Keith was woken at six in the morning by a tiny hand slapping his face. He lay as still as possible, knowing it would all be over once he opened his eyes. His internal clock told him it was far too early to be awake, especially today of all days. No, he was going to pretend to sleep for as long as possible and pray the tiny terror would get bored.
From the other side of the bed, Lance snored, too loud and overexaggerated to be real. The bed shifted, and a long arm draped over Keith’s waist, pulling him to the middle of the bed. There was a squeal, and Keith risked peeking one eye open to see that Lance had the brat trapped in his other arm.
“Papi!” she screeched, too loud for this hour of the morning. “Papi, Papi, Papi, Papi!!”
“Shh, shh, princesa, sleepy time,” Lance murmured, followed by an exaggerated snore. Keith buried his smile in his pillow and turned his head the other way to look at the clock.
6:30 AM, 25th December.
Tiny feet kicked into his back, using his weight to leverage themselves at Lance. “Papi!!!” she groaned.
Yeah, she was too awake already. There was no way they were going to be able to persuade her to stay in bed until a reasonable hour.
A weight settled over his shoulder, hands pulling his hair from his face. “Mama?”
Keith blinked his eye open, to see his daughter way too close to his face. “Yes, chickie?” he asked.
“Santie?” she asked, blinking big doe eyes at him. It was a critical hit; he couldn’t ignore her.
“Okay, okay. Let’s leave your papi alone now,” Keith said, pulling himself out of bed. He tugged on Lance’s jumper he was wearing yesterday and scooped his babygirl up.
Lance let out a long groan but sat up in the bed. “Wait, wait, I don’t want to miss this, I’m coming too.”
Brannagh wriggled in his grasp while they waited for Lance to grab his robe. She kept tucking the hairs that had slipped from his braid behind his ear, again and again. He knew it was because she had seen Lance do the same thing, but it still made his heart burst with adoration. She really was the sweetest thing.
“Okay, I’m ready!” Lance cried, bursting out of their bathroom with overdramatic jazz hands. Brannagh gasped and covered her mouth, muffling her giggles. Lance grinned and came closer to them, smiling when she tucked her face into Keith’s neck.
“Aww, is mi princesa shy? Don’t you want a smooch from papi?”
“No!” she screeched, pushing his face away from her. Lance laughed, and leaned over to scent Keith, sneakily pressing a kiss to Brannagh’s head as he passed.
“Come on! Let’s go see what Santa left!” Lance cried, barrelling out their bedroom door. Brannagh giggled and squirmed in his arms, until Keith let her down, and she took off after Lance. Keith laughed and followed at a slower pace.
This Christmas was a special one. Last year, Bran was only a couple months old. She hadn’t known what all the fuss was about, she hadn’t cared what Santa brought her, or why there were so many people in the house. All she cared about was her mama and papi, milk and sleep.
This year though, she understood. Or, as much as a one-and-a-half-year-old toddler could. She had watched all the Christmas movies with Keith and Lance, she had listened to all the stories about Santa. She had been on her best behaviour. She was excited.
Since mating and marrying Lance, and having Brannagh, Christmas had become a very complicated thing. Keith had experienced a lot of different Christmases. First, it was just a quiet day with him and his dad. Maybe the firehouse would hold a Christmas party. Then, there were a handful of years where Keith was passes around the foster system. Most of those homes had tried their hardest, but they were cold and impersonable.
Then, after his uncles managed to find him, Keith got to experience Christmas with them. He was scared and hurt though, and had tried his best not to get attached, convinced that he would be sent back to the group home at any moment.
Finally, his mom found him, and Keith got to spend Christmas with his uncles and his mom. It was stilted and awkward at first, but he got to know her, got to work through the unresolved hurt he still harboured.
Then Lance McClain arrived with a bang. Once they got married, Christmas was split between the two sides of their families, and their friends. The McClains were big, and loud. There were too many people to count, Keith wasn’t even sure if half those people were related in any way. The McClains didn’t do the traditional Christmas, but theirs was just as good, if not better. It was full of music, laughter and dancing. Kids weaved between the adult’s legs, all cheeky and mischievous.
It made the Marmora’s celebrations seem dull and dreary, but Lance reassured him that it was a nice break from the craziness of his family.
For years, Keith and Lance would spend Christmas Eve with one family, and Christmas Day with the other, but since Brannagh had been born, both families had argued over who got to spend her first Christmas with her.
That was when Keith and Lance decided enough was enough. It was time that they started to make their own family traditions. So, they decided that they would spend Christmas Day with their pack, if they were amiable. Truthfully, Keith preferred spending the day itself with his close friends. They made things a little easier.
Keith detoured into the kitchen to put on the coffee. It wasn’t even seven in the morning, but he knew it would be a long, long day. He peeked into the living room to see Bran bouncing on her toes to see what was under the tree for her. Keith and Lance hadn’t gone overboard, despite the impulse. She would be spoiled rotten by all of their pack, and the rest of their families when they saw them.
