lysapadin: pen & ink painting of bamboo against a full moon (Default)
[personal profile] lysapadin
Title: Leap of Faith
Characters/Pairings: Shiro/Keith/Lance
Summary: Keith doesn't think this is complicated. Or difficult. Keith is mistaken.
Notes: Smut and feels. So many feels. 11575 words.


Leap of Faith

This is by far the best thing: Shiro's hands curving around his hips, easy and comfortable, and Shiro's laughter against his mouth as Keith crowds against him, claiming another kiss from him. The rightness of it hums through Keith's veins the same way his connection to Red does, the same way flight does: this, here and now, is what he was born to do.

It's ridiculous that it took so long for them to get to this place, but if there's anything Keith has managed to figure out, it's that other people always seem to make things more complicated than they actually have to be.

Whatever. He can afford to be magnanimous about that now that he has everything he wants.

Shiro laughs again, soft against his mouth, as Keith hooks his leg around Shiro's hip to press against him. "Are you in some kind of hurry?"

Keith catches Shiro's lower lip between his teeth, delicately, and enjoys the way Shiro's eyes go darker as he strokes his tongue along its curve. "Maybe," he says. "Is that a problem?" It doesn't feel like a problem when he nudges his leg between Shiro's and feels him hard against his hip.

"Mm, we are right out in public," Shiro says. There's just a hint of a rasp in his voice; he's not trying to push Keith away.

Keith scoffs; they're up on the observation deck, and there are only two people on this castle-ship other than him who ever come up here. One of them is sliding his hands down to cup his ass at this very moment. "So what?" He hums as Shiro draws him up tight against his hip, grinding against him and sighing with the pleasure that rolls through him. "I want you to fuck me." Before Shiro can suggest they move somewhere else, he adds, "Right here."

He can feel the fine little shudder that runs through Shiro and see the flash of heat in his eyes; Keith has him, whether Shiro knows it yet or not. "I don't think that's a good idea," Shiro says, which is what he would feel like he has to say.

"Sure it is," Keith tells him, rocking himself against Shiro's thigh and groaning at the slow friction. "It's a great idea. You, me, the wall, let's go." Then, in case it's what's holding Shiro back, he adds, "I have lube."

Whatever Shiro was expecting to hear, that's clearly not it. He blinks and laughs. "What, do you just carry lube around with you wherever you go?"

"Yes?" Keith doesn't see why that's so funny, but Shiro laughs like he just can't help himself, so he's not going to worry about it. It's more productive to snake his hand down between them, anyway, and fit it over the hardness of Shiro's cock.

Shiro's laughter breaks off into a ragged groan as Keith rubs him through his pants. He closes his eyes, flexing his hands against Keith's ass. "Keith."

Keith nips at his lower lip again and sucks on the spot, squeezing Shiro's cock through his pants. "C'mon," he says. "You know you wanna."

"You're a terrible influence on me," Shiro says, which is not a no.

"Someone has to be." Keith kisses him again, sucking on his tongue as he thumbs the button of Shiro's fly and drags the zipper down. Shiro shudders again when he dips his fingers into his underwear to play with him, and that does it. Shiro surges against Keith, backs him up against the wall and pins him there as he groans against Keith's mouth.

Keith hums back and squeezes him again just for the way it makes Shiro take a sharp breath, then draws his hand away so he can undo his own jeans and shove them down—though not before he pulls the lube out of his pocket and drops the bottle in Shiro's hand.

It makes Shiro laugh again, of course, but that's not such a bad thing—Shiro could stand to laugh more often. Anyway, it give Keith time to get out of his boots and kick his way the rest of the way free of his jeans. That is enough to grab Shiro's attention and hold it.

Keith grins at him and hooks his fingers in Shiro's belt loops to drag him closer, close enough to kiss again, lips parted for the demand of Shiro's mouth against his. When Shiro slides his hand down his side, warm through his shirt and then against the bare skin of his hip, Keith goes with it. He wraps his arms around Shiro's shoulders and hooks his leg around his hip. Shiro slides his hand down the back of his thigh and lifts him in one easy surge of his muscles. Keith groans and wraps his legs around Shiro's waist. "God, that's hot," he tells Shiro between kisses.

"Yeah?" Shiro says while he's fumbling with the lube and slicking his fingers.

"Oh, yeah—oh." Keith closes his eyes, arching against him as Shiro reaches under him and presses his fingers in, sinking them deep. It's a hard, sharp stretch, no hesitation to it at all, exactly what he's looking for. Keith locks his legs around Shiro's waist and groans; when Shiro mouths his throat he tips his head back even further, gripping Shiro's shoulders as the slide of his mouth meets the slow, ruthless movement of his fingers, pooling and knotting in the pit of his stomach. "God, Shiro, quit playing around and fuck me."

"You'll be sore—" Shiro starts, voice rough against his throat.

"That's the point, I want to feel you inside me," Keith tells him. "Every time I move I wanna be reminded, I want—ah, fuck—!" He gasps as Shiro twists his fingers; the sensation flares up his spine, so close to what he wants. "Shiro."

"God," Shiro says against his throat, his voice strained. "God, Keith, do you have any idea what you do to me?" He's moving, pinning Keith against the wall, shifting the hand that's supporting his weight a little.

Keith slides his fingers over the nape of Shiro's neck. "Maybe you'd better show me."

Shiro actually growls and moves, sliding his fingers out of Keith and reaching into the space between them. He swears as he tries to shove his underwear out of the way. Keith groans, wanting, and reaches down to help him, to slide him free of his underwear and help him slick more lube over his cock. Then Shiro is lifting him, pushing him up the wall, pushing into him, and God, yes, that's it, that's exactly it. Keith makes a sound too thin to be a groan as his muscles burn with the way Shiro's cock stretches them, achingly hard. Shiro growls again as he bottoms out inside him. He presses against Keith for a moment that seems to stretch out forever as they pant for breath. Keith twists his fingers in Shiro's vest, gasping. Before he can adjust, before he's to the point where his body is accustomed to how thick Shiro is inside him, Shiro begins to move.

Keith hears himself cry out as Shiro rocks up into him, hard enough that it drives him up the wall, jolting raw sensation through him, fuck, exactly what he wants, yes—He clutches at Shiro as Shiro fucks him, can hear nonsense tumbling from his lips, yes and more and oh God please as Shiro drives into him, pressed close enough that Keith's cock is rubbing against him, smearing precome all over his vest, one more layer of raw sensation running through him.

He wraps himself around Shiro, who is groaning against his throat as he drives into Keith, hands tight enough on his ass that he might be leaving marks. Keith groans at the thought, the sound stuttering out of him with how hard he's breathing, with the way pleasure is blazing through him, brilliant and raw and absolutely perfect.

