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I'd Rather be in Your Arms

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                It was by sheer luck that they’d found a safe planet and had been able to evade the Galra. There were so many ships too, the castle took quite a beating. Voltron hadn’t been an option this time, not when Shiro was in a completely different part of space. The remaining four lions couldn’t do much. It had meant retreat, but at least everyone’s alive.

                That’s what Keith has to remind Lance of. He says it through gritted teeth. “We’re all still alive, Lance. I don’t see why you’re getting so pissy.”

                Lance scowls. They’re in the control room, Allura and Pidge trying to repair the castle’s defenses. Lance, however, is shouting at Keith. As if that helps. “I’m getting pissy because this was all your fault! We may have survived this time but who knows what kind of shit you’ll get us into next!” Keith opens his mouth to defend himself, but Lance continues, “You just had to fly your lion right out in the fucking open, not bothering to check if there were enemies near us!”

                “I was bonding with Red.” Keith takes a few steps back from the blue paladin, turns away from him. His irritation is threatening to spill over if Lance doesn’t shut the fuck up. It’s a pretty normal feeling. “It’s not like I was trying to get us caught.” He tries to keep his calm, but Lance grabs his arm and forcefully turns Keith to look at him again. Keith growls and shoves him away.

                “Can you two knock it off for a tick?” Allura huffs. “We’re trying to fix the castle, and it’s very difficult to focus with your yelling.”

                “Yeah,” Pidge chimes in, “this is ridiculous. Just let it go, Lance.”

                “Me?” Lance all but screams.

“Yes, you. At least Keith is being mature.”

Lance let’s out an indignant whine, throwing his hands up and stomping out of the room. Keith watches him leave, considering his small victory.

-

                Shiro gets back to the castle not long after. He found an old Galra ship with just the right parts that Pidge had been looking for. Keith doesn’t even want to know what she’s working on. When it comes to Pidge’s experiments, don’t ask questions.

                They all eat dinner as usual, this time with Lance grumbling into every bite of his food goo. Keith revels in it.

                “This planet was so odd,” Shiro says, describing where he’d been earlier, “It was basically a junkyard. I’m surprised there weren’t many scavengers. I was able to find the right kind of chip that Pidge needed, though, so that’s good. Though I’m still not sure what you’re using it for.” He glances at the green paladin, who gives him a mischievous grin.

                “I’m just glad you were able to get back safely, man.” Hunk says, “I was, like, afraid the Galra would spot you or something.”

Shiro gives him an inquisitive look. “How did they even find the castle? The moon we were on wasn’t near any Galra bases.”

                “It wasn’t. It was going fine until Keith decided to blow our cover!” Lance cuts in and points accusingly at him with his fork.

                “Not this again…” Pidge mumbles.

                “God dammit Lance, just drop it!” Keith pushes himself out of his chair. “What the fuck even is your problem?!”

                “My problem is that you don’t want to admit when you do something irrational! How come whenever I make a mistake I get chewed out for it, but you-!”

                “Because you make it so easy.” Keith cuts in. He knows he’s being immature now, but whatever. It’s fun to mess with Lance, especially when he’s being a major asshole. He smirks at Lance, inviting him to continue. Come on, you fucking moron, get right in my face, I dare you.

                Shiro sighs. “For once. Please, for once, shut up.”

                “He’s just so frustrating!” Lance shouts.

                “You’re one to talk, Sanchez.” Keith crosses his arms. In the rush of competitiveness he makes a reckless decision. “I bet your family is happy to rid of your annoying ass.”

                Only when Keith finishes the sentence does he realize what he just said. Hunk gasps loudly, and everyone is looking up with disbelief written on their faces.

                Time stops. Lances expression goes from anger to brief confusion, then to hurt.

                “Dude…” He whimpers.

                Keith feels like he just got stabbed in the stomach. He notes the tightness in Lance’s face, the slight jutting out of his lower lip. He’s trying not to cry. Fuck. The worst part is that Keith can’t even think of what to say. He tries to form words, apologize.

                Lance stands up and stalks out of the dining room.

                The silence seems to stretch on for an eternity before Shiro speaks, in a low whisper, “You need to fix this.”

-

                Ultimately, he doesn’t fix it. No, Keith decides to hole himself up in the training deck. He avoids talking to Lance by only leaving the room at night, when everyone else is asleep. He tries burying his guilt under layers of sweat, but it doesn’t really work, the feeling is still heavy in his stomach. While it’s not something that Keith has to deal with very often, it’s hard to get rid of. So he trains for hours to distract himself.

                This goes on for a good three days, before Allura bans him from the training deck. Keith complies reluctantly, but still goes through great strides to avoid Lance. It’s not that hard, since the blue paladin has been spending all his time outside.