Lance sat on the floor in front of her, his back to the tree. He was holding Bran’s hands, nodding along to her excited babbling. She was slowly learning new words, and had started making short, two-word sentences, but most of her speech was indistinguishable. It didn’t stop them from chatting with her though.
Lance caught Keith’s eyes and winked. Keith’s cheeks warmed with a blush. Even after so long, Lance still caught him by surprise. Keith held up two fingers, letting Lance know he wouldn’t be too long. He pulled their two mugs, one red and one blue, from the cupboard, and filled them. He carried them into the sitting room, setting them down on the coffee table. He had learnt the hard way not to let hot beverages anyway near an excitable toddler.
“Okay, baby, do you want to get the first present?” Keith asked, settling on the floor next to Lance. Bran dived under the tree, pulling out the biggest one first. Her cheeks were flushed as she dragged it over to Keith and Lance, and she was so cute Keith couldn’t resist sweeping her up to smoother her in kisses.
“Mami!” she cried, squirming for a second before giving up in his hold. She pouted, but accepted his kisses, giggling and screeching when he blew a raspberry on her cheek. “M- Mami, stop!”
“Okay, okay! I’ll stop!” Keith gave her one last kiss and set her down in his lap. “Who’s this first one for?”
Lance leaned over to read the tag. “To Baby, merry Christmas, babygirl. Lots of love, Mami and Papi.”
Brannagh crawled out of Keith’s arms, and, with a pleading look to Keith and Lance, tore into the wrapping as best as she was able. She got a bit stuck, and Lance helped her peel the paper away from the box, throwing it to some far corner of the room.
She gasped, hiding her face in her hands, peeking through her fingers every few seconds. Keith and Lance shared a look, unsure if that was a good reaction or a bad one.
“Do you like it, baby?” Lance asked gently, grasping her wrists to lead them away from her face. She nodded frantically, grinning so wide Keith’s cheeks smarted in sympathy. Keith sighed, relieved. They had noticed that Bran seemed to love space as much as they did, so they bought her a set of all the planets in the solar system, to hang on her ceiling. They had also gotten as many glow-in-the-dark stars as they could, intent on turn Bran’s nursery into her own little solar system.
He was sure she didn’t really understand the present and was just entranced with the imagery of stars on the box, but he hoped she would enjoy it when she was a bit older.
The morning flew by, with Brannagh opening more presents, and Keith and Lance opening a few from each other. They would save most of them until the rest of their pack turned up though.
Bran dragged a medium sized box from under the tree, and Keith sat up quickly before she could tear into it. She seemed to like tearing the wrapping more than the actual presents.
“Not that one, babydoll, that one’s for your papi to open later,” Keith said, leading her away from it. She pouted and her chin wobbled, and Keith prayed that that wasn’t enough for a breakdown. It was too early.
“Oh?” Lance asked, slipping a hand onto Keith’s lower back, “A present for later?” He winked, and Keith’s cheeks flamed.
“Not in front of the baby,” he hissed, elbowing Lance in the side. Lance gasped and dramatically fell to the floor, sending wrapping paper flying. Brannagh laughed and jumped onto him, Lance letting out an “Ooomph!” as her knee made contact with his crotch.
“Mami, save me!” Lance cried, reaching out for him. Keith grinned and hauled Bran up by her armpits, lifting her high and settling her onto his shoulders. He winced as her hands gripped his hair, yanking hard to keep her balance even as he had a firm grip of her legs.
“Come on Brannagh, let’s get that mane of yours to behave while Papi makes us breakfast.”
Grooming Bran’s hair was always an ordeal. It was as dark as Keith’s, and just as curly. Despite his years of experience dealing with his own hair, Brannagh’s was a whole other story. Firstly, she could not sit still. Secondly, she was very particular about her hair styles. Keith couldn’t get away with a simple braid or ponytail, oh no, only the best for Brannagh. Brannagh’s hair was also ridiculously long for someone so young, already well past her shoulders.
Today, Bran had selected a myriad of colourful, glittery hairclips for him to use. He didn’t know what, exactly, she wanted, and he felt a little out of his depth, since Lance was much more creative with hair than he was, but he gave it his best shot.
By the time Lance called that breakfast was ready, Brannagh’s hair was up in pigtails, with the clips holding her bangs away from her face. It wasn’t up to Lance’s usual standard, but Bran seemed satisfied. Keith leaned down, nuzzling the top of her head to make sure she had plenty of his scent, and Lance’s in turn. Keith hadn’t gotten Brannagh out of her pyjamas yet, since he knew she would destroy whatever she wore with syrup from their pancakes anyway.