Shiro shifts his hands on him. Keith slips down the wall a little; the change in the angle has him scrabbling at Shiro's shoulders as Shiro slides into him at the right angle, the perfect angle, again and again. Keith can't even make a sound, not when every roll of Shiro's hips drives a stab of sensation through him, searing every nerve he has with the merciless heat; all he can do is gasp for breath as sunbursts go off behind his eyelids and Shiro mouths his throat—Shiro scrapes his teeth over Keith's skin, and Keith manages a strangled sound as he comes, pleasure taking him like a flashover. He thinks Shiro may bite him, but the sharpness of his teeth is all of a piece with the way pleasure grips him, the way Shiro's voice rasps against his ear as he fucks into him, holding him open when Keith's body is trying to wring tight around him. Keith leans his head back and clutches Shiro's shoulders, pleasure jolting through him, almost more than he can bear, and he opens his eyes.

Lance is standing froze across the way from them, eyes wide and his expression laid so bare that even Keith can read it, bad as he is at understanding people and currently addled with pleasure besides. Lance is staring at them like they're everything he's ever wanted, like they're the most amazing thing he's ever seen. There's so much raw longing on his face that it hurts Keith to see it.

When Keith makes eye contact with him, Lance flushes scarlet and takes a step backward, like he's going to walk away.

Keith stretches a hand out to him, croaking his name just before Shiro groans and bucks against him, hard and fast. Keith gasps, squeezing his eyes shut as another ripple of heat passes through him. Shiro strains against him, groaning against his shoulder as he comes.

When Keith pries his eyes open again, Lance is gone.

Keith almost thinks that he must have imagined him, but Shiro stirs against him, turning his head, looking. "Lance?"

"He's gone." Keith doesn't quite recognize his own voice; it sounds like someone else talking. "He was here, he was watching, then he left." Even though he'd reached out for Lance, even though there was no reason for him to have left.

It creates a cold, sick feeling at the pit of Keith's stomach.

"Ah." That's all Shiro says, but even a single syllable can be freighted with meaning, especially when Shiro uses that putting-it-together tone.

"What does that mean?" Keith asks as Shiro eases him back down to his feet. Shiro's expression is carefully neutral, even with the color lingering on his cheeks and the lush curve of his mouth, tender with kissing. "Shiro, what do you know?" Shiro chooses to focus on the practicalities of cleaning up the aftermath instead of answering; he gives up his vest as an apparent loss and peels out of it so he can use it to wipe up. "Shiro."

"I don't know anything," Shiro finally says, slowly. "But I wonder…" He stoops to retrieve Keith's discarded jeans and hands them off to him. Keith can't quite bring himself to push Shiro into saying what he's thinking, not when there's that sickness in his stomach and the baffling way Lance had left them, left him, when he should have seen that he ought to have stayed. Shiro nudges at him, at his hands, and retrieves Keith's boots for him as Keith dresses himself again. "I think we need to talk to him," he says as Keith does up his pants.

The question erupts before Keith can think it through: "What makes you think he wants to talk to us?" Lance walked away from them, he walked away, it doesn't get any more damning than that.

Shiro looks at him and then slips an arm around his shoulder. "He may not. But we need to talk anyway. Come on." Shiro sounds certain, though Keith hardly knows how he can be. His arm is certainly sure around Keith's shoulders, steering him off the observation deck. "Do you know where he might have gone?"

"I don't know why you're asking me," Keith says. Shiro glances at him, eyebrows raised. Keith feels himself flush. "Either his room or to Blue. Or to wherever Hunk is right now."

Shiro considers that. "Probably not to Hunk," he decides. "Let's try Blue first."

It's something they all do, retreating to their Lions when in need of—Keith doesn't know what to call it or even if the others go to their Lions for the same reason he does. Sometimes spending time in Red's hangar feels like being in the desert again, which is weird, but makes him feel better anyway. If Shiro weren't pulling him along on his search for Lance, Keith would probably be heading for Red right now, in fact.

Red probably doesn't really understand or care about what he gets up to with Shiro and Lance, but she'd be present. That puts her one up on a lot of people Keith has known.

Blue is the right call; when they make it down to her hangar, she's got her hatch open, which suggests that Lance must be inside.

Shiro takes a deep breath and lets it out again before they cross the deck. He leans into Blue's jaws and calls out to Lance: "Can we come in?"

Keith is pretty sure that he hears Lance swear. Then there's a long silence. Shiro catches his shoulder when he would go ahead up the ramp and shakes his head, no.

Eventually Lance's voice comes down to them. "Yeah, sure. I guess."

Shiro sighs at that, looking worried for a split second before he tucks that away, and starts up the ramp. Keith follows after him, more slowly.

Lance is in the cockpit, pilot's chair drawn up to the console; he's got his knees tucked up against his chest and he doesn't look around. "Hey, guys."

Shiro moves over to him while Keith hangs back. "Hey." He's got his voice pitched soft—careful, Keith thinks—and reaches down to touch Lance's shoulder. "You okay?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm good." There's a little bit of rasp in Lance's voice. He doesn't actually look up at Shiro. "Did you guys need something?"

"I feel like that might actually be something we should be asking you," Shiro says.

He waits like he wants to see what Lance has to say to that, which usually works like a charm when it comes to Lance, but Lance just sort of shrugs. "Nah. I'm fine." And he shuts up.

If Keith didn't already know that there was something wrong, he'd know by that alone.

Shiro doesn't call Lance on it. "That's good. I was a little worried when you didn't join us just now."

Keith folds his arms across his chest; he can't really see much of Lance, but it looks like he tenses up. "Eh. You guys looked like you were pretty busy. I figured it would be a shame to interrupt."

"Mm." Shiro slides his fingers into Lance's hair and ruffles it. "That doesn't mean you had to leave. You could have stayed to enjoy the show." He pets Lance's hair smooth again and glances at Keith. "I think that was what Keith might have had in mind."

Lance laughs, sort of. "I don't know, he looked kind of preoccupied to me."

"Just say you didn't want to," Keith snaps before Shiro can say anything. "Christ."

Shiro lifts his eyebrows and Keith scowls at him. What point is there in beating around the bush? They might as well get it over with.

"I didn't say that, I—" Lance stops there and doesn't continue.

"What is it?" Shiro prompts him.

"Nothing. It doesn't matter."

Shiro looks down at him, running his fingers through Lance's hair slowly. Finally he says, "I did wonder if we ought to go ahead without you. I'm starting to think we shouldn't have."

What? Keith frowns at Shiro, who gives him a look, one that says just hang on for a minute, I'm going somewhere with this.

Lance gives another of those short half-laughs. "What, really? You don't need to do that, geez. You two should get busy whenever you feel like it, no need to bring me in."

"I don't quite agree," Shiro says, slow and measured. "If it's going to make you feel left out, maybe we should."

Lance huffs. "Why would I feel left out?"

