It starts like this: Lance looking up at the scoreboard only a few days into his Garrison training and muttering to himself, “What the hell kind of a name is Keith?”
He doesn’t mean for anyone to hear him, but he isn’t exactly quiet either, so he’s not entirely surprised when someone actually answers him; a girl to Lance’s right glances over, and then jabs her thumb over her shoulder. “His, apparently. Back row, third from the left.”
And Lance - who nearly forgets all about this ‘Keith’ the second he lays eyes on the girl - follows her direction and scoffs out loud (because who in their right mind these days has a mullet? ) before his attention swerves back to the much more important task of flirting.
“Oh yeah?” he says, grinning smugly. “Well, I hope he enjoys his time up there, because by this time next week it’s gonna be my name at the top of the board!”
“Is that so?” the girl asks, unimpressed - only for now, though, Lance will definitely fix that.
“Just you wait, Lance McClain is going to wipe the floor with Keith Park.”
Lance McClain does not wipe the floor with Keith Park.
It stops being about impressing anyone quickly. Lance came here to be the damn best pilot he could be, and apparently doing that means beating Mr. Effortlessly Perfect in the back row. Keith becomes the bar, the finish line, The Guy To Beat, and Lance is going to kick. His. Ass. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.
The thing is though, Keith can fly. Lance is not petty enough to pretend that this isn’t true, even though he may be petty enough to deny it anywhere outside of his own head.
But the first time he sees Keith in the simulator? That’s not the kind of thing you forget easily. Watching Keith through the feed with the rest of the cadets - fast, reckless, controlled, dancing on the line that separates close calls from bad ones but never crossing it - Lance has to admit that Keith has talent. And yes, he’s jealous, because Keith moves like he was born to fly, but also kind of awed because Keith moves like he was born to fly.
Lance watches the set of Keith’s jaw, the focus in his eyes, and he watches the names of cadets on the scoreboard being swapped around every week, except for the one at the top.
Keith is, undeniably, the best. And Lance is going to beat him.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little, I dunno, obsessive?” Hunk nudges him gently in the mess hall.
Lance doesn’t tear his gaze away from Keith’s back for a second, vaguely hoping that if his glare is vehement enough Keith’s uniform might spontaneously burst into flames. “No.”
Pidge snorts derisively, and Lance ignores it because he is the bigger person, and not because he doesn’t know what it means.
For Keith, it starts like this: He’s kicked out of the Garrison, and a few months later some guy he vaguely recognizes gate-crashes his rescue mission and stubbornly worms himself into every aspect of his life against, it seems, both of their wills.
“We were like rivals, you know? Lance and Keith, neck and neck!”
No, Keith doesn’t know, and it’s not actually the words that help him remember, but the face the guy - Lance - is making. He remembers seeing that face glaring at him whenever he turned around - it’s hard to forget expressions that animated - but he’d never paid the person wearing them much thought. Shiro had just been announced dead, he couldn’t have cared less about his classmates at that point.
“Oh wait, I remember you; you’re a cargo pilot.”
Lance is still glaring at him, and Keith wonders what the hell his problem is before reminding himself that he doesn’t care.
He has bigger things to worry about right now.
Lance, Keith decides, is infuriating.
“Watch your left!”
Keith spins around just in time to block the shot, the laser bouncing harmlessly off his shield and dissipating a millisecond later. He’s thankful for the warning, but also highly conscious of the fact that it came from Hunk and not the person who is supposed to be guarding his left, as per the training exercise.
“Lance,” he grits out, jerking his shield again to guard Hunk’s side. “What the hell happened to covering me?”
“Oooooh, Mr. Bigshot finally admitting to needing me? I knew it!”
“Just watch my back!”
“You’re not the only person I’m protecting here! Sorry man, even I’m not good enough to cover your giant ass at all times!”
This would usually be the point where Shiro would step in with a warning, but he’s already out due to a misstep from Pidge near the beginning of the exercise, and Keith can’t stop himself from rising to Lance’s goading. He can never stop himself.
“Evidently! Maybe if you put more effort into training than running your mouth-”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?!”
“Guys-” Hunk starts, but then a laser hits his shoulder - a laser that Keith should have blocked - and he disappears into the floor. Keith bristles.
“It means that you’re acting like an idiot!”
“Oh yeah?! Well, let’s see who’s the idiot when I win this thing!”
“There’s no winning, you’re supposed to be-” Keith cuts himself off with a yelp as pain floods his back, followed by the awful plummeting feeling of there very suddenly being nothing under his feet. The sound of the lasers cut out, he falls through darkness for a moment, and then he is unceremoniously dumped in the chamber below.
He hears Lance before he sees him, and a second later Lance hits the floor next to him, groaning. Keith scowls.
“That thing hit me dead in the back, how the hell could that have gotten past you?!”
“Oops,” Lance says into the floor, not sounding apologetic in the slightest. “My bad. What a shame.”
And he’s only known Lance for a few days, really, but Keith can recognize the guy’s sarcasm when he sees it and is about to accuse him of letting Keith get hit on purpose, but then he sits up and sees the Look Shiro is wearing. Ten different shades of exasperation and disappointment, and so shame kills Keith’s argument in his throat.
“I think that’s enough for today,” Shiro says, and it sounds a whole lot like I’m too exhausted to tell you off but know that I am Not Happy.
Keith looks at Lance, is satisfied to see that he looks as ashamed as Keith feels, and then gets to his feet and stomps toward the exit.
“We’re such a great team,” Pidge mumbles as he passes, and Keith realises that sarcasm is the easiest tone to identify in near-strangers.
The Castle is never completely silent.
And usually, it’s unsettling for Keith, who spent a year in isolation with nothing but the desert sand and the stars for company. Any noise there was either made by Keith or was a cause for alarm, and he learnt to sleep light, conscious of any sound. The desert was stagnant and dead and ultimately not a very enjoyable place to live, but it was something Keith had been used to, even if he could never bring himself to call it home.
The Castle of Lions, on the other hand, feels alive - but not in a comforting, warm sense, there are far too many empty rooms and abandoned wings for that, but as if they are living in the belly of some legendary, powerful beast, comforted by the thought that it’s on their side but always vaguely terrified by its power. The constant hum of the engines and thrum of the walls keeps Keith up at night.
But right now, he’s thankful for the noise.
