unclenching around his wrist.
“Well…” Lance was all set to let his mouth spew whatever bullshit excuse could pop into mind first when Hunk started speaking over him.
“Guys, Lance’s soulmark… Don’t. Don’t make him show you okay? It’s a kind of a big deal for him. AND it’s unrequited.” Hunk looked so serious everyone’s just dawning look of fun started melting right off their faces. Keith immediately took his arm away so fast it seemed more like a flinch. Lance shot him a look out of the corner of his eye and Keith looked flat out horrified.
Allura spoke through the tension as Lance tried to get his heartbeat to settle down against his rib cage. “Of course. Of course we won’t make Lance show us his mark. It can be a very private thing for someone.”
Lance looked around as everyone nodded in agreement. Pidge looked hesitant. Keith looked like he was going to vomit.
Lance sighed. Maybe. Maybe, he thought to himself, it was time. He looked up and met Hunk’s eyes. It meant more than Lance could express that they would be willing to give him a pass on this. That this group wouldn’t judge him like his classmates did when he was little and chose to keep it secret. Maybe he could trust them, trust this new family of his, not to judge him once he showed them either.
Lance spoke up. “Guys. I-I really appreciate you not making me. But, maybe it’s time I showed someone besides Hunk. You just have to promise me you won’t judge okay?” Lance made hesitant eye contact with each member of the group. Coran, Allura, and Shiro all smiled and nodded. Hunk had a more serious look on his face than Lance had really ever seen but he nodded too. More as if in agreement to his choice. Pidge had a strangely determined look in their eye as they nodded. Keith still looked like he was going to be sick, but even he gave a decisive nod at Lance.
It was Keith more than anyone that Lance was nervous to show it too. It was Keith’s words embedded into his skin after all. But, he reasoned with himself as he undid his leather band’s hooks, Keith doesn’t even remember meeting him at the Garrison at all, so he wasn’t likely to remember what he said to him when he first ran into him briefly that one time. There was the matter of the handwriting, but Lance thought he could easily blow that off if he had too. Keith didn’t do a lot of writing, it was unlikely anyone else in the room but Keith himself would know what it looked like.
The sound of the last hook unhitching seemed to echo around the room. Lance had to physically peel the leather band off from where it had dug into his skin from prolonged wear. He rubbed his hand over it in a comforting gesture, holding it against his chest protectively, gulping, sneaking a quick glance at it to make sure it was the same as ever before holding it out for the room to get a good look at.
Shiro’s eyes widened in shock, glancing from Lance’s wrist to his face, then off to Lance’s right where Keith was sitting. Allura muttered a small “Oh my.” From behind her hand. Coran’s mustache quivered as if shuddering. A sad look passed over Hunk’s face. Pidge had a look of sharp curiosity and mild horror as they examined both it and Lance closely. A look like they had made a huge discovery crossing their face after a few seconds, but the discovery was horrible like a fleet of Galra.
Lance dug his nails harder and harder into the flesh of his arm with his other hand he was holding it out with, until he was worried he’d draw attention by piercing the skin. Some part of him had hoped maybe it had changed since he last looked at it. It hadn’t. It was the same angry red, saying the same angry words I think you’re a fucking loser. At least the color made sense now that he knew who it was for. The thought almost made him want to laugh.
He finally made himself look over at Keith. He looked shocked, but the shock turned into teeth grinding and a look of anger.
Before Lance’s emotions could overcome him Shiro asked him a question. “Lance. Hunk said it was unrequited. Does that mean you’ve already met them?”
Lance sat back in the couch so he could look at Shiro and still see Keith out of the corner of his eye. He tucked his arm back against his chest, barely refraining from putting the leather band back on right then and there.
“Yeah I already met him-THEM. Them. I already met them. It’s definitely unrequited.” Lance felt his whole face blush at his slip. He was paying way more attention to Keith than he should have been.
Shiro’s mouth turned up into a sad sort of smile. “I take it by your blush it’s not platonic then?”