Shiro looks down at him, still and grave. "I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"

"I don't feel left out." Lance's voice lacks conviction; the way Shiro stays silent makes it clear he's not convinced. "Really, I'm not! It's just the two of you like you usually are, nothing weird there."

Keith unfolds his arms so he can rake his hands through his hair to vent his frustration. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Lance unfolds himself so he can turn around and hang over the back of the pilot's chair. He fixes a look full of disbelief on Keith. (His eyes are kind of red.) "Seriously?"

Keith looks to Shiro, hoping that maybe he'll have some idea what Lance means by that.

Lance points at him. "There! That! That's what I mean!"

"What is he talking about?" Keith demands of Shiro, who looks like he doesn't know whether he wants to laugh or cover his eyes.

Lance rolls his eyes. "Oh, come on, it's the two of you and your whole thing, you have to know what I'm talking about."

"No, I really don't," Keith tells Lance, exasperated.

"I think I do," Shiro interjects while Lance is rolling his eyes some more and muttering under his breath. "He's talking about how well we know each other, I think."

Is that all? "Then why didn't he just say so?" Keith says, annoyed. "He doesn't have to be so cryptic about it."

"Or maybe you could just pay attention to the obvious, geez," Lance retorts.

"I don't know what that means!" Keith says. Well. Maybe he shouts it a little. It's kind of loud echoing off the walls of Blue's cockpit.

"How can you not know?" At least he's not the only one shouting. "How can you not see the way you two fit together?"

"Of course I see that!" He just doesn't see what that has to do with anything. Of course they fit together; Shiro's the closest thing he's had to family since he was little. Keith isn't going to let go of that now after getting him back again, his own personal miracle. "I just don't see why it matters!" Doesn't see why it has anything to do with Lance walking away when he should have stayed.

Lance stares at him and slumps. "No, I guess you wouldn't." He rubs his hands over his face, digging his palms against his eyes. When he lowers them, he sets his jaw. "Look. This isn't going to work."

At last, something they can agree on. "Well, not if you're going to be all vague, it's not," Keith tells him.

"No, I mean—this." Lance gestures from himself to Shiro to Keith. "This threesome thing. It's not going to work. It's great that you were willing to try, it really is, but I just don't see how we're going to make this work."


"Lance—" Shiro says.

Keith cuts across whatever he's going to say. "What are you trying to say?"

Lance heaves a sigh. "Dude, really? Okay, fine. I'm calling it. Bowing out. Conceding. Am I making myself clear, or do you need me to use smaller words?"

Keith feels himself go cold all over as Lance makes it clear that he means precisely what Keith was afraid he meant. "You—but—" Lance can't mean that, he just can't

Lance looks away from him. "It was fun while it lasted," he says, which—how can he sound so freaking calm? "I really am glad we gave it a try."

"You don't sound very glad," Shiro says while Keith is trying not to throw up all over Blue's cockpit—Blue doesn't deserve that even if her paladin does.

Lance shrugs without looking at either of them. "Well, it kind of sucks right now, but that'll wear off sooner or later. You know?"

That's easy for him to say. Keith wraps his arms around himself, not that it does much good. He still feels sick and cold.

"I don't think I do know," Shiro says. He rests his hand on Lance's back. "Why are you doing this? Will you tell me that?"

Lance moves under his hand, restless. "Thought I already did, didn't I? This isn't going to work. Might as well save ourselves some time, right?"

"Yeah, you've said that." Shiro is rubbing Lance's back, soothing him. That doesn't seem fair. Lance is the one choosing this. "What I'm not hearing is why you think it's not going to work."

"You have got to be joking." Lance rubs his hand over his face. "It's obvious."

"Humor me," Shiro tells him.

Lance presses his mouth flat and doesn't say anything.

Keith could tell Lance that he might as well give in, because Shiro has made up his mind. Once that's happened, there's no moving him. Keith doesn't know what Shiro thinks he'll get out of knowing why Lance is walking away from them, though. Knowing the reason never helps. Knowing the reason just makes it worse sometimes.

Shiro waits, and waits some more, until Lance makes an aggravated sound and surrenders. "The two of you don't need me," he says, tone utterly flat. "Now that you're both on the same page, you don't need me. You never did, not really. The two of you are like a closed circuit. You don't have room for me. It was nice of you to try, but I know I can't compete with what the two of you already have with each other. So I'm not gonna try." He rubs his forehead again. "Happy now, Shiro?"

Maybe Shiro says something, or maybe he doesn't. Keith can't hear anything over the pounding drumbeat of his pulse in his ears. "How can you say that when we were together for months before Shiro walked in on us?"

Lance looks at him, quick, then glances away again. "Dude. Keith. We weren't together. We were just fucking."

It hurts. He's spent time in Galra custody with all the things a bored Druid could think of to pass the time, and this is worse. This is so much worse.

Keith does the only thing he can when he lands in a situation like this one (again, and isn't he just a fool for thinking it wasn't going to happen again). "Fuck you, Lance," he says. He turns and walks away.

Shiro says his name, and Keith runs.

Running is good. Running awakens all the sore, well-used muscles in his back and ass and thighs; the ache of them runs through him, jarring him every time his feet strike the unforgiving metal of the deck. The clatter of his steps rings off the walls and matches the thunder of his pulse in his ears, the breath moving in and out of his throat. That's almost enough to hold the intolerable, humiliating knot of Lance's betrayal at bay. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he's so stupid for daring to think that there was something there, that there was a real connection between them. Lance has never wanted that, never once, has rejected every bridge Keith has ever tried to build between them, and Keith is so stupid for having thought he'd finally managed it. So stupid for thinking that he'd finally found a home again. He knows better than that by now. Should know better than that.

The castle-ship is enormous, has to be just for the hangars that accommodate the Lions and the quarters for all staff that used to support them. Keith runs and runs some more, down empty corridors that are only half-lit, through halls he may not have ever set foot in before this, crossing decks and pounding up staircases until he has a stitch in his side that forces him to slow to a jog and then a walk.

The problem is still there: Lance is still a jerk, the biggest jerk Keith has ever known, because he'd thought, he'd really thought that it was more than just fucking to Lance.

God, he's an idiot.

An idiot who's run himself into exhaustion, with legs that feel like jelly and clothes soaked through with sweat. He's in one of the far reaches of the castle-ship, several decks away from his quarters. "Fuck," Keith says out loud, but swearing doesn't do any good, doesn't even make him feel better, so he gets his bearings and heads for his quarters to lick his wounds in private.

He wishes he could be surprised to find Shiro waiting outside his door.

Shiro doesn't say anything to him, just hits him with a quick concerned look and the faintest tilt of his head.

Keith sighs and palms his door open. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay," Shiro says, so Keith stands aside and lets Shiro precede him inside.

Keith follows him in; the door slides shut as the lights come up. "I need a shower," he announces.