Everyone else had left a little while ago, exhausted from the night’s events, but the idea of leaving Lance alone in the cryo-pods so shortly after an attack with all of the Castle’s defences still down doesn’t sit well with Keith, so he stays. Hunk had been the last to leave, and the look he’d cast back at Keith had been strange, but he seemed satisfied with Keith’s answer of, “Better safe than sorry.”
He leans back against the pod and chances another glance inside. Lance is clearly as unconscious as one can be, but his expression isn’t the peaceful one of sleep; it’s faintly twisted, a sharp frown pulling at his lips, and with an unpleasant jolt Keith realises that the hyper-fast regrowth of skin over second-degree burns is probably a rather painful process.
And Keith feels… not responsible, he knows that none of this is on him despite the little voices he thinks are probably in everyone’s heads right now ( should have realised earlier, you let your guard down, you let yourself be tricked, you let Sendak split you up ), but still oddly guilty.
Because in his head, Lance is infuriating and loud and makes jokes that Keith doesn’t get, and Keith had let himself believe that that’s all there is to him, except now he has to process these sides of Lance he hadn’t even considered were there; this Lance that willingly shields a man he hardly even knows from an explosion with his own body, this Lance that rouses himself from a half-coma to save Pidge’s life, this Lance who had grabbed his hand and told Keith that they actually make a good team, and smiled at him despite the obvious pain and exhaustion like he couldn’t have asked for anything more than for Keith to be there with him.
Keith tries to scoff, but it comes out more like a choke. Whatever. Lance had been delirious, and had passed out a few seconds later, falling forward into Keith’s chest. (And Keith had maybe panicked, slightly, but a second later he had felt Lance’s breath on his neck and relief had crashed into him like a wave).
But it had been… nice. Except for the Lance being injured part. It had been something. Keith had felt a pull in that moment, something that has him committing the sight of Lance’s small, meaningful smile to memory, and he thinks maybe this is the whole ‘bond’ thing that Coran keeps talking about. Maybe Lance is his rival, but Keith has seen him interact with Pidge and Hunk, the smiles on their faces, and thinks that he wouldn’t mind being his friend, too.
And Lance is infuriating, and loud, and makes jokes that Keith doesn’t get, but apparently he’s also self-sacrificing and homesick and smiles in the face of bad things for the sake of everyone involved, and the sight of him quiet and unmoving is far more unsettling than the constant hum of the castle.
“Keith?” His gaze flicks towards the entrance and finds Coran striding towards him. “You’re still here?”
He blinks at the question, but shifts out of the way when Coran motions for it. “Uh, yeah. I thought it was probably a bad idea to leave him on his own.”
Coran nods, thoughtful, and taps his fingers on the pod’s surface, bringing up a small virtual panel blinking with Altean symbols Keith can’t recognize. “A noble thought! But as happy as the princess and I are to see you two getting along, you really should get some rest. Lance can’t do anything in there, and if anything goes wrong we’ll be alerted immediately, so there’s nothing to worry about!”
Getting along is probably a stretch, Keith thinks, but instead he says, “If anyone could hurt themselves whilst totally unconscious, it’s Lance.” which holds pretty much the same sentiment.
Coran, to his surprise, laughs. “He does seem to attract trouble, doesn’t he? Reminds me a bit of my nephew, in his younger days! Tamlen, he had a knack for getting himself into all sorts of crazy situations- sent the entire city into a panic once by riding through on the horns of a pack of mushan!” His shoulders sag. “...Good kid, he was.”
Keith does not know what a pack of mushan are, but Coran has acquired a sort of misty-eyed, wistful look that he has absolutely no idea how to deal with. He almost panics - how in god’s name are you supposed to comfort someone who has lost their entire civilization? - but then Coran straightens, his smile sad but not defeated, and Keith thinks that Coran might not actually need his comfort.
“Lance is also a good kid,” Coran continues, “and he’ll make a fine paladin, if his performance today is anything to go by! And I think the two of you could make a stunning team, if you put your differences aside.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“It’s in your blood!” Coran replies cheerfully, as if this is obvious. “Red and blue, fire and water- it was something of a pattern with past paladins, they always had a special something about them!” He pauses. “...I know we haven’t all known each other terribly long, but I had a good talk with Lance before the explosion. I like to think I understand him better now.”
Keith does not answer, he doesn’t really know how, but that’s okay because Coran does not seem to expect one. The older man straightens up, finally moving away from Lance’s pod.
“Well, everything seems normal! He should be fine within a day or so. Come along!” he says brightly, tugging Keith away from the pod by his elbow before he can protest. “Lance will still be here in the morning, and you need to rest. No arguments!”
Keith allows himself to be dragged from the room, despite his worry about leaving Lance unguarded, if only for the fact that Lance would never let him forget it if he found out that Keith had camped outside his cryo-pod all night.
As soon as Coran is out of sight, however, he heads for the training room.
He’s not about to let something like this happen again.
Lance doesn’t hate Keith.
He’s never actually hated Keith. Sure, he had been jealous and the guy grates on his nerves sometimes and Lance will occasionally interrupt Pidge’s work to complain about him and his stupid hair and his stupid attitude and his stupidly perfect combat skills, but hate - real hate, or even vague animosity at this point - is exhausting and time consuming and honestly not worth the effort, because once you get to know him, Lance can admit that Keith is an okay guy.
So maybe Lance is still kind of bitter that Keith didn’t remember him when they first met, when Lance had always been right on his damn heels at the Garrison, and Keith had apparently been too self-assured to look back even once.
And Lance, whose family he adores and misses beyond rational thought and reason but had been ultimately swallowed by, a single voice inside a cacophony of people, hates being forgotten. And maybe he’s a child of four, and he knows that the best way to get anyone’s attention is to rile them up, to poke fun and make dumb jokes and worm his way into their hearts until they’re hopelessly endeared by him.
And maybe he’s trying to figure out how to make this team into a family, because family is all Lance is really sure about in life, and so he leans against Hunk’s side in their down time and makes fun of Pidge’s glasses, and sits next to Keith at the table even though there’s four empty seats and tries to inconspicuously give Shiro the rest of his food without the man noticing, and he teaches Coran Earth phrases that don’t actually exist and he nags Allura until she lets him braid her hair and suddenly he’s being asked to do it for every diplomatic event they’ll attend.
And Lance may be stubborn - maybe even a bit petty - but it was a hell of a lot easier to hate Keith when he was just a name at the top of the scoreboard being thrown at Lance by Iverson to constantly remind him that he wasn’t good enough.
