Keith stares at the boiling-hot rock at his feet, ear twitching with curiosity.
“Oh dear. We’d best run inside.” Alfor places a hand between Keith’s shoulders as they make a break for the hole in the castle wall while more rocks fall from the sky. "This happens sometimes! You get used to it!"
“Is this why Lance doesn’t know what rain is?!” Keith shouts as they dodge screaming rocks.
“Yes! He’d lose his quiznaking mind if you told him about it!” Alfor yanks Keith out of the way just as a flaming rock smashes right where he was about to be. Alfor opens a hidden door (which Keith makes note of for later), yanks him into the hall. Alfor pants, doubled over. “Ancients, I'm old. Are you alright?”
“I think so. Does that happen a lot?”
“Only every few phoebs. You might have noticed, but we have an asteroid belt for our innermost planetary ring. It's where much or our ore comes from.”
“I thought nothing of your rings, until now.”
“Well you and Crown Prince Lancel will get to hear all about the minor inconvenience of it when you hold court tomorrow.” They’re back to formal names, like taking off clothes. Or perhaps like putting them on.
“Excellent. I can’t wait. You know, every time you make me go to court, I lose an egg. Infertility is already almost assured-”
“Don’t even bother, Prince Yorak. I’ve been enduring court for centaphoebs. It’s someone else’s turn.”
“Worth a try.”
Alfor chuckles. “I’d best go attend to my husband. I have been working, for better or worse, and he misses me. Be careful, Prince Yorak. Love complicates things.”
“Ke- Yorak!” Lance comes running up, immediately puts a hand around his waist. “Are you alright? It’s stoning outside!”
“Yes, we’re fine.” Keith sighs. “Can you, um. Would you mind showing me the way back to our quarters? I don’t know it.”
“Sure. Come on.” Lance slips his hand to the small of Keith's back, guiding him away. Keith pulls his braid over his shoulder, twisting the end through his fingers.
“Crown Prince Lancel.”
Lance freezes, turns to look at his father. Keith feels a buzz of energy coming from the hand on his back. He can feel the breath Lance takes before he responds. “Yes, King Alfor?”
There's a long, pregnant pause. Then, “You’re doing an excellent job, Lance. With everything. I’ve… I’ve never been more proud of you.”
Lance swallows audibly. Aside from that, the Altean is disturbingly still. Keith twists the end of his braid, says nothing. Finally, “Thank you, Father.”
Back in their room, Lance frantically inspects him. “Are you alright? Were you hurt? What did he say to you?”
“You forgot to mention that an Altean marriage is void without consummation.”
“Nevermind that! You were alone with my possibly corrupt father and then out in a stoning! Are you alright?”
“I…” Keith stares blankly at his spouse while Lance turns his face this way and that, deeply concerned. He swallows. He’s in danger of making this whole mess so much more complicated that it ever needed to be.
“Keith!” Those blue and pink eyes glass with worry. “Are. you. alright?!”
“I- I’m fine.” Keith twists the end of his braid, clenching his jaw before he can chirp and embarrass himself.
“You say as you display a brand new nervous habit,” Lance mutters, still fussing. “Also, you’re ends are split and you should let me trim it.”
Lance opens his mouth, pauses. “What, really?”
Keith nods, not trusting himself to say more than a single, monosyllabic word at a time. Lance tilts his chin up, looking into his eyes. “Are you sure you’re alright? You don’t seem like yourself. You didn’t get conked on the head, did you?”
“N- no. I might have taught the king a new swear word, though.”
“Okay.” Lance draws back. He doesn’t sound convinced, but he lets it go, runs a hand through his starlight hair. “Go… take a bath or something. Rest. Relax. Whatever you want. The stoning will be an issue for the rest of the night, so do stay inside.”
Keith nods, grabs some nightclothes, slips into the shower. He stands under the water, draws his hair over his shoulder, unraveling it. He’s being stupid. He can’t cuss out a king and start falling for his husband all in one day.
Actually, cussing Alfor out had been pretty fun. But the rest is incredibly stupid. Keith lets his forehead tip against the smooth white walls.