Lance just blushed harder. “No, no it’s most certainly not platonic. Es demasiado bonito para serlo.”
Pidge butted in, “I don’t know why you’re so embarrassed. You flirt with anything that moves; we all knew you were bi. And a sap. It’s hard to think that a soulmate of yours wouldn’t be romantic. It’s not like you’re not among good company either. Shiro is demi, I’m non-binary, and Keith’s gay. The fact that you have a romantic soulbond with a guy isn’t something we’d hold against you. Even if it is unrequited.”
Lance could feel himself tearing up and turned away. He didn’t know how much longer he could take this without making a fool of himself. He had to know one more thing though. “So… You guys don’t. Don’t hold it against me?”
Everyone had looked away to give him a moment to compose himself. At his words they all turned back towards him questioningly. Except Hunk. He knew where this was going. He sighed and stood up, moving over to the end of the couch so he could hug Lance. Letting him hide his face in his chest if he needed to. Lance fought it, but gave in eventually.
It was Coran that asked. “Hold what against you, dear boy?”
Hunk was about to explain what was going on, but Lance cut off anything he was going to say by ripping himself out of Hunk’s grasp and practically yelling, tears now flowing against his will down his face, “My words! That fact that the other half of my soul thinks I’m useless! A loser! What good am I if the other half of me hates me! Soy una pieza rota!”
He saw how truly blown away everyone looked through a watery film.
Hunk pulled Lance back in against his chest where he started sobbing to his own personal eternal shame. Slowly, slowly, one by one, Lance felt more hands and arms come up around him until he was entirely engulfed in the group hug. Shiro’s voice came through from what felt both like a distance and right up close, “No one holds your words against you either Lance. No one thinks you’re a loser. you’ve proved that countless times. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without you.”
Lance let himself believe Shiro’s words for just a second. Just a minute. Just a Tick.
Let himself lean into the desperate hand he felt bunching up the back of his jacket and the tickle of hair on the back of his neck coming from where Keith sat. Tried to make himself believe that maybe Keith believed it too. That he wasn’t just in the group hug because he didn’t move in time and got stuck there behind him. That his soulmate actually loved him.
Once the hug started breaking up Keith jumped up and strode off out the door with a muttered “I need to go hit something.”
No one noticed that they’d forgotten to ask Keith about his soulmark before he ran off.
Lance could feel himself acting strangely over the next several days, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. Couldn’t make himself act out like he usually did.
It was obvious the others noticed. They never left him alone for more than a minute. One second he’d be forced into the kitchen by Hunk who wanted him to taste test his new space recipe, the next Pidge was kidnapping him to test a new gadget. Shiro would sit down on the couch next to him sometimes and start telling him stories from missions he took before he was captured. Allura would even come up to him at random moments and ask if he needed anything. Allura! He couldn’t believe it.
Keith tried to distract him by goading him into more training exercises, but between Lance feeling too tired and drawn out to fall for as much as he usually did and Keith’s new habit of randomly storming out of rooms that he was in, this did not go well.
He shouldn’t have been surprised when Coran forced him to help clean. He couldn’t make himself be too mad about it though when Coran had taught him how to use the star map earlier so he could look out at it and find Earth.
When Lance heard the countdown start he couldn’t believe it at first. He couldn’t get it through his head. Of course he wasn’t going to die because a ghost was going to shoot him out an airlock.
Then it hit him all at once. It felt like a physical weight had slammed into him from behind. He was going to die. Out in space. His family would never even know. He’d never get to see them again. Or the team that’d been trying so hard to cheer him up from his weird funk. He was going to die.
Just like that.
That’s when he started really screaming.
When Keith appeared from down the darkened hallway a second later Lance felt simultaneously hopeful and like the bottom had dropped out of his stomach. It wasn’t really because of the Gladiator bearing down on Keith. Lance had full confidence that Keith could take it no matter what level it was on if he really had too.
It was the sudden realization that Lance could die now. Keith could be a few seconds too slow saving him. And he would never even know Lance was his soulmate. Would never know the connection Lance felt to him. Would never know how much he felt for him. The last thing Lance said to him was probably shitty, but he couldn’t even remember what it was.