Now Keith is an actual person, who doesn’t move a muscle at Lance’s jokes but cracks up when he slips on food goo, who honestly has no idea what is wrong with his blasphemous haircut, who actually smiles a lot more than his whole stoic, emo, ‘probably-cried-when-MCR-broke-up’ kid act suggests, and Lance likes people as a general rule unless they’re giant purple dictators of the universe, so it’s hard to remind himself to hate Keith when Keith turns out to not be the total asshole Lance had convinced himself he was. A bit awkward, sure, short-fused and way too intense... but not an asshole.
Besides, it looks like they’re all gonna be stuck together for a long time. This rivalry is gonna have to turn friendly at some point or another.
And, he thinks, watching Keith perfectly execute Lance’s plan and lay waste to the Galra drones before them, they actually do make a pretty good team.
Keith glances over, looking faintly surprised. Lance supposes that’s fair; there’s no real sense of time in space but their internal clocks - along with the Earthen one Pidge has set up - tell them it’s late, and Lance barely comes to the training deck of his own volition at an acceptable time of day, much less when everyone else has trudged off to bed.
In fact, the only reason he’s here at all is to see Keith, which is probably a shock to both of them.
“Uh, hey?” Keith responds, taking a quick swig of his water bottle. A drop cascades down his chin and over the lines of his collarbone. Lance very pointedly doesn’t notice.
The quicker he does this, the better.
Except his mouth apparently doesn’t get this memo, because the first thing out of it is, “Didn’t think you’d be back in here so soon, after everything that happened.”
The Gladiator isn’t out, not even Keith would fight the thing again the same day it had gone ballistic and tried to kill him - or maybe he would and it just hasn’t been replaced yet - but he’s clearly been working out, if the sweat on his shirt is anything to go by.
Keith looks away. “I couldn’t sleep. Figured I might as well be productive.”
God, does this guy do anything fun, ever? Lance thinks about voicing this, but reminds himself just in time that he didn’t come here to poke fun at Keith, no matter how gratifying it may be. Maybe afterwards.
“O-kay, sure. Whatever, I guess? Each to his own.” He shifts uncomfortably. “...Look, I- I just wanted to say thanks.”
“What?” Now Keith definitely looks confused. Lance allows himself a second to savour the expression before he continues.
“You know, for saving my life and stuff! Earlier, in the airlock, remember? I was screaming, you were being attacked by a deadly robot, I almost got sucked out into space and - and listen carefully, ‘cause I’m not gonna say it again!” Lance huffs. “You kind of totally saved my ass. So, thanks. I didn’t get a chance to say so earlier, with everything that was going on, but I…” He groans. “I appreciate it, okay?! There!”
Keith straightens up, his wary expression dropping to reveal a look of surprise that looks a lot more… innocent, maybe? Taken aback. Maybe a bit embarrassed. “Of course I remember,” he mutters, and Lance wonders if that’s supposed to be some sort of dig at him.
“Dude, normal people say stuff like ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘it’s no problem’.”
“And,” Keith continues deliberately, stretching his arms up above his head. His shirt rides up slightly, revealing a strip of stomach, and Lance definitely doesn’t notice that either. “It’s fine. We’re teammates fighting to save the universe. Saving each other’s lives is kind of what we do now, I guess.”
“I know! And it’s probably gonna happen a lot, but I’m still gonna thank you. My mom raised a respectable young lad.” Lance says, as if that’s the entire reason he’s doing this, and not because he can clearly recall the panic in Keith’s voice when the airlock had closed again, and Lance had been hit full force with the realization that he could have died, but he didn’t, because Keith had saved him and Keith cares. And his mother raised a respectable young lad who thanks people when they save his ass, regardless of pride.
“You? Respectable?” Keith raises an eyebrow, sounding more amused than malicious. Lance thinks he can probably get on board with that. He has three siblings; good-natured ribbing is the language he’s spoken since he could move his mouth.
“Yes, respectable! So respectable I’m gonna save your life twice the amount you save mine!”
“Good… good to know?” Keith’s mouth twitches into a smile. “Can’t say that fills me with confidence though, with your combat skills.”
“Hey!” Lance retorts immediately. “I’m an excellent shot!”
“Yeah, you are,” Keith says, and Lance is so taken aback by the casual admission that he almost misses his next words. “But your hand-to-hand is awful.”
“I can’t believe this,” Lance throws his arms into the air. “I come all the way here, giving up on my precious beauty sleep to give you a meaningful, heartfelt thank you for saving my life, and you insult my combat skills. Incredible. Tact was in short supply in the desert, apparently.”
“And I’ll have you know I’ve been in like, a hundred fist fights before. This one time, I sent Town Asshat Raimundo Diaz home with a bloody nose and his tail between his legs when he was making unwanted moves on my hermanita, and he didn’t come out of his house for three days!” Lance doesn’t mention that it was actually Claudia who had landed nearly every hit in that fight, but whatever, they’d been a team so technically every punch his sister had gotten in was a point for him too.
“Okay then,” Keith smirks, putting his water bottle down again. “Prove it.”
“Uh,” Lance says intelligently.
Keith steps back, into the open space of the training deck. “Spar with me?” he says, and it sounds less like a challenge and more like a request. Lance takes it as a challenge anyway.
“I-I mean, sure, if you think you can handle all of this." He gestures to himself wildly. “I don’t blame you if you can’t, not many can-”
“Okay, sure, whatever! Let’s go, mullet-man.”
A second later, Lance hits the mat.
“I wasn’t ready!” he says immediately, and Keith rolls his eyes, but it doesn’t feel as horrifically patronising as Lance expects.
“Your stance needs to be lower to the ground.”
(Lance loses every match, horribly, and usually within a few seconds, but he picks up a lot of stuff and gets Keith to smile and even manages to land a few punches, so it doesn’t feel like a total failure.)
The air changes between them after that.
They still bicker, and Lance is still stupidly competitive and Keith still lets himself be goaded into retaliating, but there’s an undercurrent of… fondness, now. A friendly rivalry, instead of a frustrating tolerance. It’s almost fun.
Keith learns the difference between Lance’s teasing and Lance’s genuine insults, and is pleased to find that he’s mostly the subject of the former rather than the latter. It’s still annoying (not really) and Lance is still infuriating (sort of), but Keith likes this new dynamic. It’s easier to breathe.