                Keith is sitting on the couch in the lounge area. He’s trying to read a book. It’s not his first choice of activity, but, you know. Pidge, who’s sitting on the floor on her laptop, clicks her tongue disapprovingly. “Are you actually going to apologize to him, or just lament like an angsty thirteen-year-old?”

                Wow, Keith really feels the love. “I don’t know how.” Keith responds. “I can’t believe I said that, I- fuck. He hates me now. Well, more than he did before.” He presses the heels of his palms into his eyes, sighing.

                “You have to do it sooner or later. And you brought this on yourself, so don’t expect me to help you.” Keith guesses the conversation is over, but then Pidge speaks again.

                “Also, Lance doesn’t hate you.”

                “Huh?”

                “He doesn’t. I know you two have this so-called rivalry thing going on, but he looks up you. Not that he’d ever admit it, of course. And really, you too are friends. Stop denying it. Competition doesn’t change that. So, if you want to keep things that way- and you better fucking want to, because Lance is my friend and he’s a lot more sensitive than you’d think-, grow a pair and go fucking apologize.”

                Keith stares at Pidge, astonished. Who knew she could be so damn savage?

-

                Keith squints as he exits the castle. He hasn’t actually gone outside for the past few days, and the sunlight is offensive. He lifts a hand to shield his eyes and looks around, cautiously, for Lance. Pidge had said he’d be right outside, but Keith doesn’t see him. Great, now he’s literally looking for an awkward conversation.

                Keith strolls through the thin undergrowth of a forested area. He tries focusing on the strange, alien plants. The sunlight peeking through the trees and dabbling the dusty ground. The heat, anything to take his mind off the growing frustration.

                It doesn’t take him long to find Lance. He crouched by a small pond, skipping rocks on the water. Keith is hesitant to approach him. The red paladin shuffles his feet and makes the decision to walk over.

                When Keith sits down, Lance doesn’t say anything, but he visibly tenses up.

                Lance skips another rock. The two boys watch it bounce on the greenish water a couple time before being swallowed by the pond. Keith clears his throat.

“Hey.” He mumbles.

Lance grunts.

                “I’m sorry. For what I said.”

                The other boy looks at him, a painfully casual expression on his face.

                “It was totally uncalled for,” Keith starts to panic a little bit, “I know how much your family means to you. I’m… I’m really sorry.” His words don’t sound very good, Keith was never good at talking.

                Lance stares at him for a little longer before puffing out a forced breath. A brittle smile crosses his face and he hangs his head. He sniffs softly.

                Welp, He’s going to cry. Not what I meant to do. At all. I’m a fucking asshole.

                “Nah, it’s cool…” Lance mumbles. Before Keith can respond, he adds, “You were probably right anyways.”

                Keith furrows his brow. “Don’t say that. I’m sure your family loves you. I mean, you’re annoying and all but… Ugh, dude, I’m sorry. I’m not very good at…” He waves his hand vaguely.

                Lance snorts. “Yeah, your social skills kinda suck.”

                Keith can’t argue with that.

                “Seriously though, it’s cool. Let’s just go back to arguing, and me winning and all that good stuff. Okay?”

                Keith still feels the guilt weighing on him, but then Lance is reaching out and pulling Keith into a bone-crushing hug. Keith protests loudly, and Lance snickers and only hugs him harder.

                “God, you’re so annoying. You’re annoying.” Keith grumbles, but he can’t find it in him to really be mad. He puts an arm around Lance’s torso in a half-assed gesture. The red paladin suspects that Lance isn’t completely okay, but he doesn’t want to ruin the moment by pressing the other’s feelings right now. He hopes that things will go back to normal.

                He notices how warm Lance’s arms are.

-

                “Start training level three.”

                He’s breathing hard, flingers sore from clutching his Bayard for hours, but there’s no way he’s stopping now. He’s in the zone. The training robot whirs to life, taking a fighting stance before lunging at Keith. The boy blocks easily, ducking to the side and slashing at his opponent. Keith wipes sweat from his forehead and strikes again. The robot falls.

                “That was too easy.” Keith murmurs to himself. He’s about to call for level four when the door opens. He turns and, of course, it’s Lance. He looks obnoxious, wearing his nightgown-robe-thing.

                “Duuuude,” Lance groans, “Why are you up so late?”

                “I was hungry, obviously. That’s why I’m in the training room.” Keith deadpans.

                “Haha.” Lance smirks slightly, raising one eyebrow. “Seriously though. I could hear you yelling from my room.”

                “Oh, sorry.”

                “S’fine. Mind if I watch you?”

                Without reason, Keith feels himself blush. “I mean, if you want? It’s not very interesting.”

                Lance shrugs and sits down against the wall. Keith calls for level four to start. The red paladin finds him wondering if he’s trying to impress Lance as he jumps into combat. This robot is a bit harder. He lands on his ass twice, much to Lance’s amusement. Determined not to lose in front of the other paladin, Keith ignores the burning in his muscles, pushing himself. He swings his sword mercilessly until the robot is finally down. God, his arms are actually sore for once. Keith walks over to the wall and slides down into a sitting position.