Lance would die without having even held his hand.
The airlock wooshed open and Lance grabbed the door frame with all the strength he could muster, letting out a scream that left his throat raw and could barely hold all the emotions Lance shoved up his throat into it. He could feel the sharp metal corner digging into his fingertips as the Gladiator flew past him.
Keith’s hands were sweaty when they fumbled through the opening at Lance’s wrists in an effort to pull him in. Lance felt the old latches on his band either unhitch or break and the whole band flew past him out the airlock. Keith cursed violently.
Lance wasn’t sure if the rush he felt was from Keith finally getting a firm enough grip on him to pull him to safety or Keith making direct contact with his soulmark.
Keith yanked him out of the doorway as hard as he could and slammed his whole shoulder into the button on the side that closes the door. Lance face-planted right into Keith’s chest. Lance and Keith’s breathes synced up as they panted against each other. The seconds may have turned to a full minute as Lance pressed his face into Keith’s chest, but Keith didn’t make a single move to push him off, he just moved them so he could brace his back against the wall.
When a few more seconds went by and their breathing evened out but Lance still made no motion as if to move, Keith let out a long, low, sigh and moved the hand holding Lance’s left wrist up to the back of his sweat-soaked neck, and moved Lance so he was standing closer, with his head resting on his shoulder.
Lance made a pained keening noise in the back of his throat and let his hand grasp the back of Keith’s shirt and clench into the fabric. “Keith I’ve got to tell you. I’ve got to tell you Keith. I can’t die and not tell you.”
Keith gripped the back of Lance’s neck tighter and tried to shush him, but Lance’s voice just got louder and more panicked as he went on.
Lance got so worked up he pulled his head as far away from Keith as he could without letting go of the back of his shirt and decided to show Keith instead, the words choking on themselves in his throat.
He pulled his right arm out of Keith’s tight grip and used it to angle Keith’s face as he leaned in and pressed his lips against Keith’s with a desperate force. Keith’s lips had fallen open in surprise, but Lance didn’t take advantage of it, he just moved his chapped lips against Keith’s, hoping against hope that Keith wouldn’t push him away. He thought he felt a tear or two force their way past his tightly closed eyelids and slid down his cheek and onto his hand and Keith’s chin.
Keith felt the liquid on his face and pulled back from Lance in confusion. “Lance, wha-what are you doing?”
Lance dropped his hands from Keith’s face and back and looked down at the floor to avoid meeting his eyes, “It’s you. It’s always been you. Since the academy it’s been you Keith.” Lance lifts his arm to look at his mark. “You said my words my very first day.”
“Lance.” Lance finally looked back up into Keith’s shocked face as he whispered his name. He was pale and the red mark of Lance’s finger’s, bloody from where he’d cut the tips hanging onto the door, stood out vividly. Lance wanted to run but he couldn’t move his feet.
“I’ve. I’ve got your words too Lance. I thought yours was unrequited?” Keith barely managed to choke out the words in the face of Lance’s stare.
The old bitterness raised its ugly head up in Lance again, but before it could take its familiar, solid, shape of anger or rage, it morphed itself into sadness. “Keith. How can you have my words? You don’t even remember me from the academy, idiot.” The fingertips from his left hand, still slippery from his own blood, dug the familiar shape of crescents into his soulmark.
Keith didn’t answer verbally, he used his teeth to pull the glove from his hand and held his wrist out toward Lance.
His breath caught and the cuts on his hands reopened as he pressed them deeper still into his arm. Keith’s words stared up at him in blue. Large, chaotic handwriting more familiar than even the one on his arm spelled out the words, We are a good team.
Lance’s eye’s widened and he felt tears slipping out again against his control. He looked wildly from Keith to his arm. This had to be a dream, no way was this happening. He remembered saying those words. He knew that handwriting was his, that that color matched his lion perfectly. He knew it. But it made no sense. Those were not the first words he’d said to Keith, no fucking way. The words he’s said before could fill a book. There was no way.