And somehow, after the wormhole and everything that followed it, the sparring becomes a thing too. Lance insists that he can’t stop until he beats Keith, and Keith likes sparring with real people - the Gladiator is good, but it can’t mimic the feeling of going head-to-head with another living, breathing being, and Shiro looks so tired nowadays that Keith would rather break his own thumb then drag their leader away from his downtime - and he likes sparring with Lance in particular because he’s pretty… unpredictable.
(“Did you just bite me?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise there were restrictions on how I kick your ass.”
“What are you, twelve?”
“On a scale of one to ten!”)
As it turns out, for all his faults Lance is actually a pretty quick learner, and soon enough Keith actually has to try to knock him down.
“You ever think about Earth?”
Keith blinks at him, surprised. It’s late, and quiet. Their mission was a success, if an an exhausting one. The others have all since trudged off to bed, and he knows Lance had been planning to do the same, but then Keith had nudged his shoulder with a quiet but in no way hesitant, “Spar with me?”
Four months ago, Lance would probably have turned around and walked away. Today, he grins to cover a yawn he thinks Keith can’t see and asks, “I thought you were done getting your ass handed to you for the day?”
So, they’re friends. At least Keith thinks so; he’s never really had any before, aside from Shiro. But despite the arguing that has dwindled into bickering and the good-natured teasing and the late-night sparring, they haven’t crossed this line yet - there have been no meaningful talks or secrets shared.
But now they’re sat with their backs to the wall and their gaze on the stars - the kind of atmosphere that drags out introspection in any pair, when reality feels just a tad out of place and your deepest thoughts are pulled from your lips before you can think to stop them - and Keith wonders if that’s about to change. He wonders if he wants it to.
“Sometimes,” he answers honestly, and then pauses. “Not… not in the same way you do though, I think.”
“Yeah?” Lance glances at him, his legs up to his chest and his chin on his knees.
Keith makes a vague noise of agreement. There’s a small silence, which Lance surprisingly does not break, even though Keith gets the impression that he wants to. It’s odd, seeing as usually he can’t get Lance to stop talking. He wonders if Lance is waiting for Keith to prompt him. Keith can do that.
“You miss your family,” he says bluntly. (Doing it is not the same thing as doing it well.)
Lance’s shoulders sag. “Yeah, I do.” He fidgets for another moment, and then the dam appears to break. “It’s just, we’re so far away, you know? And- and they have no idea what’s happened to me, who knows what the Garrison told them? My sister, Claudia, she’s going to be pissed with me for missing our scheduled Skype calls, we were always super close- and my tía, Amy, her wedding is in May- or was in May, because god knows how long we’ve been gone - and Luis and his wife have a kid on the way! Or maybe she’s already been born, and I have a niece whose name I don’t even know, and- and I miss them, and I just wish I could at least tell them where I am and that I’m okay so that they’re not out of their minds worrying, but I can’t and I just-”
Lance cuts himself off with a pathetic sort of noise, burying his face in his arms. Keith feels like they’ve gone from zero to a hundred very fast, and not at all in the way he’s used to. He has no idea how to deal with this side of Lance. For the first time, he misses Lance’s teasing.
“I’m… sorry?” he tries, and winces when it comes out like a question. “I mean, that- that sounds like it sucks. Really,” he says, because it does sound pretty awful.
It’s probably the shittiest attempt to comfort anyone ever, but luckily Lance doesn’t seem to mind that much. He just sighs, turning his head to look at Keith again. Keith can’t read the look in his eyes.
“It’s cool,” Lance mumbles. “I mean, everyone’s dealing with it, I guess. It just- it sucks, you know?”
Keith doesn’t know, not really, but he says “Yeah,” anyway, and it seems to satisfy Lance, who relaxes his shoulders.
“So, uh, if we’re getting personal and stuff,” Lance starts uncertainly. “What… what about yours?”
“My what?” Keith asks.
Lance blinks. “Your family, dude.”
Oh. “I don’t have one.”
“Oh. Shit,” Lance says, intelligently. Keith watches him flounder for a few seconds. “I mean, shit dude, I’m sorry, I had no idea- I mean I guess it makes sense now, when I think about it, but, uh, yeah. It’s- It’s cool if you don’t wanna talk about it, sorry for prying and all that jazz-”
“Lance.” Keith interrupts him firmly, because god, Lance’s pity is the last thing he wants. “It’s fine.”
“Are- Are you sure? I mean-”
“Yeah, okay, shutting up now,” Lance says, much to Keith’s surprise, and then reminds himself that he knows Lance is capable of being considerate.
There’s another short silence; not quite awkward, but there’s something in the air that has Keith waiting for Lance to speak up again.
Which he does a second later, clearly avoiding Keith’s gaze as he mumbles into his arms.
Lance frowns, but he doesn’t look angry, just embarrassed. “I said, it’s cool if you don’t have a family back on Earth- I mean-” His eyes widen. “Obviously, it’s not cool, it probably sucks a whole lot, but- like-” He groans. “You have us, okay?”
Keith stares at him.
“I mean, I know it’s probably not the same or anything, but we’re a team, you know? And there’s some things you just can’t do without getting close to people, and apparently travelling the universe fighting aliens and saving lives - including each other’s - is one of them. So,” Lance shifts uncomfortably. “You got us.”
Keith swallows. He should probably say thanks, but what comes out instead is, “So… we are friends, then?”
Lance’s head snaps around to stare at him. “Dude, seriously?"
“Yes, we’re friends, you utter fucking lunatic.”
Relief floods through Keith like a wave. “See, it’s stuff like that that has me thinking otherwise.”
Lance scoffs. “Clearly you have a lot to learn about being in a family; pissing people off is how I show affection.”
“Oh, you must adore everyone on this ship, then.”
“Shut your quiznack.”
Family, Keith thinks, and he remembers Hunk sneaking him extra goo earlier. Pidge, and her light touch to his shoulder after the mission. His quiet talks with Shiro. Coran’s stories about Altea and Allura starting food fights in the dining hall. If that’s what a family is, it’s pretty nice.
(The term doesn’t quite seem to fit with Lance - not in the traditional sense. Keith wonders if he should feel bad that he can’t seem to view Lance as a brother, and then thinks that maybe there just isn’t a word in a family for what Lance is to him. It wouldn’t surprise him, Lance has always been difficult to place.)