He picked her up, and carried her downstairs, startled when Lance started clapping. “Wow, look at my gorgeous babies! You look stunning, both of you!”
“I not even dressed yet,” Keith replied, setting Bran into her highchair, a plate of blueberry pancakes already ready for her.
“You still look gorgeous, babe,” Lance replied, smacking a kiss on his cheek and nuzzling their cheeks together before nuzzling Brannagh too. She was too distracted by her breakfast to pay any heed. Already, her hands and cheeks were sticky with syrup, and Keith sighed but let her be.
At twelve, their pack started to arrive. First, Hunk and Shay, with their three-year-old, Omondi. He was shy and soft spoken, but surprisingly, got on extremely well with Brannagh, despite their differences in personality. Brannagh might get most of her looks from Keith, but she was just as loud and brash as Lance. Hunk barely stopped to say hi, instead sweeping into their kitchen to start cooking.
Keith led Shay and Omondi into the living room, where Brannagh was playing on the floor. Omondi waved shyly from behind his mother’s legs when Bran spotted him. Bran grabbed her new favourite toy (that was not a toy at all, but a hot water bottle Lance had jokingly gotten Keith) and toddled over to show Omondi and Shay. Shay set down the bag she held, full of presents for the pack, and pulled Brannagh into a hug. When she was free, Bran gave Omondi a hug of his own, although a little uncoordinated.
Both Keith and Shay cooed at the sight, their little darlings were too cute together. The kiddos ran off the play with some of Bran’s toys together, or, more like, Brannagh dragged Omondi to play with her, while Shay and Keith set all the presents under the Christmas tree. Already, there was barely any space left, and there were still loads more to come.
“I think we both might have gone overboard this year,” Keith laughed, as he tried to fit another gift under the tree. Shay giggled, surveying their handiwork.
“I don’t believe there is such thing as going overboard, not when you’re showing the people you love how much you care,” she replied. Keith laughed and shook his head.
“I suppose you’re right. Let’s go see if the boys need any help in the kitchen.”
By one, the sitting room was full of gifts, and the house full of people. Shiro, Adam and Curtis were the last ones to arrive. Curtis looked a bit overwhelmed, as this was his first year with the pack, but Keith hoped he’d settle soon.
Coran was regaling the children with tales from his youth. Although little Melanie was his only biological relation, all three of the kids called him Pop-Pop Coran, and he was glad to fill in the role of grandfather for all of them.
Hunk had kicked all of them, bar his wife, from the kitchen, so they had settled in the dining room. When they first bought the house, a dining room had seemed excessive, and they rarely used it, but it was worth it just for the times when the entire pack was over.
Keith slipped into the sitting room to check on the kids. Coran was sitting on the floor with them, drawing pictures while they chatted. Most of what Melanie and Brannagh were saying was pure baby babble, but Coran replied to them just as seriously as he would have if he were talking to an adult. It was something Keith really appreciated about Coran, he never overly babied the kids, or treated them any less seriously then he would anyone else. They got his full attention, he would listen to them, talk with them and play with them.
Brannagh squealed when she spotted him, running over to him and taking her drawing with her. He sat down on the floor so he could see it properly, and she clambered into his lap.
“Mama!” she cried, holding the drawing. It was a mass of different coloured scribbles, but from the large red blob, and several brown blobs with little legs sticking out, he gathered it was supposed to be Santa and his reindeer.
“Baby, did you draw this? It’s amazing! I love it, babygirl! Why don’t we show this to your Papi and then we’ll hang it up in his office?” Brannagh scrambled up off his lap, and grabbed his hand, pulling him to follow her to the dining room.
“Papi!” She ran over and clung to Lance’s legs. Lance hiked her up, settling her on his hip.
“Mi princesa! Are you having fun?” he asked, pressing a loud kiss to her cheek. She nodded, and then made grabby hands at Keith. Keith handed her her drawing.
“She wanted to show you her drawing. Isn’t it gorgeous?” Keith said, sidling up to Lance. Lance hooked his other arm over his shoulder.
“Baby! It’s gorgeous! This belongs in a museum! I’m so proud of you! This one has to go into my office, it’s beautiful,” Lance exclaimed. Lance’s loud voice draws some of the others over, and soon they’re all cooing over Brannagh. Keith giggled as he watches her preen under all the attention. She definitely didn’t get that from him.
Soon, Melanie and Omondi bounded in, followed by Coran, to show everyone their drawings too.
The best thing about being part of a pack, was that the kids were everyone’s. Everyone adored each child as much as they did their own and made sure to show it. It really took a pack to raise a child.
Keith watched the pack from the side-lines, feeling a wave of tiredness wash over him. He was so happy and excited to be celebrating Christmas with everyone, but he was exhausted from his late night and early morning. He wanted to nap, but he knew it would be rude of him to do so.
“You okay?” Lance asked, squeezing Keith’s hip.