Keith saw his confusion and in a twist from the norm started babbling to fill the tense and confused silence, “I know they’re not the first words you said to me okay? I know. But I knew it was you after you said them. There’s no possible way they’re anyone else’s, okay? I didn’t know how it was possible either until Allura told us about other species. And-and I never knew my parents. I know a little about my mom second-hand from the orphanage, but not a word on my father so it’s possible. It’s possible I’m not entirely human.”
Lance was now fully focused on Keith’s face. He’d never heard him mention anything about his family to anyone, ever, under any circumstance.
Keith continued, his face turning from pale to red, “So-so it’s possible that instead of the first words you said to me I got, you know, the-the first words you said to me that touched my heart. Will you-will you stop looking at me like that?!”
Lance felt like his heart completely shattered and came together again. “You’re completely horrible you know?” Lance muttered, bringing his forehead to rest against Keith’s, letting go of his arm so he could rest his fingers on the sides of Keith’s neck.
Keith shivered almost imperceptibly. “I’m sorry Lance. I never meant to give you such terrible words as your soulmark. I didn’t mean to forget you in the academy or make you think your mark was unrequited. I-I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how I got you as a soulmate. But I’m glad I did. I’m glad it was you, Lance. You’re definitely not a loser. Even if you act it sometimes.”
Lance closed his eyes for a second and breathed in deeply. His whole body felt like it was both underwater and on fire at the same time, his blood singing through his veins. He’d been waiting his whole life to hear those words from his soulmate. To feel wanted like this. He wanted to say hundreds of things, but the words that made it out was a quiet question, “Can I kiss you again?”
Keith didn’t respond out loud, but gulped shakily and leaned in to close the short distance between their mouths himself.
They both let out simultaneous moans as their lips collided for the second time. This time was better though as they both moved against each other in sync. Keith brought his hand up to Lance’s face, brushing his fingertips gently across his cheek as he readjusted the angle. Lance bit gently at Keith’s bottom lip, sensitive from where he knew Keith bit into it himself sometimes, and Keith let a soft noise rise up the back of his throat. They both parted their lips as Lance’s hands slid slowly down Keith’s chest until they rested at hips, over his belt. Keith’s squeezed Lance’s bicep with his left hand and shyly poked his tongue out of his mouth and into Lance’s.
It was Lance’s turn to let out a startled noise. Keith wasn’t expecting it and started to pull his tongue back out, but Lance closed his mouth and gently sucked on it. This gave Keith the confidence to push himself even closer to Lance and meet the other boy’s tongue with his own.
The push closer had Lance’s back meeting the wall on the other side of the hallway from the airlock and his hands moving from Keith’s hips to his lower back, Keith’s arms coming up to wrap around Lance’s neck, his thumb anchored just under Lance’s ear.
While Keith was distracted by Lance’s mouth Lance decided to take a chance and slowly lowered his hands until they were curved around Keith’s ass and squeezed, before letting go and holding them there. Keith’s tongue froze. He slowly moved said tongue back into his own mouth and parted his lips just far enough away from Lance’s so he could talk.
His voice was rough and raw and pitched in an intimate whisper with every word bringing his lips close to Lance’s so Lance could feel them. “You really think I don’t know where your hands are right now?”
Lance’s voice was just as raw and low as Keith’s when he replied, “I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t care. I’ve been wanting to do that since I saw you in those jeans.” Lance winked in his most flirty manner.
Keith let out a low huff that might have been a laugh in other circumstances, and leaned back in to meet Lance’s mouth. Now they were meeting in short bursts, panting into each other’s mouths. Lance moved away from Keith’s mouth and ran his lips over his jaw to his ear. Keith barely got a word out to ask what he was doing now before Lance bit it's lobe and Keith groaned loudly into the darkened hallway. Lance smirked against his neck. Then he kissed his way down the rest of Keith’s neck, sucking hard when he got to the juncture between his neck and shoulder. Keith brought his hand up to his mouth and was biting the side to stop moaning. A loud gasp still managed to escape when Lance bit down, leaving a large bruise that he sucked on some more before leaving.