Shiro huffs. "Well, I wasn't going to say anything, but yeah, you really do." He looks at Keith. "I could get your back for you."

Shiro is being careful with him; it's just one more way that Keith is messed up that he resents that almost as much as he craves it. If he could just figure out how to stop wanting—"Sure." He hasn't figured it out yet, and as long as Shiro sticks around to keep offering, he never will. Most of the time Keith thinks that's probably a good thing.

Most of the time.

Shiro smiles at him. "Thanks."

Keith doesn't bother answering him and strips down, pitching his clothes into the corner of the room in defiance of Garrison rules about keeping one's quarters tidy. Shiro doesn't say anything about that, either, just undresses and follows him into the bathroom.

The Alteans had the right idea about showers and bathtubs and bathing in general, which just about makes up for their ideas about cuisine. The shower stall is more than roomy enough for the two of them; the water is hot and plentiful. Keith steps into the spray and lets it beat against his shoulders. Shiro gives him a minute before joining him. He reaches for the bottle of foamy space soap before Keith can and works the lather up in his hands. It's more taking care with him, but Keith lets it go, lets Shiro pass soapy hands over his skin, just firm enough to chase some of the tension out of his muscles. Shiro takes his time, more time than any shower requires. By the time he scrubs lather into Keith's hair and rinses the suds off him, Keith is close to trembling with exhaustion. Would be trembling if he'd let himself, but he's not that far gone. Not yet.

Shiro is a lot more efficient about scrubbing himself off and turns the tap off when he's done. He speaks for the first time since they entered the bathroom. "Let's get you dried off."

Instinct rouses Keith. "You don't have to baby me."

"No, of course not." Shiro grabs a towel and begins patting him dry. "But I want to." He sounds infuriatingly reasonable about it, too.

Keith is too tired and wrung out to be properly angry, so all he can manage is petulance. "I don't have to like it."

"You sure don't," Shiro agrees, continuing to towel him off.

"Stop that," Keith tells him.

Shiro gives him a bland look. "I don't know what you mean."

"You know exactly what I mean," Keith says. It's so much an echo of his exchanges with Lance that it catches him like a knife between the ribs. "Fuck."

"Hey." Shiro drops the towel and wraps around him, skin still wet from the shower. "Easy, now, I've got you."

As much as he hates himself for it, Keith can't keep himself from leaning into Shiro while he tries to breathe through the stab of hurt. "I still don't want to talk about it," he mumbles into Shiro's shoulder.

"Okay." Shiro rubs the back of his neck. "We don't have to do it tonight."

Ugh. "Ever," Keith mutters.

Shiro huffs against his temple. "Yeah, I'm gonna veto that one, buddy."

Yeah, he figured Shiro would say that. "Was worth a shot."

Shiro huffs again and kisses his temple. "C'mon, it's been a long day. Let's get some sleep."

That's not the worst idea Keith's ever heard.

He suffers Shiro to finish toweling him off, cleans his teeth, and goes to crawl under his blankets. Shiro follows him shortly and promptly imitates an octopus, wrapping himself around Keith and snuggling close. That's gonna be too hot in a while, even with the castle-ship's slightly-too-cool temperatures, but for now it feels good.

Still. "Did I say you could stay here?"

"Nope." Shiro blatantly cuddles up closer as he dims the lights. "Why, you gonna try and throw me out?"

"I should."

Shiro laughs at him and presses a kiss against his shoulder. "Go to sleep, Keith."

He grumbles just to remind Shiro that he doesn't have to do what he says, but closes his eyes anyway. It's a relief how quickly sleep reaches out and closes around him after that.

He wakes up hot and disoriented, pinned under the unfamiliar weight of another person's body. The ensuing moment of slightly panicked confusion wakes Shiro, too, and culminates in a certain amount of flailing before the two of them remember where they are and why Shiro is sharing the narrow confines of Keith's bed with him.

Keith groans and lets himself go limp under Shiro's grip. "What time is it?"

Shiro releases him; he looks a little guilty in the dim glow of the lights. "Too early."

It has to be if Keith's alarm hasn't gone off yet. "Mmph." Keith flings an arm over his eyes; the mattress moves as Shiro eases back down next to him. Shiro hooks an arm around him; Keith doesn't have to be looking at him to know that he's mulling something over. "I still don't want to talk about it." May as well get this over with.

"Yeah, I know." Shiro sighs, warm against his shoulder. "The three of us should have talked some things through before we started doing anything without all three of us there."

Keith frowns. "You mean before having sex without Lance."

"Well, yes." Shiro goes quiet for a bit; Keith can just about hear him thinking. "I think it must have hurt him when he walked in on us like that."

It hurt him? "Why? We weren't together. We were just fucking." The words etch Keith's tongue like acid, no less painful for a few hours' sleep. "He doesn't get to be hurt if we weren't together." He doesn't get to have it both ways.

"Mm." It's so carefully noncommittal that Keith uncovers his eyes to look at Shiro. The light's bad, but Shiro seems to be wearing his Tactful Leader face. "About that…"

Keith stares at him, but Shiro doesn't go on. "What?"

"Is that something you ever talked to him about?"

Shiro sounds like he's serious, though it's honestly a silly question. Keith turns his face away from Shiro and stares at the ceiling over the bed. "I was having sex with him. What was there to talk about?" How much more explicit could he have been than that?

"Oh, I don't know, maybe why you were sleeping with him?" Shiro must feel the way that makes Keith tense, because he adds, "Not everyone is as honest as you are. Or as serious. And they may not understand what you mean by doing something unless you tell them."

Keith just wishes this were the first time Shiro has told him that or something like it. He scowls at the ceiling. "Are you telling me he couldn't tell I meant what I said when I said I wanted both of you?" Because he had said that, had laid it out in plain language.

Shiro takes a breath and lets it out again, slow. "I'm not going to answer that."

Keith transfers his scowl from the ceiling to Shiro. "Why not? What's going on inside his head? You talked to him, didn't you?" Shiro hadn't come after him, knows better than to do something like that, so he must have stayed with Lance and tried to work things out with him. It's the way Shiro is.

"I did, but…" Shiro sighs. "Keith. This can't work if the two of you rely on me to be the one who handles all the communication, especially all the communication between the two of you. The two of you have to figure each other out for yourselves, or we're just going to keep having situations like what happened last night."

Keith looks away from him, aching at the reminder. "There isn't an us. Lance called it quits, remember?"

"I know that's what he said he was doing," Shiro says. "But don't you want to figure out why? Or if it's something we can fix?"

Keith snorts at that. "Not really."

"No?" Shiro shifts his hand and strokes his fingers through Keith's hair, combing the tangles out of it. "Why not?"

Keith frowns at him, resisting the soothing gesture as best as he can manage. "Giving people second chances just gives them a second shot at hurting you again. A second free shot. No thanks."