                “Nice job.” Lance comments. He’s messing with one of his fidget toys.

                Keith just grunts. He appreciates Lance’s remark, but to show it would probably look conceded.

                “Hey, Keith?”

                “Yeah?”

                “Are we like,” Lance pauses and looks down at the floor, “Are we friends?”

                Keith is taken aback. He considers teasing Lance, but the memory of what Pidge said discourages him. He looks up you. And really, you too are friends.

                “I mean, I guess. Why wouldn’t we be?”

                Lance raises an eyebrow at him, as if to say seriously? “Well, you seem to hate me, so there’s that. Not, I mean- I don’t know how you could. I’m probably the greatest person you’ve ever met.” He grins as he says it, but Keith can see the insecurity in his face.

                Keith hums softly. He looks down at his leg, picking at the hem of his pants. “I don’t hate you, Lance.” And before he can get a response, he quickly continues, “You’re really annoying, don’t get me wrong. But, we’re stuck on this ship for God knows how long, and you can’t dislike someone forever. I’ve never really had friends, but I feel good around you guys.”

                Lance stares at him, wide-eyed. He then breaks out in a huge, toothy grin. “I knew you’d fall for my amazing friendship skills one day. Can’t be a loner forever, Keith, no matter how emo you are.”

                “Don’t test your luck. I’m being serious.”

                “Yeah, yeah.” He punches Keith’s arm lightly.

                Keith finds himself wishing Lance would’ve hugged him again instead.

-

                Adrenaline is pulsing through his veins, clouding his head, blocking out every sound. Well, that last bit might be due to the deafening screech of the alarms. Galran robots surround every side of Keith, blasting purple gunfire at him and his teammates. Beside him, hunk slams his gun into the chest of a robot, sending it and the line behind it toppling down.

                Keith slashes at another, grunting when it blocks. Another swing and his sword goes through its metal chest easily. He thinks of the training bot back at the castle. This situation is much more serious.

                Shiro’s voice comes through on his communicator, loud and frantic: “Guys, Pidge and I are in the control room now. She’s downloading the information we need, but” --He lets out a sharp yell-- “We need backup, there’s a lot of them!”

                “We can’t exactly all get there right now! Not if you don’t want thirty more death-bots following us to you!” Lance hollers, shooting at the enemies from behind his shield.

                “I’ll go!” Hunk tells Shiro. He looks at Keith momentarily, “Can you two hold them off until we get back?”

                “We’ll have to!” Keith shouts back at him. Hunk rams through the enemies and disappears down the corridor.

                Keith turns his attention back to the fight. He feels like he’s on autopilot, swinging his sword every which way without having to tell himself to do so. Metal clanks around him and his enemies fall. Out of the corner of his vision, Keith sees Lance get knocked on his back. The robot above him points its gun down at his face.

                Keith swings his sword down on the robot’s neck, slicing off its head. Lance looks up him, his face a mixture of relief and shock. Keith pulls him up quickly, glaring at him.

                “Be careful,” He snaps, “You’ll get yourself killed.”

                The blue paladin smirks at him. “Good to know you’re worried about me, mullet.” He holds up his gun and shoots at something behind Keith. “Let’s follow Hunk. More of them are coming this way, and we need to get to Shiro and Pidge before they find us.”

                Keith nods, and they run down the hallway, keeping their eyes peeled for more robots. What they don’t expect to run into is an actual flesh-and-blood Galra soldier, who rounds the corner right in front of the paladins.

                He raises his weapon as soon as he sees them, charging at the two boys.

                Lance, pushing Keith out of the way, lifts his gun. Keith wants to yell at him, your weapon is not close range you moron, but Lance realizes too late as the Galra knocks his Bayard out of his grasp. Distracted by the object skidding on the ground, the blue paladin doesn’t have time to react to the Galra swinging the flat of his blade directly at him. It connects with Lance’s side, sending him across the hallway.

                Keith jumps in front of the enemy before he can get to Lance again. His sword is smaller than the Galra’s, but he manages to push him into a corner.

                His mind lands on Lance, who’s on the ground, most likely unconscious. Why does Keith always have to be the one to save him? He turns his head a millimeter to glance at his friend.

                Shhhnk.

                Pain tears through Keith, enough to make him cry out. It spreads throughout his nerves, a current flashing through copper wire. He jerks his gaze down to see a blade stuck in his gut. Only half is visible, and with a sickening feeling, Keith realizes that the other half is buried in his torso. He had lost his focus in battle when it really mattered. The Galra soldier yanks out the weapon immediately, cruel laughter erupting from his mouth. Keith’s knees buckle and he crumples to the floor.