“Hm? Oh, yeah, just tired,” Keith replied, keeping an eye on Baby. “Apparently I’m not the only one,” he said as Brannagh yawned right in Romelle’s face.
“You know, dinner won’t be ready for another hour or so, and Brannagh needs a nap or she’ll be cranky later. Maybe you should take her upstairs? And if she just so happens to need you to stay with her, I don’t think anyone would really mind.”
Keith frowned, “I guess. I’d feel kind of bad though, ditching everybody like that.”
“Trust me,” Lance laughed, “I think everybody would rather you and baby had a nap, then have to deal with the both of you being cranky later!”
“Hey!” Keith huffed, “Fine, jeez, I’ll take her to bed. Wake me up before dinner’s ready though, I want to help set the table.”
“Okay, sweet dreams, sweetheart.” Keith and Lance shared a soft kiss before Keith swept his baby up from her aunt’s arms, carrying her away for her nap.
“Keith,” a gentle voice whispered. Soothing hands ran through his hair, and he sighed, snuggling deeper into his pillow.
“Keith, come on, you have to wake up, sweetheart, dinner’s almost ready.” Keith groaned, struggling to pick between nuzzling closer to the hands in his hair, or pushing whoever was trying to wake him up away. Instead, he lazily flopped his hand in the direction of the voice.
There was a sigh, and then the voice again. “Sorry, I didn’t want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice. Go get him, princesa.”
A weight landed next to him on the bed, sticky fingers squishing his cheeks together. “Mami,” an insistent voice said, loud in his ear. Keith blearily opened his eyes to see his mate and pup both staring at him with identical grins. He blinked, disorientated.
“You were so deeply asleep we couldn’t wake you earlier. Are you feeling alright?” Lance asked, pressing a hand to his forehead.
“What time is it?” he asked instead, still trying to find his bearings. Brannagh snuggled into his chest.
“Nearly four, don’t worry though! There were a few complications with dinner, so it took a bit longer than expected. They’re just starting to get ready now.”
“Oh,” Keith blinked. He had slept for nearly two hours. He must have been more exhausted then he thought.
“Are you sure your alright?” Lance asked, frowning, “You seem a bit… dazed. Are you coming down with something?” Lance pressed a hand to Keith’s forehead.
“Mmh, I might be,” Keith said, reluctantly. He rarely had naps, and he did feel a little flushed. He had a feeling he knew what was happening already though. “I’ll be fine though. Come on, we can’t let our guests do all the work.”
“Promise me you’ll say something if you feel any worse,” Lance said, helping Keith up and scooping Brannagh with him.
“I promise, Lance, I feel fine.”
Dinner was a cheerful event, as always. Everyone had brought their own side dishes, so the whole meal was a mismatch of different cultures and cuisines. Keith steered clear of anything spicy, settling with some of the plainer things for him and Brannagh.
After words, they all settled in the sitting room, stuffed full to the point of exploding.
“I’m never eating anything again,” Pidge groaned, lying across the floor. Brannagh and Omondi copied her, giggling as they lay spread eagle across the carpet.
“That’s a lie and you know it,” Matt snorted, “Just wait til you see dessert.”
“Oh, god, dessert,” Shiro groaned, rubbing his belly, “I don’t think I have any space left.”
“Come on,” Shay said, standing up, “Lets open up some gifts.”
Everyone was eager to pass the gifts around, the kids helping too. Soon most of the gifts were open. The only one of Keith’s left was the one he was most nervous about. He stood and pulled it out from the tree, presenting it to Lance.
“Here, this is the one I didn’t want you to open earlier,” he said, bashful and shy.
Lance raised an eyebrow, but ripped into the paper, opening the box only to pull out another box. He laughed, and opened that one too, again and again until he was left with a small box about the length of his palm.
“I swear to god if this is another box, I’m going to lose it,” he growled playfully, pulling the wrapping off. He opened it, and gasped, staring stupidly into the box. He looked from the box to Keith, to the box and then to Keith again. “Keith?”
“Wait, what’s happening?” Pidge cried, and everyone else immediately shushed her.
“Babe?” Lance asked and pulled out a postitive pregnancy test and a tiny onesie. Keith nodded, eyes watering. Lance leapt to his feet, sweeping Keith up in his arms and kissing him. Everyone burst into congratulations and cheers.
“Oh no,” Shay said, and everyone turned to face her. Keith’s heart sank. She blushed when she realised all attention was on her. “No! I mean, I am very happy for you both, I- Here.”
She handed Hunk a small box, and he opened it with an eyebrow raised.
And laughed when he pulled out another pregnancy test, drawing Shay into a hug
“Both of you!” Shiro cried, and everyone broke into laughter and more congratulations.
Keith leaned against Lance's side, and nuzzled into his shoulder happily. He couldn't wait for the future, and what it would bring.