“So, what do you miss?” Lance asks quietly, bringing Keith back to the present.
Keith shifts. “The rain, I guess?” he starts, and convinces himself that he’s imagined Lance’s little intake of breath. “And I miss my bike. And being able to use phrases like ‘Earth to so-and-so’. And food. I would kill for some mashed potatoes, honestly.”
The quiet calm of the moment is broken by Lance’s snort.
“Oh my god,” he says. “All the things about Earth you could miss, and you choose white people food. That is- I can’t believe - Are you serious?!”
Keith thinks that maybe he should be offended. “What’s wrong with mashed potatoes?”
“I mean, nothing, objectively! But- really? Mashed potatoes?” Lance waves his arms incredulously.
Keith’s eyebrows furrow. “I like mashed potatoes.”
Lance’s arm falls around his shoulders. “Keith, dios mío, I’d ask if you’ve been living under a rock, but I already know that’s basically half-true. Clearly, I must educate you.”
“I lived in the desert, not under a rock! And there was a town nearby!”
Lance continues as if he hadn’t spoken. “When we get back to Earth, you are trying my abuelita’s empanadas. You haven’t lived until you have, honestly. They’re unreal. In fact, I’m just gonna give you to my abuelita and let her feed you, because I guarantee the first thing out of her mouth when she lays eyes on you will be ‘he’s too skinny.’ So, good luck dude. Especially if her and Hunk are in the same room, god. It’s either gonna be Happy Families or Hell’s Kitchen.”
He continues on, but Keith has trouble following, because one, it sounds like Lance just promised to introduce him - and the rest of the team, probably, but still - to his family, and two, he actually sort of likes the idea.
They finally head off to bed an hour later, and Keith has learned more about Lance in one night than he has in the entire time they’ve known each other.
Contrary to popular belief (read: Pidge and her in no way subtle comments) the realization that he is physically attracted to Keith is not a groundbreaking one, because Lance is attracted to pretty much everyone he meets.
As he said before, Lance likes people, as a general rule. And after coming to the conclusion that he’s bisexual at thirteen years old, it’s honestly easier for him to point out people he isn’t attracted to more than the ones he is.
In fact, between all his fleeting crushes at the Garrison, he’s had a crush on every member of Team Voltron at one point or another, with the exception of Coran - for obvious reasons, the man is like his uncle - and Pidge - who he downright adores but is also quite honestly the most terrifying person he’s ever met. Also, like, five years old.
First of all, it was of course Hunk, who Lance has known the longest. The day Hunk first pulled his hair into a ponytail was the day Lance broke his toe dropping a box onto it. Not to mention that - on top of being sort of totally gorgeous - Hunk is Hunk, the guy who gives the best hugs and makes everyone feel safe and wants his friends to be okay even as he drags them in the most politely savage way possible.
So yeah, Lance had maybe been a little bit in love when they’d first met, but the attraction - as many of Lance’s do - had fizzled out within a month or so. Lance still loves Hunk - would probably die for him without a second thought - but he no longer wants to kiss him.
Then it was Shiro, but that was honestly more hero worship than an actual crush on a friend. Shiro was a legend back at the Garrison, and also probably the finest specimen of human male to ever go into space. Like, damn. Those guns.
So Lance had watched every training video, every flight simulation, and had been appropriately mesmerised by the lines of Shiro’s jaw, because hey, he’s only human. Now that they’re in space, though, that crush has died too, because Shiro, whilst still being Lance’s hero - and still being hot - is also sort of their dad now.
And then, Allura. No-one can blame him for this one; she’s beautiful and powerful - a will of iron and a heart of gold - and Lance knows she could probably snap his neck without breaking a sweat (so, okay, maybe he has a type). She’s tall, graceful, with curves in all the right places and a not-so-hidden dorky side, and Lance kind of adores her.
But then he started to spend time with her, quiet talks in the aftermath of battle. He’s fought alongside her, back to back when they were cut off from the rest of their teammates, watched her move with a grace that he can and does only dream of.
She carries the weight of the world on her shoulders but still manages to stand like Atlas, and Lance still adores her - he would cut off his own toe if it meant Allura smiling like she’s free for just one moment - but one day he’d looked at her and realised that she is more someone for him to admire than for him to obtain.
And then another day, much further down the line, he’d looked and saw not the beautiful princess from his childhood storybooks he’d always hoped to marry - not even an ethereal being for him to marvel at from afar - but a friend. A sister. Allura.
She’s still beautiful. Claudia is beautiful too.
The point being, Lance did not have a huge mental breakdown at the start of this Voltron gig when he glanced at Keith and realised that he has beautiful eyes. And strong hands. And an amazing ass. He only had a slight mental breakdown, thank you very much.
It hadn’t lasted that long; Lance came to the conclusion that there are only six other people on this ship, and he’s already gone through crushes for half of them, so it makes sense that eventually Lance’s hormones would find a new outlet.
So, Keith is kind of hot. It doesn’t mean anything; the attraction will pass as he gets to know the guy and everything will be back to normal.
It doesn’t mean anything.
(And that’s actually true. For a while.)
Keith tenses, spins, slides his bayard into cool metal and then the drone drops lifeless to his feet. Beside him, Lance turns and beams, full and bright and Keith is struck with a sudden surge of warmth.
“Sharp work, Samurai,” Lance says, not for the first time. Keith wonders when it became his nickname. “We’re totally gonna beat Pidge and Shiro!”
“Beat them?” Keith questions, following Lance down the hallway. “In what? We’re retrieving data.”
“In the ‘who can kick the most Galra ass’ contest! I bet we’re winning.”
“...We?” This is a first for one of Lance’s dumb little contests.
“Yeah, dude! Team Pepsicola!”
“Oh god, I really do need to educate you. Blue and red? Pepsi and Coke? You know what, nevermind, the point is we’re winning.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Pidge says over the comm. There’s the distinctive sound of something exploding.
“Aw, jeez,” Lance mutters. And Keith, Keith is still reeling and he can’t concentrate like this, so it needs to be solved now.
He reaches out to tug Lance’s arm. Lance looks back, still grinning, always grinning.
“Team Pepsicola?” Keith asks, hoping to god Lance understands the real question.
Lance pauses, his gaze flickering between Keith and the hand on his arm. Then he huffs, and Keith thinks it might almost sound fond.
“Yeah, weirdo. Team Pepsicola.”