Shiro pauses in stroking his hair for just a moment, then resumes it. "Learned that one the hard way, huh?"

"How do I ever learn anything?"

"I guess I should have known." Shiro leaves off playing with his hair and draws Keith closer. "That's your call to make, if that's how you want it. I still think you need to talk to him and get things straight between you, since you are kind of stuck with each other as paladins, if nothing else."

"Aw, fuck," Keith says, because that's something he hasn't even considered. They're going to have to form Voltron sooner or later, which is gonna go just great if he's still this angry with Lance. "Damn it, Shiro."

"I know, but it is for the good of the team." All of the solemnity in the world can't disguise the trace of amusement in Shiro's voice.

"This team sucks," Keith says.

Shiro ruffles his hair. "But you'll still talk to him?"

Keith sighs. "Fine. But only because of Voltron." Only because it's Shiro asking.

Shiro kisses him, soft. "Thank you." He hesitates, then goes on. "Because I do want you two to be okay with each other, since you're going to have to share me and all." He laughs when Keith twitches. "You were the one who came up with that. I hope you're not changing your mind now, because I'm not."

Yeah, he had come up with it. Clearly it had been one of his better ideas, seeing how it had all worked out. "Shouldn't you be taking that up with him?"


That's another entirely suggestive sound. Keith frowns at Shiro, who looks like he might be trying to look innocent. "Shiro."

Shiro laughs again; it's oddly reassuring. "I might have talked him down from the edge," he admits. "But that doesn't mean you shouldn't talk to him yourself."

Keith stares at him and then punches his shoulder. "You couldn't have said that before?" Punching Shiro's' shoulder is like punching a rock, but it makes Keith feel better anyway. It's not because of the treacherous thought that maybe things aren't really over. That's the kind of thought that can't be trusted.

Shiro actually thinks it over. "No. No, I really don't think I could have."

Keith scowls at him, not that it does him much good. "Whatever."

Shiro laughs again, soft, and drops a kiss on his forehead. "It'll be good for you."

"I've heard that one before." Keith burrows down into his pillow and decides it's time for a change of topic. "What time is it, anyway?"

Shiro checks. "You’ve got an hour before your alarm," he reports. "Wanna go for a run?"

Keith's legs hurt just at the idea. "Not a chance in hell."

Shiro chuckles. "Your loss."

"It really isn't," Keith assures him.

Shiro grins and extracts himself from the blankets. Keith burrows down into his blankets and listens to him getting dressed, not sure he's actually going to get back to sleep once Shiro goes but willing to try. Shiro stoops over the bed once he's dressed and drops a kiss on his forehead. "I'll see you at breakfast."

"Mmph," Keith tells him, which Shiro takes for the acknowledgment that it is and goes.

Keith sighs quietly once he goes. At least Shiro holds himself to the same standards (or stricter) that he does everyone else. There'd be no living with him otherwise.

Since he doesn't have any idea how he's supposed to act at breakfast when he walks in to see Lance already there, cracking jokes at Hunk, Keith takes refuge in the one strategy he knows works: silence. He grunts at the room in greeting—more than Pidge manages, stumbling in on his heels like the walking dead—before retrieving a bowl for his nutritionally complete but otherwise unsatisfactory breakfast of food goo (everyone is happier calling it food goo, even though they all know it's more like space algae). He takes a seat at the table next to Shiro, who gives him a smile, and huddles over his bowl to eat.

He can't tell what's going on inside Lance's skull—not that he ever can, really, Lance is a mystery to him even now. He seems like his normal self as he laughs at Pidge's grumpiness and jokes around with Hunk, and that's just—it's not fair, not when everything inside Keith feels jagged and raw, thanks to Lance. It's not fair for Lance to cause that and then be fine the next day, acting like everything is normal. Keith stares at him, trying to figure Lance out, trying to see past the grin and the laughter. Shiro had said he'd talked Lance down from the ledge, so shouldn't he at least be sorry? Keith can't tell; at most, Lance might look more tired than usual?

It's frustrating as hell, the way Lance always is—why can't he just be honest with the rest of them?

Keith only realizes he's scowling when Shiro nudges him. "What did your food goo ever do to you?"

"It knows what it did," Keith says.

Lance gives a hoot of laughter. "Dude, was that a joke? I didn't think you had it in you."

He's acting like everything is normal, is fine, like he didn't just try to upend and destroy Keith's whole life. It's infuriating enough that when Keith opens his mouth, what comes out is, "Fuck you." Which, yeah, sometimes they say that to each other as a joke, but Keith doesn't really feel like joking right now.

"Whoa, geez, that was unnecessarily harsh," Lance says as a startled silence fills the room. He looks a little paler than usual. Maybe.

"Are you okay?" Hunk adds, the perpetual peace-maker.

He's not hungry any more, not really. Keith drops his spoon in his bowl and pushes his chair back. "I'm fine."

As he walks out of the room, Pidge's voice follows him: "So I'd call that an eight on the inexplicable Keith outbursts scale, what do you guys think?"

It's not inexplicable at all, unless she means the way Keith's words sometimes get tangled up on the way out of his mouth, until what he's saying isn't what people think he means. Whatever. He's used to that. There are two people sitting at the table who could explicate things just fine for Pidge, anyway.

He makes for the training deck and sets up one of the training programs; at least that's something he does understand, is good at. The training drones don't have any hidden motivations and can't change their minds midstream, don't say one thing when they mean another. They're just drones.

Keith pours himself, all his frustration and anger, into the training sequence against the three drones. He should have changed into his armor beforehand, he thinks absently as he ducks under the swing of one drone's staff and catches the other on his bayard. His shield would be useful for this.

Fighting without his shield is good practice, though, makes it a challenge, forces him to concentrate fully on his opponents and not the relentless circling of his thoughts. When he finally says, "End training sequence," he feels emptied out, mind swept clean.

Since he turns and finds Lance sitting against the wall, knees pulled up and chin resting on his folded arms, it's a good thing he feels so emptied out. It lets him look at Lance with the closest thing he's managed to calm in the past twelve hours, and it lets him wait.

Most people aren't any good at silence; Lance is no exception. He unfolds himself after a minute of Keith's just looking at him and pushes himself up. "Here," he says. He tosses one of the pouches of fortified water at Keith. "You look like you could use that."

Keith catches the pouch; Lance isn't wrong. He could use the hydration and the electrolytes. "Thanks." He cracks the seal, drinks, and continues to watch Lance. Waiting.

Lance fidgets; he stuffs his hands into his pockets and rocks back and forth on his feet, avoiding Keith's eyes. "So. Um." He chews on his lip and steals a glance at Keith. "You, um. Okay?"

Keith lets out the breath he's been holding. He doesn't have it in him to even try to pretend right now, not that he ever does much good at pretending. "No, I'm not. Why would I be okay?" He might as well get this conversation started, if they have to have it.