The Galra raises the bloodied blade over his head once again. Keith tries reaching for his Bayard, panic jumping into his throat when, of course, he doesn’t find it. Thankfully, Lance rushes past him, screaming at the Galra. He shoves his gun against the Galra’s face and blasts his skull open. Dark liquid splatters onto the wall behind him.

                Keith feels something bubbling up in his throat, and suddenly he’s coughing up liquid, viscous and metallic-tasting. He feels it drip down his chin, his neck.

                Lance’s Bayard returns to normal. He shifts his attention to Keith, eyes widening at the sight of him. His expression morphs to one of absolute horror. “Keith, holy shit!” He drops to his knees and hovers over the red paladin’s body.

                “Shiro, I need help!” He screams. “Keith, he’s-!” He cuts himself off, moving closer, “He’s bleeding, a lot!” Keith watches helplessly as Lance ghosts his fingers over his bloodied torso. He lightly touches the wound with the tips of his fingers.

                White completely blots out Keith’s vision. He must make some sort of protest, because Lance quickly removes his hand. In his own communicator, Keith hears Shiro’ voice telling Lance to stay calm. They’ll be there in a minute. Keith’s pretty sure he’s going to die in that minute.

                A warm hand touches his face. His vision returns and Keith is looking into Lance’s eyes, blue and watery as the ocean. There’s a large bruise on one side of his face and he looks terrified. It’s beautiful. Keith is dying and he can’t think straight. He just wants Lance to wrap his arms around him. Is that too much for Keith to ask right now? Fuck, everything hurts.

                He blacks out.

-

                Keith doesn’t know where he is. He can’t see, can’t move, and can’t even really feel. Words drift into his ears though, so he knows he’s at least alive. Familiar voices filled with concern, frantic whispers, someone crying. Keith catches little snippets of conversation;

                “Is he going to be okay?”

                “The Galra-”

                “Be patient-”

                “-All my fault.”

                He grasps at the scattered words, holding them close to his mind and trying to put a name to each voice.

-

                Keith is thrown back into the world of senses all too suddenly. Feeling comes back into his body in the form of dull pain and pinpricks. He’s falling only for a moment before someone catches him.

                “Keith!”

                Keith draws in a sharp gasp, shoving the figure away and snapping his eyes open. He’s about to reach for his Bayard- then he realizes Allura is standing in front of him. She doesn’t seem bothered by his sudden hostility and her face lights up with a smile.

                “Thank the stars,” The princess exclaims, “We were so worried about you!”

                “What do you mean-?” Keith is interrupted by a violent coughing fit. Allura places her hands on his shoulders, steadying him. Her eyes flash with concern.

                “Keith,” She says when he’s done coughing, her voice soft, “How do you feel?”

                “Like I got hit by a ship.” He looks around the room, recognizing the infirmary. “What happened to me?”

                “Do you not remember? You were injured by a Galran soldier. We thought…” Allura trails off, clasping her hands in the front of her dress. She seems hesitant to continue.

                                Hunk is suddenly pushing past her- when did he even get here- throwing his big arms around Keith. “You’re awake! Oh my god man, I thought you were going to die!”

                “Hunk, give him some space!”

                Keith mumbles out an ‘it’s fine’ and leans into Hunk. He feels fucking exhausted.

                Voices travel into the room from the hall. Keith pulls away from Hunk and turns towards the door. A beat later, Lance bursts in, eyes landing on Keith immediately. Even from a distance Keith can see bags under his eyes. Lance sprints at him, and for a moment Keith expects a punch in the face.

                He skids to a halt in front of Keith. He’s silent for a moment, his expression a mixture of unreadable emotions. Eventually, Lance seems to settle on annoyance. “I can’t believe you, man! You told me to be careful and then you went and got yourself fucking killed!”

                “I did not die, Lance.”

                “Well you could have!”

                “I was saving your ass!”

                Someone clears their throat. Allura places a hand on both of their shoulders. “Come on,” She says, “Keith needs to eat something.”

As they exit the infirmary, Keith swears he sees Lance’s face morph into something he’d only seen once before, when he’d insulted him a little too harshly.

-

Lance is quiet all through dinner, and doesn’t even look at Keith. It bothers him more than like to admit.

-

                After they eat, and the paladins are heading to their rooms, Shiro takes Keith aside and makes him promise not to use the training deck that night. Keith is getting tired of being told what to do, but he decides that skimping training for one night- he only promises one night- is better than disappointing Shiro.

                Keith had started reading books a couple weeks earlier. They don’t grant him the same kind if enjoyment fighting did, but there’s something about a good story that makes him forget all of his problems.

                Back in his room, Keith starts a new book, one that Coran had given him. It’s interesting, a story about an Altean warrior who falls in love with her best friend. Keith can admit, if only to himself, that he’s a sucker for romance stories.