“Jesus Christ Lance.” Keith muttered at Lance’s look of satisfaction at Keith’s blushing face. Keith couldn’t decide if he loved or hated it. He leaned in to get his revenge instead of thinking about it. He immediately started nibbling on Lance’s neck, making him hiss and subconsciously thrust his hips forward. Keith groaned loudly when this caused Lance’s hips to press up into his. They could feel how hard the other was through their jeans. Lance took Keith’s groan for permission and used his grip on his ass to pull them so Lance had a thigh between Keith’s and Keith’s thigh was almost pressed right where Lance wanted it the most. Keith paused for a second. Then he sighed and dragged his hands down Lance’s body towards his waist, where he slid his hands up the back of Lance’s shirt and over all the long plains of his back.
Lance whined low and clenched and unclenched his hands on Keith’s ass, making Keith roll his hips forward so he was grinding his jean-clad erection over Lance’s thigh. Keith’s hands on his back turned into claws and his nails dug into Lance’s skin in a long line. “Fuck, Lance, how the hell are you so, fuck, good at this?”
At Keith’s words Lance’s hips rocketed forward and Lance let out a loud moan. Once his hips started thrusting he couldn’t hold back anymore. His head fell onto Keith’s shoulder as his hips kept rocking.
Lance moved his hands up to the top of the curve of Keith’s ass under his shirt, feeling the smooth skin, before he dipped his pinkies under the waistband of Keith’s jeans and underwear.
Keith swore and bucked his hips extra hard against Lance’s leg, even now that Lance wasn’t pumping them for him. Lance read that as encouragement and slipped both his hands down the back of Keith’s pants until he was gripping the entirety of Keith’s naked ass in the palms of his hands. Lance had never been more turned on in his life. It only took a couple squeezes and hard pushes against his leg before Keith screamed his name and came. The feeling of Keith cumming against his leg pushed Lance over the edge and he bit into Keith’s neck again as he came.
They stood breathing against each other for another few seconds as they came down. Lance slowly moved his hands up out of Keith’s pants and safely onto his back over his shirt. Keith brought his hands out from under Lance’s shirt and up over his jacket to until they curved around his shoulder blades.
They were just settling in when the lights in the hallway came back on and they were reminded that they had been in the middle of a crisis before this and people would be looking for them.
They pulled away from each other slowly. Lance smiled at Keith and he smiled back, a little embarrassed. Lance could see the blood he’d left in fingerprints on Keith’s chin was now all over his neck as well and the blood had smeared so you couldn’t tell it had come from a hand anymore. Lance softened even further somehow when he saw it. Keith brought his ungloved hand up to trace gently down Lance’s neck with a wince. “You have a line of bruising all down your neck like an octopus got you.”
Lance laughed, “Yeah well you’ve still got my blood all down your face and neck. I’m pretty sure you’ve got an impressive bruise down there somewhere too, babe.”
Keith scowled, but couldn’t keep it up very long before he blanched in realization. “Lance. Lance I have no idea where I tossed my glove, and your bracelet just flew out an airlock and we’ve been missing during combat for ages. What the hell are we going to tell everyone?”
Lance frowned, “You're right. I don’t think I’m comfortable with telling them about us already. Wait. We are together now right?”
The look of fear on Lance’s face at the thought prompted Keith to grab at Lance’s wrist until their soulmarks were right next to each other. “Look Lance. We match alright? We are literally the other half of each other, even if we choose to ignore it, it would still be fact. I’d rather accept it and get to kiss you like that every day and fight with you every day and not worry that either of us is going to die alone okay? Of course we’re together. I don’t think either of us could do anything else at this point. You make me feel… Like I’ve got a home. You have since this whole thing started. I’ve never felt that way before and I’m not about to give it up now that I’ve got it forever.”