Maybe Lance feels the same way, since his shoulders drop a little. "Yeah, okay. Fair. That was a stupid question, I guess."

"Yep," Keith agrees.

Lance fidgets some more; Keith drinks some more of his water, watching him.

Finally Lance reaches up and rubs his hands in his hair, rumpling it until it sticks up in crazy tufts. "Fuck, okay, I'm just going to ask. What are we doing?" It bursts out of him like defiance, or a dare, though Keith doesn't know why it should be either of those things.

"I guess you don't mean right now," he says, since he wants to make sure he's clear, whatever ends up happening here.

Lance snorts. "Yeah, no." He gestures at Keith, or maybe the empty space between the two of them. "This thing, you and me. What are we doing?"

It's on the tip of his tongue to say I thought we were just fucking, but that's the kind of thing that would make Shiro frown, so he restrains himself. Instead of that, Keith takes a deep breath and forces himself to be honest. "I don't know. If you'd asked me before last night, I would have said we were together. But I guess we aren't?" He hates the uncertain note in his voice, hates having to be so unsure. Hates not knowing how Lance will choose to take it, not knowing what he's going to do with it.

Hates himself a little, too, for having been so reckless with his trust when he knows perfectly well how Lance blows hot and cold.

Lance stares at him like he can't believe what he's seeing. "Seriously. You seriously… thought we were together."

This, this is why Keith hates people sometimes. Nothing else in the universe can make him feel as small and stupid as people can. He lifts his chin, because like hell is he going to give Lance the satisfaction of seeing that. "Yeah? What else was I supposed to think? I was sleeping with you, for crying out loud."

Lance continues to stare at him, lifts his hand and rumples his hair some more, opens and closes his mouth a couple of times before he finally says, "But… that was just sex."

"There was no just about it!" Keith snaps, trying to focus on the anger instead of the sick feeling in his gut. It doesn't work very well, but it's all he's got. "I don't have sex with just anyone, you asshole! I—it matters." He hates the way his voice goes thick, hates this so much, hates himself for sleeping with a guy who can just have sex with someone else and not have it mean something to him.

Lance stares at him; his jaw is hanging loose, like he can't believe what he's hearing. "You—but—you didn't say anything."

"I didn't think I had to." In retrospect, that was as shitty a decision as grabbing Lance that first time and mashing their mouths together had been. God, he's an idiot.

Lance bites his lip. "But… you have your thing for Shiro. You've had that thing for him as long as I've known you."

Why does he keep bringing it back to Shiro? It doesn't make any sense. They're talking about the two of them, not the three of them. "What does that have to do with us?"

Lance gives him a look full of disbelief. "Seriously?" he demands. "Didn't you hear anything I said last night? You two are completely wrapped up in each other! What do you even get out of spending your time with me?"

What—what kind of question is that, anyway? "I get you. Or didn't you believe me when I said I wanted you both?" Though that's a stupid question. Clearly Lance didn't. Keith should have seen this coming from how hard Lance had fought the idea of the three of them together, kept trying to push him and Shiro together. He'd said then that he did want this, but—here they are. Maybe he'd only said it under duress.

Keith might as well be speaking High Ancient Altean for all Lance is concerned, because Lance is still staring at him like he doesn't understand a single word coming out of Keith's mouth. "When you say you want both of us… what does that mean?" he says slowly. "Is that, like… Keith-speak for I'm hot for your body or Take me now you sexy beast or does it mean something else? Because you keep saying that about me and Shiro and I'm not quite seeing how you're making it all match up."

"Why do you keep making this about Shiro?" Keith focuses on that instead of the way Lance is trying to make jokes out of this. Out of him. The anger and hurt of that are tangled up together inside his chest, sharp-edged and cold. He tries to keep a grip on them, but how can he when Lance isn't taking any of this seriously? "Why does this have to keep coming back to him? Why can't you understand that loving him doesn't have anything to do with loving you?"

Shit. Oh, fuck, that was a stupid thing to say, the stupidest thing of all. Keith claps his hand over his mouth; water spills over his other hand, clenched on the pouch, as Lance's eyes go huge. Fuck, fuck, why did he let himself say that when he knows Lance doesn't get it, refuses to get it? He wants to run, but Lance is between him and the door. There's no easy escape unless Keith rushes him.

"Loving… me?" Lance's voice is faint, not quite steady. "Keith. Dude. You didn't actually say that, did you?"

There's only one way out, and that's to get through this. "So what if I did?" He's handed Lance something that Lance has no business knowing; all he can do is blunt the edge before Lance uses it against him. "Go ahead, laugh if you want. Tell me how stupid I am for loving the guy who thinks all we were doing is fucking. Get it out of your system, Lance, you always wanted to beat me at something, anything, so here you go, here's something you can be proud of, how you got the better of me because I was too stupid not to fall in love with somebody who always wanted to pick a fight with me before anything else. Go ahead. Laugh."

Lance isn't laughing. He's staring at Keith, naked bewilderment on his face. "You… but… me? Me? Shiro I get, everyone loves him, but…"

"I'm so fucking tired of hearing about Shiro," Keith says, because he is. He's tired of everything right now, and he's especially tired of Lance's obsession with Shiro. "Look. I get it. You and me, we're not anything. You don't want to be with both of us, just him. Fine. We'll work it out, figure out some kind of arrangement. Later. I need… I need to not be here any more, okay? I'm going somewhere else right now."

He starts for the door; Lance catches his wrist. "What? No! You can't drop that on me and just walk away, asshole!"

"Don't touch me," Keith says, trying to twist out of Lance's grip, but Lance is holding on too tightly for him to break away so easily.

"No, Keith, listen—" Lance says.

Keith has had enough of listening. "No," he says, right before he punches Lance.

It's with his off hand and he doesn't really want to damage Lance, just get Lance to turn loose of him and let him escape to nurse the remaining scraps of his self-respect. That's why his punch only snaps Lance's head back. It makes Lance swear but doesn't cause him to release his grip on Keith's wrist. "God damn it, Keith…!"

"Let go of me," Keith tells him. This time he means it.

"Will you just listen—fuck!" Lance yelps when Keith steps into his space and twists, ducking and using his body as the pivot to throw Lance over his shoulder. (Lance always has been crap at hand to hand, too fond of his rifle, too fond of his distance.)

It's a good move, and in other circumstances Keith would be pleased with how smoothly it goes. He'd be pleased with the way Lance hangs onto him like grim death, pulls Keith tumbling down to the deck with him, too, if only he weren't trying to get away from Lance.

The landing knocks the breath out of Lance; Keith lands on top of him, more or less, and his shoulder twinges pretty badly with the awkward angle of his arm pinned between them. "Let me go," he tells Lance, who manages a breathless, "Not a chance," before he's scrambling to keep Keith from getting back on his feet.