                A couple chapters in, He lays back and sets the book on his stomach. He thinks about the fight before he was injured. Keith can clearly remember Lance blasting the Galran’s brains apart. It’s a funny thought, but then he remembers Lance’s expression at that moment. He had touched Keith’s face with a gentleness that Keith didn’t think was possible in him.

                Keith is always honest with himself. He knows that he likes Lance as more of a friend. It started after the Galra had taken over the castle, when Lance had passed out and Keith held him. It was only a small feeling then, which seemingly grew whenever Lance would smile at him or touch him with his radiator-like hands.

                What Keith is unsure about is that he doesn’t know how he feels about it.

-

                Waking up is hell. Keith’s core is so sore he wonders if he did 500 pull-ups in his sleep. He’s also craving water, and drags his hurt body to the kitchen.

                Hunk is already there. He’s cooking as usual, and it smells great. He gives Keith a concerned expression when the red paladin walks in.

                “Whoa, you don’t look so good. Did you just wake up?”

                “I’m fine.” Keith lies. He doesn’t want Hunk to worry about him. He moves past his friend and gets himself a glass of water.

                “Oh, by the way,” Hunk says, “Lance wants to talk about to you.”

                Keith raises his eyebrows. “Uhm. Okay. Where is he?”

                “No idea.” He goes back to chopping alien plants, humming a soft melody.

-

                He finds Lance in the lounge room, like usual. He’s dozing off on the couch. He’s also drooling a little, which Keith finds cute. He then asks himself why he finds drooling to be cute.

                The blue paladin snorts and blinks open his eyes when Keith prods him in the arm. He sits up, not bothering to wipe away the drool on his chin, and stretches his arms above his head. He grins when he sees Keith.

                “Nice bedhead, mullet.”

                Keith flushes, reaching up to smooth his hair down. “I could say the same to you. Did you want to talk just so you could berate me?”

                “What?” Lance quirks a brow at him. It’s really adorable, fuck.

                “Hunk said you wanted to talk.” Keith replies, a little unsurely. He sits down next to Lance.

                “Oh. Yeah.” Lance’s grin fades. He stares down at his hands. Keith waits.

                “I was just going to ask if you were okay after all of that.” Lance says softly. He pushes out a breath of air, hesitating. “When that Galra got you, I freaked out.” Not looking up at Keith, he starts to babble. “I mean, you had a freaking sword in your stomach, and you lost so much blood, when I touched your skin, it was cold…” He stops himself there, coughing awkwardly. There’s a small, unsure smile on his face.

                Keith doesn’t know what to say. Lance just, for lack of better term, word-vomited. This seems like a serious talk, especially if Lance just brought up the moment they shared back on the Galra battleship.

                Without warning, red-hot emotion fills Keith. He remembers another moment like that, when Lance was the one injured. When Keith had held Lance in his arms, worrying for him. When he had fallen for the blue paladin, thinking they were having a bonding moment. And then Lance had pretended not to remember. It had hurt.

                “So what?” Keith snaps at Lance, who flinches back at his sudden anger, his smile disappearing. “What if I say I don’t remember any of that? Maybe I don’t care how you felt.”

                “What?” Lance looks confused. “How can you say that, when I thought you were-?”

                “You said the same thing to me!” Keith yells without meaning to. “After we defeated Sendak. You ‘didn’t remember.’ Do you know how that felt?”

                Lance opens his mouth, gaping like a fish. He doesn’t respond to Keith, and Keith suddenly starts to feel guilty. He’s been putting his foot in his mouth a lot lately. He braces himself for what Lance is going to say.

                “Why are you like this?” Lance’s voice cracks.

                Keith’s heart shatters.

                “I’m- I’m trying to open up to you!” The blue paladin continues. Tears start to form at the corners of his eyes. He’s doesn’t even try to stop them, letting them slide down his perfect cheeks. He grips the side of the couch, his knuckles turning white. Keith doesn’t know where to look. “You’re so fucking irrational, Keith! I thought we were friends but you know what? I don’t think you care about me at all.”

                He silences himself after that, focusing his gaze down. He’s taking in quick, sharp breathes. “I’m sorry… It doesn’t matter.”

                Keith leans forward, reaching out to pull Lance into a hug. The other stutters something unintelligible and immediately wraps his arms around him. Keith rests his head on Lance’s chest and listens to his breathing slowly return to normal. Even through his jacket, he can feel how warm Lance’s arm are, loosely wrapped around his shoulders.

                “I do care about you.” Keith whispers. Lance tightens his hold.

-

                 Keith steps out of the ship, squinting his eyes in the dark. He can barely see anything, which is probably due to the lack of a near star.

                 “We’ll stop here for the night,” Coran had announced when the small planet had come into view. “A rare ingredient essential in many traditional Altean dishes grows here. It can only survive in complete darkness, which is why it is so abundant on this planet.”