Lance pulled Keith into a hug. When he let go he made sure to look Keith in the eyes. “I’m pretty sure I’ve loved you since we were still in the academy. As long as you don’t want to let go you can bet your pretty ass I’m gonna be here.”
Keith pushed Lance off of him. “I’m pretty sure you’ve had more than enough of my ass thanks.” Keith’s tone tried for angry, but ended up sounding more embarrassed than anything.
Lance just grinned. “Anyway I’ve got an idea. Take your shirt off.”
When they made their entrance onto the bridge everyone turned to look at them simultaneously.
The whole room was silent for a second before Pidge’s voice broke through. “What. In the ever-loving fuck. Happened to you two?”
Shiro automatically snapped a, “Pidge watch your language.”
Keith was shirtless under Lance’s jacket, wearing one glove, and covered in blood and bruises. His hair was all over the place and his lip was puffy enough to look like he’d been punched in the face, the heavy concentration of blood on his face and neck seeming to confirm the theory.
Lance wasn’t much better off. While he still had all his clothes he had a long line of bruising down the side of his neck and his hands were torn badly along his fingertips. They appeared to have bled enough to drip down his arms and coat the sleeves of his shirt, which he had carelessly rolled up to show his arms covered in more bruises and crescent nail marks that had also appeared to have broken skin in some places. He was missing his bracelet, the area around his right wrist even more injured than his left.
“Seriously though guys, where were you?” Hunk looked extremely concerned.
Keith answered in a deadpan, “I was fighting the Gladiator when the ship malfunctioned.”
Lance piped up also in a deadpan. “I was almost sucked out an airlock. Then Keith brought his gladiator for a visit. Thanks for the help guys.”
Everyone seemed concerned but no one seemed suspicious.
Lance was glad that his idea for Keith to pretend he ripped his shirt and had to wear Lance’s jacket worked well enough that no one noticed he was missing the glove that went over his soulmark.
Over the next several days that were used to pick a possible mission, Lance and Keith gravitated toward each other.
They kept up their bickering and arguing, but then at night one of them would slip into the other’s room and curl up against them.
Lance took Keith to go look at the star map with him now, holding his hand as he spun the universe with his other, and didn’t feel quite so far from home.
When Keith was restless they’d train together, usually ending with someone pinned to the mat.
Hunk had woven Lance a new blue bracelet to go over his mark, and Keith had an extra set of gloves, but when it was just the two of them they rarely bothered. They preferred to be able to drift their fingers over the marks whenever they felt like.
When a new mission was decided on they were both a bit disappointed. Once the fighting started back up who knew when they’d get to spend time together away from the others. At the same time though they were both restless and more motivated than ever to destroy some Galra.
When Lance heard that Keith was going to be going into Galra territory without him he wanted to run after him, or kiss him goodbye in case something happened, but he couldn’t bring himself too.
There was no time to talk, to tell Keith that he was glad he was safe before they were warping right to Zarkon. Lance’s screams echoed in everyone’s ears when Keith charged in on his own. Lance could feel that Keith didn’t expect to survive this.
Then everything went to shit as Lance felt Blue blown off out of his control. The force banging Lance around his cockpit to the sound of everyone’s screams until he hit his head and then there was only darkness.
When Lance came too he was lying spread all over Blue’s floor. His head was ringing and he knew before he even looked around outside of his Lion that he was more alone than he’d been in his life. He couldn’t feel any of the other paladin’s through their surface level mind-meld, couldn’t feel the hum of the castle all around him. But most importantly he couldn’t feel Keith anywhere.
Lance tried to hold out hope as he exited Blue and saw himself surrounded by what looked like a rainforest. He could tell it wasn’t Earth, though, by how off the plants looked and the air felt.
When he looked up at the darkened sky two red moons shone out of the darkness.
Lance sat at the edge of Blue’s jaw and cried.
It took a week for the other paladin’s to find him. It felt like months and months to Lance.
When he stepped through the front door he stepped right into a group hug. Lance relished in it for a full minute before he pulled back from the group who were all trying to talk over each other.
When they were standing back Lance could clearly see that someone was missing.