It's not a pretty fight, or a clean one; Keith ought to be able to get the better of Lance without breaking a sweat, but Lance struggles with him like he's been inspired by the god of fighting dirty. By the time they reach an impasse—Keith pinned against the deck and cursing Lance's slight advantage in height and weight, plus his ancestors unto the first generation—he has definitely sprained his shoulder and probably has a black eye, too. Lance is going to have a black eye of his own, and a bloody nose and split lip to go with it, which is something, anyway.

"God damn it, will you just listen to me for five fucking minutes?" Lance pants against his ear, dripping blood on the deck next to Keith's face. He's got a knee digging into one of Keith's kidneys and Keith's good arm pinned behind his back, his bad arm pressed flat against the deck. "Please. Just listen to me."

Keith may not have any choice about listening, but that doesn't mean he has to be gracious about it. "Didn't you have your say last night?"

"Last night I didn't know you thought we were together, okay?" Lance retorts. "That changes—Jesus, that changes everything, you don't even realize—" He stops himself and takes a deep breath. "Let me start over. Please, just hear me out. That's all I'm asking, Keith, I swear."

Keith closes his eyes. Damn it. Fine. "Your five minutes is running."

"Okay. Great. That's… if I let you up, will you stay put?"

"For another four minutes and forty seconds, sure."

Lance utters a bark of laughter. "God, you're such an asshole sometimes." He rolls off Keith, who sits up gingerly. Lance settles himself on the deck next to him and fixes an intent look on him. "Okay. Right."

"Four minutes," Keith tells him, not that he knows how many seconds have actually passed.

"Asshole," Lance says. He makes it sound affectionate. "This is hard to figure out how to say, all right?" He rubs his upper lip and grimaces at the blood on his fingers. While he's not looking at Keith, he says, "The reason I thought it was only sex was because I thought there was no way you could possibly like me as much as I like you. I thought… I dunno, I thought maybe I was just a placeholder, someone you could mess around with until Shiro finally got around to letting himself notice what was right under his nose. Way I figured it, once that happened I'd be out of the picture." He glances at Keith and looks down again. "In my defense, you didn't say anything, and I have the damnedest time figuring out what's going on inside your head sometimes. But in your defense, I didn't ask, either. Asking would have meant getting an answer. If I didn't know for sure it was just a temporary kind of thing, then I didn't have to admit it was all one-sided, and I could at least pretend that I wasn't a completely pathetic loser."

He stops there and steals another look at Keith, who is staring at him, trying to make some kind of sense out of that. "You… you thought I was, what, fucking you because I couldn't fuck Shiro, is that what you're saying?" It's easier to focus on that than the other thing, the thing where Lance had liked him, at least to start with.

Lance carefully wipes his bloody fingers on his shirt and doesn't meet his eyes. "It sounds kind of bad when you put it like that."

"It sounds awful. What have I ever done to you to make you think I'm the kind of person who would do something like that?" Keith demands, outraged that Lance would have allowed and insulted that Lance thinks that little of him.

Lance looks up and gives him an unhappy smile. "It's nothing you did, I don't think you're the kind of person who'd do that to someone else deliberately, it's just…" He looks down at his hands. "The thing is, I really don't think you know what it looks like from the outside. You and Shiro, I mean. You keep asking why I keep coming back to Shiro. It's because of the way the two of you are just so… I mean, it's like the two of you are married on the astral plane or something. You just click together, you know? You broke into a fucking Garrison facility on nothing more than a feeling and ended up rescuing him when you didn't even know he was there, or still alive for that matter. You had his clothes, you two talk to each other first, you don't even have to talk out loud, you have these silent married couple conversations all the time, and it's just—" Lance stops and shakes his head. "You're better at that shit than my grandparents, and they've been married and stupid in love for like fifty years. Anyone can see the way the two of you fit together, and, like—how am I supposed to compete with that? With all that history and love and with Shiro, who is probably the best person I've ever known—why would you choose me over him? I wouldn't choose me over him. So yeah, if you were sleeping with me while you were waiting for him, it just seemed like the natural thing to do, not mean or selfish or whatever. When he walked in on us that afternoon, it just seemed inevitable. I was honestly pretty happy for you, that you'd finally got him. And then you turned around and said you wanted us both, and I didn't know what to think."

Keith feels overwhelmed, swept under by that torrent of words, tumbled end over end by them and the way Lance sees him and Shiro, but that last thing is something he can grasp, something to anchor himself against the flood. "Maybe, I don't know, that I meant what I said?"

"Hah. Yeah. I'm still not used to how you just do that. You'd think I would be by now." Lance picks at a rip in his jeans. "It just… it seemed so unlikely, I guess."

Keith lets go of the rest; instinct tells him that it's not as important as this. "Why?" It seems perfectly reasonable to him, though that doesn't always mean the rest of the universe is going to agree. It had seemed reasonable to Shiro, too, and he's a much more reliable barometer for these things. Why shouldn't he have wanted Lance, too?

Lance looks at him quickly and looks away just as fast. "I dunno. I'm not the kind of guy that kind of thing happens to, I guess. Not that epic romance thing like you and Shiro."

That's not really an answer. "But why not?"

Lance finally manages to make eye contact for more than a split second. He looks exasperated. "Because that stuff doesn't happen to ordinary people, Keith, and I'm about as ordinary as they come. Geez, way to make me say it out loud."

Keith waits for him to laugh or immediately retract the claim, but Lance doesn't. He just drops his eyes again, bizarrely subdued, and Keith honestly doesn't know what to do with that. Doesn't know what to say, how to get Lance to explain what makes him think he's ordinary—Blue may not be as persnickety as Red, but he's pretty sure she wouldn't settle for an ordinary pilot.

Besides. Keith doesn't think he'd settle for anyone ordinary, either.

Eventually Lance clears his throat and goes on. "So yeah, you said that and Shiro went along with it, and Jesus, I'm only human. If two of the hottest people I know are willing to let me be their third, I'm willing to give it a shot, right? At least for as long as it lasts, which I figure isn't going to be long, since the two of you were bound to get bored with me or just…. I dunno, get so wrapped up in each other that you forgot about me. I'm kind of a loser, I figured even a little bit of the two of you was better than nothing, for as long as it lasted. And then I walked in on the two of you last night."

Yeah, and he'd been watching. If he closes his eyes, Keith can still see the way Lance had looked while he was watching them together. He can still see the yearning on Lance's face. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Lance sighs. "I watched the two of you and I couldn't stand how much I wanted both of you. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was never going to have as much of you as I really wanted. I couldn't stand how much the thought of always being your fifth wheel, your afterthought, hurt. So I thought I should go ahead and end it before I ended up any more miserable than I already was." Lance goes quiet for a bit and then shakes his head again. "Anyway. Now you know, and my five minutes are up. Like, way up, probably, geez. So thanks for hearing me out."