                 Quick footsteps echo through the castle corridor behind him, stopping a few feet from him. “Let’s go find this kazoo-bear stuff!”

                 “Lance, the plant is called Kaisobor.”

                 Lance swings an arm around Keith’s shoulder. “Tomato, tomato.” He grins at Keith, bumping their heads together.

                 Keith scoffs at him, pushing his face away. “You’re dumb.” He mutters half-heartedly, though he can feel himself blushing. Lance just laughs and punches Keith’s arm gently.

                “What did Coran say it looks like again?” The blue paladin asks as they start walking.

                “Small, green, glows faintly. He also said there’s thistles on the stem. Though the root, which is the part that’s edible, is smooth and a little bit slimy.” He grimaces thinking about what Coran is going to cook with the plant.

                “You actually remembered all that?” Lance asks, “I tuned out as soon as he started talking. Just” --He lifts his hand to the side of head and taps his skull--“boop.”

                Keith rolls his eyes and looks around.

                “Hey, I think I found one!” Lance pulls away from him and runs over to a section of bushes. He trips on his own feet, falling onto his knees clumsily. Keith watches him dig his hands into a clump of leaves. A few seconds later he pulls out a small weed-like plant.

                “Found it!” Lance holds it over his triumphantly, standing up. “I mean, I think.”

                “Yeah, that looks right.” Keith responds. He peers past the bush, catching another glimpse of light. He starts trudging deeper into the undergrowth, Lance following.

                Lance keeps bumping his arm into Keith’s, and Keith is glad it’s too dark to see. He’s pretty sure he’s still blushing.

                “I think I see more over here.” Lance moves a large branch that’s in the way. Keith steps forward, but then Lance lets go and the branch swings back and hits him right in the face.

                The blue paladin spins around just in time to see Keith land on his ass. He barks out a laugh and slaps his hand over his hand. “Oh, man, that. Oh my god. I’m sorry, dude. But that was hilarious.”

                “You did that on purpose!” Keith scrambles up, his crush momentarily forgotten, and charges at Lance. Lance squeaks and runs away.

He manages to evade the red paladin for an astonishing 11 seconds before he trips on a root. Keith watches as Lance falls. Then he entirely disappears from view and Keith realizes he had tripped right into over slope.

                “God dammit…” He mutters, hurrying after to make sure the idiot isn’t dead. He steps down the hill carefully, pushing away more of the vegetation.

                A quiet curse leaves his mouth when he stumbles into a clearing.

                It’s filled with large, alien plants. They glow, casting a soft light on the ground. It makes Keith freeze in his spot.

                Lance, who’s sprawled on the ground a feet away from him, holds an expression similar to what he’s feeling.

                Keith doesn’t respond, just reaches out and touches something that looks like a fern. It’s incredibly soft.

                “Ow, ow, ow!”

                “What.” Keith demands.

                “It stabbed me!” Lance whines.

                “What stabbed you?”

“The plant!” He’s kneeling on the ground in front of a patch of Kaisobor, clutching his hand.

  Keith sighs loudly and walks over to him. He sits down and grabs his hand forcefully, pulling it over so he look. He turns Lance’s hand over, squinting. There’s only a few tiny scratches on the palm.

“It’s not even bleeding, you wimp. You’re such a child. You-” Keith’s words catch in his throat. He snaps his gaze back at the blue paladin, who’s twining their fingers together.

                Lance stares at him, and Keith finds himself lost in a pair of blue eyes.

                “You look really pretty in this light.” Lance whispers. He smiles, leaning in. His face is so close now, Keith can almost count his eyelashes.

                “Hey, there you guys are!”

                At the sound of Hunk’s voice, Lance jerks himself away from Keith. Keith tries not to let his crushing disappoint show when their friend enters the clearing.

                Hunk has a handful of Kaisobor, twice as much as Keith and Lance have collected. “What are you two doing down here?”

                Keith and Lance share a look.

                “He went mad and started chasing me!”

                Keith scowls. “You were being annoying! And it’s not my fault you tripped and fell down here!”

                Lance sticks his tongue out at him. Despite the rudeness being a mere façade on Lance’s side, Keith has the urge to tackle him. He wants to wrestle Lance to the ground, spit in his annoying face, and maybe even punch him in his perfect mouth…

                Keith stands and pushes his way past Hunk. He doesn’t have the emotional energy to deal with this, he’s going to the training deck.

-

                Keith yells as he swings his sword over and over and over again. The training bot doesn’t stand a chance, not when Keith is this frustrated.

He can’t believe that Lance had almost kissed him. He’d been so close, had called him beautiful of all things.

He stabs his sword into the robot’s stomach. That’s where the Galra soldier had injured him few weeks prior. He stills has a scar.