A second passes. Pidge mutters something over the comm.
“What was that, Pidge?”
“Uh, I said, ‘hooray’. Cause I, uh, got another one. Yeah.”
Okay, that’s an awful lie, but Keith doesn’t get a chance to question it because suddenly Lance yanks his arm out of Keith’s grip, his expression changing instantly, and aims his bayard somewhere over Keith’s shoulder. Keith looks back just in time to see the soldier hit the floor. The rest of the squad approaches.
He’s back in a fighting stance immediately, his grip on his own bayard tight, but he spares enough thought process to mutter to Lance, “That’s a really stupid team name.”
“Oh yeah? Like you could come up with something better? I’ve taken down more Galra than you, so I’m clearly the pillar holding us up, which means I get to pick our team name!”
And then Keith is in the battle and he doesn’t listen to anything else that comes out of Lance’s mouth, but in his head he does hear Lance’s words from months ago - we are a good team - as well as every time he’s said them since, and feels a thrill that has little to do with the adrenaline running through his veins.
They’ve come far.
So, it also sort of starts like this:
Lance stumbles out of his Lion after a mission cut far too close, and it doesn’t occur to him that he should probably analyse why the first person he looks for is Keith.
But he does, because Keith had been stupid and for a minute back there, Lance had been hit with the cold, terrifying thought that Keith might be dead. That there would be no more friendly competitions and bickering and late-night sparring and no more Keith, and the idea had rendered him almost mute with fear, only able to watch the smoke and pray that Red would come charging out of it.
Which she had, of course. Because it’s Keith, and apparently he exists to drive Lance insane.
But Keith is here now, staggering down the ramp of his Lion and tugging off his helmet as the others land, looking bruised and exhausted but alive, and Lance’s legs move before his brain does.
Lance’s eyes find him from across the room, his face twisted up into an expression that Keith can’t place, and then he’s storming towards him and Keith has about two seconds to think if he’s planning to punch me his stance is wrong before Lance launches himself forward.
Lance doesn’t punch him, but Keith might have actually known how to deal with that better, because suddenly there are arms around him and hair tickling the side of his face and a hug that nearly turns his bones to dust.
And Keith knows that he’d cut it close this time - maybe even too close - but Lance has never actually hugged him before. A firm grasp of his wrist after a fight and a companionable arm around Keith’s shoulder in their downtime, sure. But never a hug.
Lance is warm, he realises, even though he’s always known this. Lance is warm, he smells of salt and sweat and gunpowder, and his hair's a mess. Lance has always been so open with his emotions, and Keith can feel it through the press of Lance’s hands at his back; relief that Keith is okay.
Even now, after months, it’s still hard for Keith to wrap himself around the idea that people care about him. That Lance cares about him.
But then Lance pulls back slightly and Keith regrets not returning the embrace when he suddenly misses the contact. Lance’s fingers curl around his biceps, tight enough to be felt through his suit. Keith can’t bring himself to break the eye contact. His mouth has gone dry.
“Dude,” Lance hisses, sounding an odd combination of serious and joking. “You can’t do shit like that! You’re not allowed to do something stupid like go and get yourself killed- I, like, refuse. Not cool.” His face pinches, and he slaps Keith’s shoulder as he pulls away completely. “I promised myself that I’d beat you one day. Which means you need to be here until I do.”
Keith tries to find his voice, but when he does it comes out scratchy. Raw. “Guess I’ll be sticking around forever, then.”
And then before Lance can make any sort of comeback, Keith is dragged by his collar into a group hug with Hunk and Pidge. He shares a look with Shiro and Coran through the gap between Hunk’s arms, and Allura chides him on self-preservation before surprising him with a hug too.
Family, he thinks again, overcome by a surge of protectiveness. This is mine.
(But there had been a moment, there. A moment that repeats itself as they leave the hanger, when Lance’s fingers ruffle Keith’s hair, Keith shakes him off with a scowl and Lance just beams at him. There’s a rush of something, and Keith’s heart stutters in his chest.)
Keith flips him in the training room and hovers over him, his knees on either side of Lance’s hips, and Lance forgets how to breathe.
They argue, and Keith is so close Lance can pick out every speck of colour in his eyes. Their breath mingles and Lance jumps back.
Keith’s back presses against his own in the heat of battle, and Lance has never felt safer.
Keith turns to grin at him, one eyebrow raised in challenge and the other inching towards a bowl of food goo, and Lance’s stomach flips.
They stand on the shores of some alien planet that is not quite home, but close enough. Close enough that Lance can pretend if he closes his eyes. The water washes around his ankles and Keith shifts next to him, his eyes on the skyline. Behind them, he can hear Pidge and Allura laughing.
“...I can see why you’d miss this,” Keith says quietly. “It’s… It’s nice.”
Lance looks at him. The wind is tugging at Keith’s stupid hair, and Lance vaguely wonders if Keith would ever let him brush it. The knots are really pissing him off.
“Yeah,” he says softly. “It is.”
But he doesn’t panic, because he doesn’t even think about it. He doesn’t even notice.
It doesn’t mean anything.
(That’s not true, anymore.)
For Keith, it’s gradual.
It’s always been gradual. Everything about his relationship with Lance has snuck up on him without him noticing or giving permission for; from their rivalry to their friendship, and now to... this.
It’s in the way Lance drags him out of the training room, insisting that he and Keith do something actually fun, and the way he flicks goo at Keith’s hair when they’re at dinner, and the dumb jokes he makes that Keith still doesn’t get.
It’s in the way he looks in battle, the focus in his eyes and the way he laughs when he’s piloting his Lion. It’s the way he talks to Keith like they have their own little language and the way he pokes fun and complains about Keith’s methods but still trusts Keith to have his back when they’re in the thick of it.
It’s in the way they talk when it’s just the two of them late at night, when Lance tells him about his family, and somehow drags details about Keith out of him, things he hasn’t even told Shiro, his own brother.
It’s in the way he pisses Keith off beyond reason, after a mission that has left them both tense and angry, and then later he shows up at the training room with an unspoken apology that is mirrored in Keith’s own gaze. It’s in the way he moves, the way his hips sway as he dances and sweat rolls down his neck when they’re training, the way the light falls on his sun-kissed skin and the way his body heat feels pressed against Keith’s side.