Keith doesn't get up. Doesn't move at all, because there are too many things rolling around his head. He might lose track of some of them if he jars them too much, and they're all too important—how much Lance wants, how little Lance expects. How many things Lance doesn't understand.

Lance lets him be for a little bit, fidgets with the hem of his shirt and sneaks regular glances at Keith, until he apparently can't contain himself any longer. "Dude, say something, you're starting to freak me out."

Like it's that easy. Words aren't what he's good at, Lance should know that by now. They never seem to come out the way he needs them to. Still.

Keith takes a deep breath and tells Lance the first thing that comes into his head: "Shiro's the first person since I was little who never decided I was too much trouble—" Too angry, too closed off, too hostile, too impulsive, too withdrawn, too much trouble "—to bother with. Pretty much everyone I ever tried to get close to would changed their minds and leave and tell me it was for my own good when it was really all about them. It took me a long time to be able to believe that he wasn't going to change his mind and walk away after all, decide I was too fucked up to deal with and just go. Then he got picked for the Kerberos mission and…" He has to clench his fists against the memory of that year and the crushing knowledge that he wasn't able to keep anyone. Wasn't allowed to keep anyone. "One of the things he spent a lot of time trying to convince me was true was that there would be other people who'd stick around, not just him. Other people who would think I was worth the trouble. I didn't really believe him until Voltron…" Keith looks down, focusing on one of the scuff marks on the toes of his boots. It's still hard to say. "I thought… I thought that maybe you were one of those people."

Saying that out loud makes him itch under his skin, makes him want to get up and walk away before he has to find out what Lance might think of that. Keith makes himself stay where he is, makes himself wait for Lance to hear what he's said and decide what he wants to do about it. Lance says he doesn't know how to figure him out, so maybe this will help. It's only fair when Lance has laid so many things about himself out for Keith.

Lance does move, but it's to scoot across the deck, closer to Keith. "Jesus, man, just how many people walked off and left you?"

"Lots," Keith says, short, because the less he has to think about the long chain of foster families and would-be adoptive parents who changed their minds after getting to know him, the happier he'll be.

"Jesus." Lance's eyes are wide; he looks like he's appalled. "Jesus, man, I'm so sorry." He scoots the rest of the way over until they're shoulder to shoulder. "That sucks."

Keith snorts. "You're telling me?" He eyes Lance, searching for some sign of pity—it did suck, but he'll be damned if he wants Lance to feel sorry for him—but Lance just looks indignant, and that… that's different.

"Yeah, I guess you'd know. Geez." Lance leans into him a little, warm and solid against Keith's side. It takes work for Keith not to lean back. "All that and you still took a chance on me, huh? And then I went and tried to break up with you for your own good. I'm amazed you're even talking to me right now."

Keith feels a part of himself relax; Lance isn't actually dumb, no matter what he likes people to think. He's been listening, he understands what Keith was trying to tell him. "Shiro talked me into it. Eventually."

"Okay, that makes more sense." Lance rubs his chin. "I really hope he never decides to use his powers for evil, because we are so screwed if he ever does."

Keith can't disagree with that. "We really would be."

"Yeah." Lance bumps against his shoulder. "So I guess I really fucked this one up, huh?"

There's the thing they've been circling around, the thing Keith is trying to figure out. He really wishes Shiro were sitting here with them, could help them figure this out, but—maybe Shiro's right. Maybe they do have to do this for themselves, even though it's hard. Keith bites his lip and bumps his shoulder against Lance's in return. "We fucked it up," he says. "You're right. I didn't say anything. I didn't even realize I had to say anything."

Lance snorts. "Yeah, well. I put a lot of work into being totally cool with whatever. It's not like I wanted you to know I needed you to say something."

They both lapse into silence after that, Keith because he's not sure what he should do now, and Lance—he doesn't know why Lance is quiet, but maybe Lance doesn't know what they're supposed to do now, either.

Lance is the one who breaks that silence. "So, before." He steals a glance at Keith; there's color flushing his cheeks. "I don't think you meant to say it, but… you talked about, um. Loving Shiro."

Keith feels his face go hot. Too much to hope for that Lance had forgotten that, apparently. "Yeah. I guess I did."

"Yeah." Lance fixes his eyes on something on the other side of the room. The muscles in his throat move as he swallows. "Did you mean it?"

Keith exhales. "You're not asking about Shiro, are you?"

A muscle jumps in Lance's jaw; the color on his cheeks deepens and touches the tips of his ears. "Well. No. I guess not."

This… this is probably the biggest leap of faith Keith's taken since high school, since deciding that the freakishly friendly upperclassman who kept on bothering him actually did mean it when he'd said he wanted to be friends. But look how that had turned out.

Keith fixes his eyes on the same wall Lance is looking at, squares his shoulders, and leaps. "I don't generally say things if I don't mean them. Not even on accident."

"Oh. Jesus, Keith." Lance's voice is hushed; when Keith tries to steal a glance at him, Lance is staring at him, and Keith is caught. He's seen Lance with that expression before—in a cave, looking up at a giant blue lion robot; at sunrise on a world they'd rescued from the Galra, a world whose opalescent buildings had caught fire in the morning light; at Shiro, just after Shiro had drawn away from Lance's mouth the first time and said Let's see what happens. It's awe.

Keith can't look away, caught by how wide and wondering Lance's eyes are, by the tiny, soft curve of his lips. "Lance…"

Lance leans toward him, then checks himself. "I—can I take it back?" he asks, his voice pitched low. "What I said? It wasn't just sex, it never was, no matter what I tried to tell myself." He bites his lip, winces when he catches the split place, and goes on. "I don't want to call it quits, I want to keep trying—please, can we keep trying?"

Keith closes his eyes and lets himself fall forward, dropping his forehead onto Lance's shoulder. "Yes," he breathes. "Yes, you can take it back."

"Oh, thank God." Lance wraps his arm around Keith's shoulder, a little awkward, and sinks his fingers into Keith's hair. "I didn't mean it, I'm so sorry, I swear I didn't mean any of it."

Keith can feel his shoulders beginning to come unknotted for the first time since that awful conversation in Blue's cockpit—no, since he'd realized that Lance had walked away from him and Shiro. He lifts his good arm and closes his hand on the back of Lance's shirt. "Please don't ever do that to me again. I don't… I'm pretty sure I can't take it."

Lance buries his face against the top of Keith's head. "I won't, I promise. I'll find some other new and exciting way to fuck up, probably, but I won't… I promise it won't have anything to do with trying to pretend I don't need the two of you like I need air."

Keith lets out a shuddering breath, the last of the knot in his chest coming loose. It leaves him limp, but Lance is right there, holding him up, so it's fine. "Okay. Okay, I can live with that."

"Yeah," Lance says. "Yeah, I can, too."

It's a long time before they let go of each other.


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