He is incredibly stupid.
Back in the main room, Lance paces. Adam watches.
“I just don’t understand why I care so much. I mean, I've taken good care of my lovers, but he's firstly, not a lover and secondly, I never cared this much about anyone else!”
Adam smirks, pushes his glasses up his nose. “Perhaps Lady Renli is right. Maybe you do have a thing for kids. Oh, I’m sorry. Kits. ”
“You are disgusting. Why do I keep you?”
“Because you’d die without me. Speaking of which, someone tried to assassinate you both while you were out today. Unilu, we suspect.”
“Oh. Did you kill them?”
“With my bare hands.” Adam smirks, scales flashing with perfect timing. It's highly unsettling.
Lance blinks. “Really?”
“Of course not. I paid someone else to do it. You think I’d get blood on my hands? Do you have any idea what blood can do for soil acidity? I wouldn't have to explain this to Takashi.” Adam scrolls through his datapad, typing on his holographic keyboard.
“I don’t know; I just had this incredibly vivid image of you popping up behind someone and snapping their neck and then calmly going to have brunch with Keith’s littermate as though murder means nothing to you. Also, I'm telling Keith you've got first name privileges. Even he doesn't seem to have that.” Lance has never been more concerned with the person he appointed as his attendant.
“You’re partially correct. You don’t get to know which parts. Also, no one says 'no' to me. Not twice anyway.”
“That's highly disturbing. Are you at least flirting with Shiro?” Nothing. Lance pouts. “Whatever. What do I do about Keith?”
“Do you love him?”
“Do you want to love him? Do that thing people that aren't me do where they love each other and have a fulfilling relationship?”
Lance glares, sticks out his bottom lip; Adam raises an eyebrow; Lance crumbles immediately. Mumbles, “...Kind of?”
Adam sighs, smiles. “Then, just do what you’re already doing. You’re working hard to fulfill both his needs as a kit and as a person. You respect him, you're letting him grow on his own, and you're working to include him in your life. That last bit is so incredibly important.”
“You know, growing up, I never imagined I’d one day be raising my own husband. I just hope I can raise him right. I don’t want to be a deadbeat with a worthless spouse who sneaks out after dark and runs wild with all the other delinquent child brides.” Lance shakes his head in mock disappointment. Keith sneaks out a lot to go wander aimlessly in the woods and he has absolutely no problem with that. He trusts him to come back.
“You’re morally dubious, your Majesty.”
“And you’re morally bankrupt, my friend.”
“I never even made a deposit.” Adam smirks, smug and satisfied.
“You say that like it’s a good thing. You actually sound proud of that.”
“Tell me something, your Majesty. Where would you be if I had?”
“Do you two need a minute alone or…?” Keith steps into the room, hair soaking through his nightshirt.
“Excuse you, I am a married man. How dare you, sir?!” Lance grins, holding out a hand to Keith, who takes it, sits down on the bed a respectful distance away. Keith seems okay. A little… small, like he wants to vanish, but he doesn’t seem injured- wait. “Hey, did you hurt yourself?”
“Hm? Oh.” Keith holds up his burned arm. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“You’re still bleeding,” Adam pointed out. “How did you not notice?”
“I was distracted.” Keith starts twisting his hair, until he notices the Alteans watching him.
“You didn’t tell me he had a new nervous habit. When did he develop a new nervous habit? Do you have any idea what this could do to my-”
Lance pinches the bridge of his nose. “Adam could you maybe-”
“Lay the fuck off?" Keith suggests. "Just this once.”
“Wow your language is really awful today. Adam, do shut up please.” Lance munches his lip, tries to figure out how to set his spouse at ease. “Do you want me to cut your hair?”
Lance smiles, thanks Adam when he materializes with a pair of hair scissors and a fine comb. “Here, you can sit in Adam’s chair, since he’s up.”
“Oh thanks so much," Adam grumbles. "I’ll see you tomorrow. You’re welcome for not being dead!”
“Dead?” Keith asks, turning to him with alarm as the doors close. “What?”
Lance draws on his quintessence, runs his fingers over Keith’s wound. “Assassination attempt. Adam took care of it.”