It’s in the way Lance challenges him, makes Keith want to be better and want to make Lance better. Like they’re attached by a string between their wrists. When one gets too far ahead, the other pulls him back. When one starts to fall behind, the other tugs him forwards again.
And this- this thing, it brews for months. For a year. For however long they’ve been in space. And Keith realises it slowly, a wave of water pushing him towards an edge he doesn’t see. Closer and closer and closer, until-
“You okay there, Keith?” Lance knocks against his shoulder lightly, his smile shaping his whole face. “Oh, I get it. Overwhelmed by my inhuman skill, right?”
But underneath the jibe is a cloaked concern, a softness around the edges of Lance’s gaze, and-
There is no edge, actually. It’s a slope that Keith has been sliding down since day one.
Lance does not get the luxury of a slope.
Instead, it’s like falling into water.
The drone falls before it can bring its blade down into Lance’s stomach and Keith is there, holding out his hand. Lance grasps it without hesitation.
- a moment of silence -
Keith tugs him to his feet but doesn’t let go. He squeezes Lance’s hand, and then he grins like a fucking treasure. Lance can’t look away.
- a sudden rush -
“Team Pepsicola, right?”
- and i can’t breathe -
(He’s always loved the ocean.)
“Keeping up over there, Keith?!”
Blood pounds through his ears, his limbs ache beyond reason and his bayard feels impossibly heavy in his hands, but yes Lance, Keith is keeping up.
“I’m doing my part!”
“Watch your left!” Hunk calls, and Keith spins in time to deflect the laser harmlessly into the wall. There’s something ugly coiling in his stomach, a mix of dread and unexplainable, vague déjà vu. The quicker they’re out of here, the better.
“Cover me! I’m going for the data!” he yells over the gunfire.
Keith vaults over the remains of what might have once been a control panel that he’s been using for cover and sprints for the main console. There’s a boom above their heads, and the entire room quakes.
“Watch it you guys!” Lance screeches into his comm. “We’re still in here, you know!”
“I know!” Shiro sounds tense. “We’re doing our best out here!”
A shot rips past Keith’s ear.
He skids to a halt in front of the console, chest heaving. He slams a hand down onto the small red panel (he knows that it should reject him, but it doesn’t, and that’s a mystery for another time), and yanks the drive out of his suit pocket.
“Pidge, I’m at the console!” Keith chances a glance behind him, and lets himself breathe a little when he sees Lance and Hunk still holding their own. At the very least, there aren’t as many Galra as there were twenty seconds ago. “Are you ready to start the download?”
“Do it,” Pidge answers. “And keep your hand on the panel, Keith.”
Keith frowns, but obliges, inserting the drive and watching as the small progress panel pops up. It climbs painstakingly slowly.
Behind him, Lance screams something in Spanish that Keith assumes to be incredibly vulgar, as it’s then followed by, “and fuck your ship too, assholes!” Keith reminds himself that it’s neither the time nor the place - nor is it even sane - to be endeared by that.
“Alright!” Hunk calls, the sounds of gunfire finally dying down. The doors slide shut. “I think that’s the last of them!”
“Keep your guard up,” Shiro warns over the comm, and Keith agrees. His instincts are his guide and his instincts tell him that something Very Bad is about to happen.
“Relax, Shiro!” Lance says as he backs up towards the console, but Keith has known him long enough to know that Lance is still taking this seriously, evidenced by his still-raised bayard. “I’m pretty sure our name alone is enough to send them running for their mothers at this point.”
“More likely it was your face,” Pidge snickers, but it sounds forced. Maybe she feels it too.
Keith watches the bar hit twenty percent and growls, as if that will make it rise faster.
“Growling isn’t gonna make it rise faster, Samurai,” Lance says to him, not taking his eyes off the door. Keith ignores him.
There’s a rumble in the corridor outside.
“That doesn’t sound good,” Hunk mutters.
Something clangs against the hallway walls.
“Keith,” Lance starts, uncharacteristically severe. “How are we looking?”
Thirty six percent. “Almost halfway now.”
“Good, cause I’ve got a-”
The doors explode inward.
Instinct nearly has Keith spinning around with his bayard out, but he remembers just in time to keep one hand on the control panel. Instead, he only half turns to watch his Bad Feeling come marching through the doors.
“Shit,” he mutters.
“That’s a big gun.”
Forty nine percent.
The Galra soldier grins, and opens fire. Keith barely gets his shield up in time. The laser rips through the room with a deafening low bass of a noise, lighting the walls up a fierce purple. Keith can feel the heat through his shield as it passes over him, but his gaze is not on the soldier; it’s to his right, watching Lance and Hunk and only letting himself breathe when he sees their shields up too. The laser swivels back towards him; the force of the constant blast pushes him back, and he braces himself against the console.
“What’s going on?!” Shiro’s voice echoes through the comm.
“We got company!” Hunk answers.
Fifty four percent.
The laser stops a second later, and Lance and Hunk waste no time in using the lull to retaliate. Their shots bounce uselessly off the soldier’s armor, and Keith feels useless just standing here - he knows he could get in between the ridges of that armor with his bayard - but they need to get this download. That’s the mission. He needs to trust Lance and Hunk. He does trust Lance and Hunk.
“Hunk!” Lance makes a series of hand gestures. Flank her.
“I give you one chance to surrender, Paladins,” the Galra soldier calls. “Hand over yourselves and the Lions of Voltron and your lives may be spared.”
“Go to hell!”
She sighs. “Very well.”
And then the laser is on Keith again, and he feels the heat burning through his shield hotter than before, and the sound is everywhere. He hears Shiro shouting his name through the comm, but he doesn’t move his hand from the panel.
The laser dies again, and a millisecond later Keith’s shield shatters.
“Shit,” he mutters again, and then louder, “My shield’s down!”
Sixty eight percent.
“I got you, buddy!” Lance is there, suddenly, his back against Keith’s side and his shield up just as the laser fires again. Softer, for Keith’s ears alone, “Just gotta keep her busy for Hunk.”
Keith turns back to the console, his teeth grinding. “Come on, come on.”
Seventy one percent.
And then he hears Lance’s shield break.
He whirls around, eyes wide and heart plummeting, cold dread climbing in his throat as he meets Lance’s gaze-
The laser stops.
The Galra soldier falls heavily to her knees, and behind her stands Hunk, looking grim. “Sorry, lady. No hard feelings, but those are my friends.”
Keith breathes again.
Seventy seven percent.