He cut everyone off and drew their undivided attention. “Where’s Keith?! Is-Is he not here yet?! Did you not find him?! Is he injured?!”
Shiro was instantly concerned. “No, we haven’t found Keith yet. We have a good idea where he is though. Your planet was closer to our position so we came to get you first.”
Lance felt his already unsteady legs give out in horror. Everyone took a step forward in worry, only to reel back again when Lance started sobbing and gripping his arm. “It hurts! It hurts and we’ve got to find him!”
Everyone stared in shock, not knowing how to react with Lance like this. Hunk was the first to get a grip on himself and he went up and kneeled beside Lance, wrapping his arm around his shoulders. “I’m sorry Lance, I actually forgot. But we will find him okay? Just give us another day or two. Keith will be fine until then.”
Pidge spoke up, quietly for them, “What’s going on? What did you forget Hunk?
Hunk opened his mouth to answer, but Lance cut him off before he could start. “Keith’s my soulmate! He is! And I’m his, even though he has the wrong words, they’re still mine. I still said them! I thought I was all alone, but I’m not! I can feel how far away he is, but nothing else and I need him!”
Everyone flinched back again at the raw pain of Lance’s words. Even Hunk moved back slightly, though he kept his arm around Lance’s shoulders. “Dude. When did this happen? I thought when Keith said your words that first day of school that it was unrequited? Are you saying that you said his words later!?”
Everyone was looking around in shock now. Pidge let out a half-screeched, “You knew the whole time Keith was your soulmate and never said anything?!”
Shiro and Allura were giving each other shocked looks of understanding. Coran’s mustache was quivering again.
Lance was choking on his tears, “I almost died in that airlock. When he saved me I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. His words say we are a good team. My words. I said it to him when the ship got attacked, but because I said my soulmate was unrequited he thought…”
“We’ll get him back Lance, promise.” Hunk wrapped him up in a big hug. Pidge’s face seemed to quiver and melt. They knew exactly what it was like to be separated from their soulmate by galaxies, knowing they might be in danger, or hurt. A couple tears actually made their way down Coran’s face. His soulmark had long since become a scar on his wrist. His love long dead. He’d of given anything to see her again.
Shiro and Allura were giving each other scared looks. When Allura was being ripped away from him on that ship Shiro had yelled Allura’s words and in a flash he’d remembered his own. They’d realized they were a bonded pair just in time to be ripped apart. Guilt flowed through them. If Shiro hadn’t been so overcome by his own pain he wouldn’t have lead the group into a trap and got everyone separated but the two of them and Coran.
On top of that Shiro had known that Keith was Lance's soulmate since he'd seen Keith's handwriting on Lance's arm. Lance had seemed so sure it was unrequited though that Shiro hadn't felt it was his place to interfere. He couldn't believe that when it really mattered he'd let himself forget.
When Pidge and Coran ran up to join the hug the two of them hung back.
They did find Keith eventually three days later. He was on some desert planet. When Lance heard about this later he rolled his eyes. Of course Keith had run off into the desert again.
Keith had barely taken two steps into the castle when Lance sprung at him. His arms wrapped around Keith’s waist and Keith put his arms around behind Lance so his palms pressed against his shoulder blades. Lance put his head down on Keith’s shoulder and Keith was shocked to feel a dampness soak through his jacket. Lance couldn’t contain himself for long and raised his head to capture Keith’s mouth.
They didn’t get very far before they were interrupted by someone clearing their throat.
Keith looked over Lance’s shoulder and groaned. Hunk was giving Keith a thumbs up, Pidge looked mildly disgusted, but somehow also pleased. Allura and Shiro were smiling at him and holding hands. Coran was fiddling with his mustache wearing a pleased look. “I guess we aren’t keeping it a secret anymore then.”
Lance laughed into his shoulder.
They disappeared for a while after that and when they were next seen at dinner they were wearing matching bands. A leather one reminiscent of Lance’s old one, but with blue and red V’s crossed over each other.
They were also holding hands.