After they’d been interrupted, Lance hadn’t made any move to get them alone again or to let Keith know what he had been trying to do. It just left Keith confused and angry.

                The robot falls lifelessly. Keith stands over it, breathless and hot.

                All at once, he starts to cry.

                It comes out in waves so violent that Keith’s knees give out. He lets himself fall into a laying position and curls up into a ball, his Bayard dropping somewhere. The salty taste of tears pools at his lips, burns his tongue. Keith hasn’t cried like this in months, not since he was kicked out of the garrison.

                He can feel himself starting to get headache. That’s when he hears quick footsteps out in the hallway. He prays to every god out there that whoever it is won’t come in.

                The door opens with a quiet hiss.

                “Keith, are you okay?” It’s certainly not a voice he expected.

                Keith looks up through blurred vision when Allura places a hand on his shoulder. She has a panicked expression.

                Keith tries to tell her that he’s alright, to just leave him alone. When he opens his mouth, all that comes out is a pathetic hiccup.

                Allura scoops him up in her surprisingly strong arms, moving Keith into a sitting position. He’s momentarily worried about accidentally touching her chest, but she doesn’t appear to care when she pulls him into a gentle hug. He reciprocates immediately, pushing his face into her shoulder.

                “Keith, what’s wrong?”

He just shakes his head, unable to speak.

                Allura seems to understand, stroking his back slowly and holding him. Keith almost wants to laugh. The space-mom jokes the rest of the paladins make are truer than they think.

                It feels like forever before Keith is able to breathe steadily again. His headache is still there, but at least he isn’t hyperventilating anymore. He pulls away from Allura and averts eye contact.

                Allura places a hand on his face. “Keith, there’s no shame in crying.”

                Keith looks at her. Her eyes are soft, questioning. She’s waiting patiently for him to speak.

                He sniffles and wipes his eyes. Should he just tell her plainly? That he’s in love with Lance, that is. Or at least likes him very strongly. But what could she do? Allura may be powerful but even she can’t force Lance to not be fucking oblivious to everything.

                Is he really that oblivious though, considering the way he had looked at Keith and twined their fingers together?

                Keith realizes that he got lost in his train of thought and blinks a couple times. Allura had stood up and is offering her hand to Keith. He takes it and allows himself to be pulled up.

                She tilts her head towards the door and Keith nods.

-

                Allura takes Keith to the control room. He suspects she has something planned, but she doesn’t say anything. She walks over to the control panel and places her hands on it. The multiverse map expands around the room. Keith turns his attention the large windows while does whatever she’s doing.

“There are an infinite number of planets.”

                “Hm?” Keith looks back at her when she speaks.

                She smiles at him, scrolls through the map. She stops and zooms in on a familiar blue and green sphere. “You could have born on any one of them, Keith. But you were born on Earth.”

                Keith tilts his head. This isn’t what he had expected her to want to talk about. “What are you getting at?”

                “Coran and I were surprised when all five paladins ended up in the same place. If you had all been from different parts of space, Team Voltron may never have been formed. Yet, somehow, you located the lions with the others even before finding the castle. I’d call that fate, wouldn’t you?”

                “I guess I never thought of that before.”

                “And if it is fate, you were fated to meet Lance as well.”

                Keith chokes.

                “Forgive me for prying.” Allura gives him a cautious look as if trying to avoid scaring him off. “I can tell something is going on you with the two of you. I thought you might need to talk about it.”

                Keith glances down at his feet. Like any other issue, he’d rather just bottle it up until he breaks down on the training deck floor again. But that won’t do him, or Lance, any good.

                He shrugs slightly and nods.

Allura smiles. “You have come so far, Keith.” She taps the Earth icon with her finger. “A year ago, you and Lance barely knew each other, save for being so-called rivals.” She moves her hand to what Keith suspects is Arus. “You may have your differences, but you make good teammates. Remember when the castle was infiltrated by the Galra?”

                Keith remembers an unconscious Lance in his arms, that’s for sure.

                “You were quite worried while he was in the healing pod.”

                “Of course I was.”

                “Then,” She continues, “When we stopped at that moon and found those rebels, and Lance got tied to a tree.” She chuckles softly, scrolling over to another spot on the map. “When we had to go rescue him, you two talked like real friends. Of course, Pidge insisted it was flirting.”

                “It wasn’t!”

                “I never said it was.” Allura says casually, though Keith is not convinced.

                “On the mission to save the Balmera, you two managed to disable a whole fleet of Galran ships. It was quite impressive. You showed excellent teamwork then.”

                Keith stays quiet. He’s too embarrassed at this point to respond.

                “When the castle was corrupted and Lance was trapped in the airlock. You saved his life.”

                “Yeah, what else was I supposed to do?”

                “He wouldn’t stop talking about it for several weeks.”

                “What do you mean?”