Lance sighs in relief as Hunk makes his way back towards them. “Phew. Close call, there. But we did it! Go team!”
“Are you guys okay?” Pidge asks.
“Yeah,” Keith says, turning back to face the console completely. “We’re good. Almost got the data, Pidge.”
Seventy nine percent.
“Hell yeah we’re good! We’re better than good, we’re- Keith!”
And Keith doesn’t have time to even register the sudden alarm in Lance’s voice, because an instant later the laser’s noise is back - not so defeated after all - a weight slams against his back and Keith smacks stomach first into the console. His hand slips, the download stops, and Hunk is yelling and Lance is-
Keith pushes against the metal and spins himself around, dazed. In front of him, Lance looks between Keith, the brand new hole in his side, and blinks, looking almost confused. There's the hideous smell of smoking flesh. He sways on the spot, and smiles faintly.
“Hey, I covered your back this time,” he murmurs.
Lance drops like a stone, the same time as Keith’s stomach.
The concept of time becomes very distorted when you’re heavily injured.
Lance is vaguely aware of someone yelling his name, distantly. He thinks it might be Hunk. There’s also someone yelling his name not so distantly, right next to his ear, and that’s probably Pidge.
And there’s also Keith, above him, coming in and out of focus.
Also yelling his name, then. It’s a nice name, and it sounds nice when he says it. Lance is glad to have it.
He blacks out for a bit after that, and when he comes to he knows he’s being moved because it’s painful. Which is good, he supposes. Pain means he isn’t dead yet. Lance likes living.
Pain also helps ground him to reality. Someone is supporting him. Lance can’t really make out who it is, but it’s probably Keith, he figures. Hunk is the only one of them with a long range weapon, so he’d be best choice to cover them.
Just to test, he tries talking. What comes out is something that might be Keith’s name, but who knows, really? It gets Keith’s attention, anyhow, and a second later there’s a tickle of dark hair against Lance’s face. God, Keith needs a haircut.
“Lance? You here?”
He doesn’t really want to be. Here means pain and it’s only getting worse the more aware he becomes; and the thought of slipping back into the blissful darkness of unconsciousness is only becoming more tempting.
“Hey, don’t even think about it! Come on Lance, stay with me here, please.”
And then there’s a jostle and Lance is suddenly very awake, a choking gasp of pain wrenching itself from his throat.
“Fuck,” he hisses.
And god, does it hurt. His side is burning, and it takes a few minutes for Lance to be aware of anything else other than the pain. He is, though, eventually, and there’s a pointless spark of triumph at knowing that he’d guessed right. Keith is the one dragging him through the halls of the Galra ship, back to - Lance presumes - their Lions. Ahead, he can hear Hunk’s bayard firing.
“You with me?” Keith asks again, sounding… wrecked, honestly. Lance can’t blame him, he’s been in Keith’s shoes; a teammate threatening to give out on you is never a fun experience.
“Unfortunately,” he wheezes. “You have horrible breath, by the way.”
Keith makes a relieved sort of noise. “You’re an ass. Keep being an ass while I get you to Red; I need you to stay awake.”
“The data,” Lance remembers. He’d pushed Keith before they’d finished. “I fucked that up, didn’t I?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Keith says firmly. “We got enough.”
“Keith Park, only doing things halfway?” Lance snickers weakly. “Mark the day on the calendar.”
“You’re more important.”
That shuts Lance up, and then he kind of loses himself again.
When he comes back, they’re in someone’s Lion. He doesn’t know whose. But Keith is still there and he can feel Blue in the back of his mind. She’s okay.
He rests back against the metal of the interior, and winces. It’s cool against the searing pain in his side. Keith’s hands are there immediately, putting pressure on the wound. Not pleasant, but Lance is lucid enough to recognize it as necessary.
“Not how I wanted to go,” he muses distantly. Keith jerks.
“Shut up, you’re going to be fine.”
He says it with such conviction and certainty that Lance almost believes him, but then there’s another spike of pain and he thinks, best not to take any chances. He could die, and that’s an awful, cold realisation in itself, but it’s not the first time he’s had it. They’ve been doing this for a while.
It’s the first time he’s realised it since figuring things out, though.
“Keith,” he hisses urgently, trying to keep his voice as steady as possible despite the edges of fog pushing at his brain. “Keith, I need to tell you something.”
Keith goes rigid. Lance keeps going anyway. It might be unfair, he thinks, to burden Keith with this shit right before he goes, but if he dies before he tells Keith that he’s in love with him, Lance will kick his own ass in heaven, pride be damned.
“Look, I-” He cuts himself off with a grimace at another wave of discomfort, but powers through anyway. It’s probably not a good thing that the pain is lessening. “I know we- we haven’t always got along. But I- fuck- I care about you, okay? And-”
“No,” Keith interrupts him, sounding furious. “No no, no you don’t. Don’t even think about it. You’re not going to die, so you don’t get to be sappy and sentimental and you don’t get to say what I think you’re gonna say.”
And then Keith’s hand is on his jaw, forcing Lance’s head back to look him in the eyes and god, Lance has never seen that expression on him before.
“Tell me when we’re back at the Castle.” Keith’s voice betrays him. “That way I can say it back.”
Oh. That’s reassuring. And very surprising, but a good thing. Definitely a good thing.
“Just, just stay awake, okay?” Keith continues. “You can never shut up most of the time, do me a favour and do that now.”
Lance chuckles faintly. “You just like the sound of my voice.”
“I want to meet Claudia,” Keith says suddenly, and that manages to clear the fog around Lance’s brain a bit more.
“Claudia. Your sister. You talk about her all the time, and I know all this stuff about her, and you keep telling me that she’d eat me alive, and I want to meet her when we get back to Earth but I can’t unless you’re with me, so you have to stay awake.”
“You confess to me and then you bring up my sister?”
“Right,” Lance says, and tries a grin. He thinks he can see the Castle through the viewport. He can totally stay alive for at least another five minutes.
So, it actually starts like this:
Lance tumbles out of a healing pod eight hours later and for once someone is there to catch him this time.
It’s later, when everyone has expressed their concern and Lance has recovered from the overwhelming emotion that comes from being surrounded by people who love you, that the pieces finally fall into place.
“So,” Lance beams. “What were you going to say?”
“You were going to say it first.”
“Actually, you’re right, I am going to say it first. I-”
Keith kisses like he flies.