Lance wakes to the buzzing of his comms unit. He answers with a groan, a hoarse, “Hello?”
“I need you for a minute.”
“Good morning, Adam. Go fuck yourself.”
“Rather busy at the moment. Come to my rooms.” The line cuts off.
“Sure. Shall I bring you breakfast? Tea? Remind me! Who’s the prince again?” Lance sighs, looks down to see Keith no longer burrowed into his chest but gazing up at him, eyes large, luminous. Imploring.
“Sorry, beloved. Adam needs me for something.”
“Couldn’t you say no?” The imploring morphs into annoyance, and Lance bites his lip, amused. Underneath the amusement is annoyance of his own, reluctance, guilt.
“Normally, yes, but after tonight? I’m obliged to go. Just in case.” Lance rubs at his spouse’s ear, presses a sweet kiss to his lips.
Sitting up, Lance disentangles himself from Keith, leaving the kit to curl into a ball, making sure to look grouchy so he doesn't look sad. With a sigh, Lance rubs his ear some more, strokes his hair to help him relax. “Try and go back to sleep. I’ll be back before you know it.”
Not bothering to get dressed, Lance stumbles along into Adam’s room, body still aching with exhaustion. Shiro sits across from him, a tea kettle on the small table between them. “This had better be good.”
"How much do you remember from Alchemical History?"
"Nothing, I was always balls deep in somebody during Alchemical History."
"Or they were balls deep in you. I remember now." Adam rubs his brow.
"Nah, we only switched it around for Philosophical Lenses for the Understanding of the Cosmos."
“Oh yeah, none of us really attended that. What do you know about Oriande?” Adam asks, leaning forward in his chair in front of the fire.
“I… Not much. Why?” Lance sits on the floor, yawning, scratching the back of his head. He nods in thanks when Shiro hands him a cup of tea.
“Romelle’s ramblings. I believe she’s referencing the Oriande tale.”
“Yeah, my selfish ancestor warped her entire species’ powers so she could save her stupid wife. Real charming tale. Why? ”
Shiro has the audacity to raise and eyebrow. Lance glares. “You woke me up, you deal with cranky Lance. You also woke up Keith, by the way, so you double suck.”
Adam ignores Lance’s complaints. “What if she’s seen it, or is perhaps seeing it?”
“I’m sorry. What is Oriande?” Shiro asks.
Lance stares stonily at Adam. “It’s a place that may or may not exist, located with an object that may or may not exist, filled with knowledge that may or may not exist, and guarded by some ancient, sentient manifestation of power that also may or may not exist. Nothing is known about it except that it exists only in some folktale that was likely fabricated by one of my ancestors while she and her wife were high on bread mold, before we’d even invented paper .
“Supposedly, my father, with the help of Honerva and Romelle, was looking for it. That would be when Honvera somehow transported herself through alchemy to Daibazaal and ended up stranded with Zarkon for a phoeb in the middle of nowhere, they boned, etcetera, etcetera, Lotor’s birth supposedly saves us all. Father was, of course, miraculously unscathed. Meanwhile, little Romelle went insane, as you’ve seen. But the entire thing is conjecture.”
“Is it possible they got closer than-”
Lance cuts off his attendant. “I wouldn’t put it past my father to find some miserable pile of powerful nothing out in the cosmos and poke it with a stick, but no. I seriously doubt they actually found Oriande.” He sighs, shoulders sagging. “The most likely scenario is that something went wrong and her mind latched onto the idea of Oriande as a survival mechanism.”
The couple sighs in unison. Lance can see the disappointment on their faces. He’s exhausted, frustrated, and just wants to return to Keith. Curl up with him, hold him close, help him sleep. Still, he hasn't been exactly pleasant, and he understands their efforts.
“Look, I love her too. She’s family to me. I’d give almost anything to help her. But we should focus our efforts on what is before us, not in folktale and conjecture.” Biting his lip, Lance elects to make a compromise of sorts. “But I’ll have Pidge look into it. They might be able to scrape something up for us.”
“Thanks, Lance.” Shiro says, gray eyes smiling.
Lance rises to his feet with a nod, draining his cup. “Say thank you by letting me go back to bed. And keep an ear out for anyone who wants us all dead. Don’t leave me out of the loop. I will hear about it, and I will dissolve your ass in a wave of blue light, understood?”
Staring down the captain would normally intimidate Lance, but he means it this time. His family and his spouse are in danger and he needs to protect them and his people.
“Understood.” Shiro bows his head as the prince walks past. “Look after my littermate for me.”
“Always.” Lance pauses by the door. “Adam, for the love of the Ancients get some rest. You look wretched.”
Back in their quarters, Keith is sitting, curled in a ball, arms wrapped around his legs, tail curling, uncurling over his toes. He’s shivering again. Lance makes a note to discuss with Coran how to make the pods more Galra-friendly.
He looks up when Lance steps in. “Hey.”
“Couldn’t go back to sleep, huh?” Lance stumbles back to the bed, falls into it with a groan. “Well, I for one am quiznaking exhausted. Wouldn’t mind company if you’re still tired.”
So tired it hurts,” Keith murmurs. “I just couldn’t fall back asleep after you left.”
“Mh.” Lance holds out his arms, smiling as Keith cuddles up to him. The kit begins to purr, tail curling up and around Lance’s waist like an extra arm, holding him closer. “I love when you do that. It’s adorable.”
“The purring. It’s adorable.”
“I could kill you with one, bare hand. You know that, right?”
“I know it very well. But it’s okay to be other things, too. A killer is, to me, one of the last things you are.”
“It’s one of the last things you are to me, too.”
“I’ve never killed anybody before. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.” Lance sighed.
“It’s living with it that’s hard.”
“You’ve killed somebody?”
“Yeah. An Altean. He wandered up to my den a few decaphoebs before Shiro found me. He was injured and I tried to help him, but he shot me in the arm, so I killed him.”
Lance draws back a bit, brushes some hair out of Keith’s face. “How do you look at me, and not see an enemy?”
“I could ask the same of you.” Those dark, violet eyes look steadily into his, unwavering, always wide with curiosity.
“Because…” Lance shifts enough to rest their foreheads together, tips of their noses touching, eyes piercing into one another. Keith’s ear flutters, and Lance runs a thumb over his cheekbone, a habitual behavior meant to comfort, one his culture ingrained in him. “When I first saw you, the first thing I realized was that you were scared. That you were unprepared, that you weren’t ready. I saw you, and we were the same.
“And I figured… If you were as scared as I was, then I could trust us to find a way to work together.”
“Do you trust this?” Keith whispers.
Lance pushes Keith’s bangs away again, smiles softly. “I’m starting to.”
Keith’s mirroring smile is worth everything.