“I bet he didn’t even blink.”
“Certainly not, as he watched his own assassin break my assassin’s neck.”
“Adam has his own assassin?” It occurs to Lance as Keith asks his question that they should likely be way more concerned about this. Eh. Facts of life.
“I imagine he grows them like tubers in his garden. Or perhaps in a jar.”
“I believe it. I bet he keeps the jar illuminated so he can watch it grow while he falls asleep like a very macabre night light… I’m glad you weren’t assassinated- What are you doing?”
“Look.” Lance smiles as Keith gapes down at his arm, sees his skin closing. It is pretty miraculous. Both the healing and the fact that Lance managed to do it without blowing them up. “Hey, I’m sorry you got hurt. And that you had to deal with my father. I know he’s not exactly your favorite person.”
“It’s fine. I still hate him, but… I think I understand him better. So that’s something.” Lance hums, pulls him into a chair. Keith sits, feels a comb running through his hair, the *snick* of the hair scissors. ”You won’t cut off too much, will you?”
“No, I won’t ruin your beautiful hair. You will, if you keep clawing at it when you’re stressed… You’re surprisingly vain.”
“I'm not vain about everything. It’s just the one thing… What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Uh, court, then studying crop yields. Wanna come? You can learn all about… I dunno, plants I guess.”
“Hm. sounds exciting. Yeah, I’ll come.”
“Great! It’s a date,” Lance teases. “It’ll be so romantic, learning about shreika feces or whatever. But we could use a higher sustainable yield so we’re more desirable for interplanetary commerce.”
“I take it there’s a long-term aim in mind?”
“Two. Firstly, alleviate poverty and the resulting bitterness among the people who grow my food. Secondly, start creating interplanetary relationships based on something other than the terror of our vicious army and merciless, excessively destructive armada.”
“I like that idea. Perhaps we can go speak to some of the farmers? People… People like to know that they’re valued. Talking to them instead of researching them in your enormous private library will go a long way toward gaining their respect. Also, agrarian communities tend to be close-knit, so you may need to start with small things before they'll open up to you.”
“Oh, like adjusting taxes? Done! But I’ll keep that in mind. There you go! Hair’s all cut. I worked a bit of quintessence into it, to keep it healthy.”
“Thank you… My father kept his hair long. He, uh. When I was a small kit, my mother was fighting and I was too young to be left on my own. My father would give me the end of his braid to play with while we were hunting. We’d have to be still and quiet for a long time, and it helped if I had something to do. We didn't have much.” Keith pulls a lock of hair over his shoulder. It feels nice, nicer than before. “It seems stupid, but he was so strong and brave and this is my way of honoring him.”
“I don’t think it’s stupid. I think it’s nice that you found a way to remember him. Also, I wanna see you strangle someone with it. It’d be super cool.”
Keith laughs, soft and sweet. Lance smiles at the sound of it. “Well, maybe someone else will try to assassinate us and you’ll get your wish.”
Lance flops back on the bed, wriggling up to the pillows. “Yeah. If Adam doesn’t spoil the fun with his stupid efficiency.”
Keith flops, wriggles to lie next to him. “Yeah. He’s terrifying. I think he’s the most dangerous person here.”
“Oh. Yes, without a doubt. He’s pure evil and we should all be afraid. Except Takashi.”
"What?! That's not fair! Even I don't call him that!"
"I know. Can you even imagine? Pure evil and pure good teamed up together? They could do anything they wanted. Anything at all."
“Mhm. Goodnight, Lance. I'll teach you about 'fuck' tomorrow.” Keith nestles himself down in the blankets, yawning sleepily as he curls himself into a ball, tail up by his hands. He's exhausted, deserves a good night's sleep.
"Ooh, can't wait." Lance activates Keith’s datapad, dims the lights. He leaves the fire crackling. Nights are getting cold; winter is on the way. As he burrows into the bed, he remembers something, sits back up. He reaches over, rubs at the base of Keith’s velveteen ear. The Galra purrs, leaning into the touch as he settles deeper into the bed.
Lance smiles. “Goodnight, Keith.”