                Allura turned to face him fully. She made air quotations with her fingers and in an obnoxiously deep voice, “It was so freaking cool, Allura. You should have seen him, Allura. He’s so cute, Allura.”

                Keith blushes. “He didn’t really say that last part…”

                “He did.” She crosses her arms. “Keith, you need to stop assuming the way Lance feels about you.”

                “It’s not my fault, okay?” Keith bites his lip. “I’ve never been in this situation before. It’s hard for me to understand what I’m feeling, much less what Lance is feeling. I just don’t want to get my hopes up.”

                Allura’s expression softens. She wraps an arm around Keith’s shoulders and pulls him into a one-armed hug. Keith smiles despite himself. Allura is pretty good comfort.

                “I’m fairly certain Lance wouldn’t want you to know this, but I think it needs to be said. During the week you were in the healing pod, I’d never seen Lance so emotional. And that is certainly saying something.” A beat. “He hasn’t stopped blaming himself.”

                Keith sucks in a sharp breath. He remembers the conversation he and Lance had in the lounge room a few days prior.

                “I think Lance feels the same way you do, Keith. You’re both hesitant and that’s normal for young people. Now’s your chance. Use this opportunity to explore things with Lance. You two have come so far, you have all this time to go farther. You won’t regret it, I promise.”

                “I…” Keith stares at her, before making a decision. “Thank you, Allura.” He pulls away from her and walks out.

-

                Keith runs into Pidge first.

                “Oh, hey Keith. You okay? You look like-.”

                “Where’s Lance?”

                “What- Oh. Oh.” She grins. “Finally doing it, huh? It’s written all over your face.”

                Keith blushes. “Just tell me where he is. Please.”

                Pidge points towards the kitchen, not losing her shit-eating expression.

                Keith mutters a thanks and hurries past her, ignoring the whoops of “go get him!” behind his back.

                Sure enough, Lance is in the kitchen. He’s storing away handfuls of Kaisobor, some of it sticking to his clothing.

                Keith leans against the doorframe and watches. God, Lance has good back muscles.

                Lance turns around, jolting visibly when sees Keith. “Jesus dude, you scared the hell out of me.”

                In three long strides, Keith is standing inches away from Lance.

                Lance backs up against the counter. Thankfully he doesn’t look uncomfortable, just mildly confused. “Is something wrong? You look like you’ve been crying.”

                “Please tell me you were going to kiss me.” Keith says, wincing at the casual openness of his voice. Whatever, fuck subtlety, right?

                Lance’s face blooms into a rosy color. “Keith, what-?!”

                “Don’t act dense with me, Lance. Please.” Keith slowly reaches up and grabs the lapels of Lance’s jacket.

                The blue paladin stares, eyes wide, at Keith. Keith can practically hear the gears turning in his head. He gives Lance time to think, knowing it can hard for him sometimes.

                “Do- Do you really want to kiss me?”

                “Only if you’re okay with that.” Keith replies quietly.

                Lance glances down at Keith’s lips then back up to his eyes. He angles his head down just slightly. “Do it, then.”

                Keith presses their lips together. It’s chaste, and a little clumsy on his part, but it sends shivers up his spine.

                When they pull away from each other, Lance is grinning widely.

                “What?” Keith demands.

                “This is awesome. “ Lance says. “I’m a protector of space and I got to kiss my hot teammate.”

                “Shut up…” Keith mumbles, not able to hide the bashful smile creeping onto his face.

                “So, does this mean you want to be, like…?” Lance trails off, waiting for Keith to fill in his obvious mad-lib.

                “Boyfriends? Yes. Only if you’re okay with that.”

                “You kidding? I get to kiss my hot teammate whenever I want? Now that’s a good deal.”

                Keith groans and pushes his face into Keith’s shoulder. “Please don’t act like this in front of the others.”

                “Too late.” A voice says.

                Keith groans even louder. He doesn’t even have to look to see Pidge’s giant smile.

                “That’s right!” Lance exclaims exaggeratedly, grabbing Keith by the waist. “I’ve stolen his heart, swept him off his feet, the whole nine.”

                “Hunk is gonna be so happy for you guys!” Pidge shouts, dashing out of the kitchen.

                “Why. Why are you like this?”

                Lance chuckles.

                “You sure you’re okay with this?” Keith asks again after a beat of silence.

                “You’ve got to stop asking me that.” Lance responds in a genuine voice. Then Keith hears him choke back a laugh. He places a hand on the hair at Keith’s neck. “I don’t need any more time to-”

                “NO.”

                “Mull-et over.”

                Keith pulls away from him. “I’m leaving.”

                “No, wait! My knight in shining armor! Let me embrace you!” Lance scrambles to grab the red paladin. Keith complains when Lance drapes himself over his shoulders, but he doesn’t really mind. He enjoys being in Lance’s arms.