"Why does it have to be me?" Keith whined for the up-teenth time. "Why can't you practice on Allura?"

Lance reached deep into his well of patience. "Because," he began through his teeth, also for the umpteenth time, "I already know how to do it on long hair. But because you have the world's worst haircut, I have to figure out how to make it look even sort of decent."

Keith huffed and tightened the crossing of his arms over his chest. He looked like a pouting four year old, and Lance was just about to the point of tying him down if he had to.

"I still don't get why we have to wear the stupid braids in the first place," he grumbled. Lance rolled his eyes.

"You're not the only one, Mullet. Allura and Hunk and Coran have to wear them too just because of the length of their hair. So you're either going to have to submit to the braid or cut your hair. Your choice."

Keith screwed up his face and made a few more disgruntled noises, but eventually slumped over and sat on the floor in front of the sofa, where Lance had been trying to get him to go for the last twenty minutes.

"Finally," he sighed, and Keith gave an irritated shake of his head.

"Alien traditions are stupid," he grouched as Lance picked up his hairbrush. "Stupid rules, stupid fancy braids, stupid stupid stupid."

"Quit whining. It's not nearly that bad."

He touched the hairbrush to the top of Keith's head, ready to get on with his business, but Keith immediately tensed up and turned into a stone statue, and he rolled his eyes.

"Chill out, it's just me."

He dragged the brush down once and heard Keith suck in a breath, but then he did it again, and again, and gradually Keith began to relax a little.

Honestly, Keith's hair irritated the hell out of him, and not just because it was a mullet. The lengths of the various strands were all so uneven, like they'd been hacked at with a knife instead of cut by scissors, and don't even get him started on the split ends. Sometimes he wondered if Keith even bothered to brush it.

Finally Lance got it into a semi-smooth state and set the brush aside. He was already dreading how difficult it was going to be to get all of these different sized strands tucked into such an elaborate braid, and to boost his confidence, he cracked his knuckles.

"Ok, fancy Yaltuvian braid, take one."

Even with the advanced warning Keith flinched at the touch of Lance's fingers. Lance ignored it as best he could and began dividing the locks into the five parts required for the braid.

"How long is this gonna take?"

"As long as it has to," Lance snapped, at the end of his rope. "Just deal with it and shut up, would ya?"

Keith, surprisingly enough, did shut up, leaving Lance to figure out the braid in peace.

Ok, tuck this bit under, then twist that bit, then go over under over, then twist…

As expected, the raggedness of Keith's haircut was a bit aggravating, but it wasn't as bad as Lance had been expecting. It wasn't greasy like he'd feared, and it was thicker than it looked. He lost himself in the process and the rhythmic motions, and didn't even think about the rest of the person attached to the hair until he finished it. When he finally leaned forward to peek down at his subject, he was surprised at what he found.

Keith was surprisingly relaxed considering how hard he'd fought at the beginning. His arms and legs were crossed, though loosely, not holding much tension in the muscles. His breath was even and slow, and if Lance leaned at just the right angle, he could see that his eyes were closed.

"It's done," he said quietly, testing to see if he was asleep or not. "I'm gonna start over."

Keith let out a quiet hum of acquiescence, and to Lance's delighted surprise, settled more comfortably against the front of the sofa.

He combed the braid apart with his fingers. It wasn't bad for a first attempt, but he'd definitely need to practice more before the important diplomatic event. Once it was undone he reached for the hairbrush again, but once again Keith jumped at the first touch of the bristles.

"Why do you do that?" Lance asked before he could think about it. Normally Keith would've snapped something snarky or refused to answer, but he seemed to already be relaxing again despite the jolt, and the words came out slow and sleepy.

"Tenderheaded," he murmured in yet another shocking turn of events. "People used to pull."

"Hm," said Lance as he set the brush down again, flexing his fingers in preparation for the next braid. "My sister Veronica was like that. She was always in tears after Mama did her hair- as soon as she turned eighteen she went to the hairdresser and had it all cut off." He let out a chuckle at the memory. "Mama was so mad."

Keith made a vague sound of interest, which was enough to keep Lance going, even as he fell back into the turning and twisting he'd been doing before.

"Rachel was tender headed too. By the time she was eleven she refused to let Mama anywhere near her with a hairbrush. She kept her hair long, though."

"Who brushed it then?" asked Keith quietly.

"I do," Lance answered automatically, then paused. "I mean, I did."

"Oh, cool."

Lance practiced the braid twice more. By the time he decided enough was enough for his aching knuckles Keith was practically one with the sofa, and Lance wouldn't have been shocked if he'd fallen asleep completely. Still, for the sake of Keith's dignity, he pretended not to notice.

"I think I'm starting to get the hang of this," he said as he combed it out of Keith's hair for the last time. "Still gonna need more practice, though. Same time tomorrow?"

"Hm?" Keith's head jerked up a bit, then he relaxed again and murmured, "Yeah, sure."

Lance grinned to himself. He wasn't sure why, but for some reason having closed off, prickly Keith like this felt like a kind of victory.

Maybe this process wouldn't be so bad, after all.


That night was… strange for Keith. Normally sleeping was a battle of tossing and turning, struggling against constricting bedsheets, staring at the ceiling, and clutching his pillow to his chest to keep from clawing at the itching under his skin.

But sitting in the lounge until his butt fell asleep with Lance pawing around in his hair was, for some reason, soothing. That night it took barely five minutes for him to fall asleep, and he didn't wake up a single time until his alarm went off at six the next morning.

At the time he dismissed it as a fluke. After all, he couldn't sleep terribly all the time, right?

The next day he had another hair play date with Lance again. Honestly he'd rather be training or at the pool or hanging out with Red, but he maybe, slightly, didn't drag his feet quite so much this time.

"There you are, Mullet," Lance said cheerfully when he walked in, already in a better mood than the day before. "Come on, sit down."

He tapped the front of the lounge sofa and Keith rolled his eyes, but he went and sat anyway, crossing his legs and his arms.

"Sit up straight, I can't reach your stupid bangs."

He sat up a bit, though he grumbled a bit at the stupid comment.

"I like my bangs," he said in irritation. "They keep the light out of my eyes."

Lance made a questioning sound as he pressed the brush to Keith's hair. As he had the day before Keith tensed and flinched, expecting a harsh pull and sharp pain, but Lance didn't comment on it this time.

"What, do the lights hurt your eyes?"

Keith took a second to think. He wasn't sure how much vulnerability he wanted to reveal, but the rhythmic pulling of the brush was already getting to him. God, how pathetic was that?

"A little," is what he wound up settling with. "They're too bright. Gives me headaches."

Wait, he hadn't meant to say that last part. Keith winced, fully expecting Lance to capitalize on that admission, but once again he let the opportunity pass. The brushing stopped and he felt Lance's fingers comb through his hair once before beginning to divide it into manageable chunks.

"Have you mentioned it to Coran?" Lance asked. It wasn't until then Keith realized his eyes had closed.

"No." It had never occurred to him to tell anyone about it. It was just how his body was and something he had to put up with.

"Well, you should. I'm sure he wouldn't mind sorting something out for you."

"Mmm." He could feel the process beginning- the warmth stealing over him, draining the strength from his muscles, making him soft and pliable and vulnerable.

It was amazing.

It was terrifying.

There were so many risks associated with this vulnerability. Lance could hurt him any number of ways: make a mocking remark, tell the others, maybe even hurt him physically. A little paranoid on his part, but he'd been pulled into too many empty classrooms and dark corners to put it past anyone. Especially someone who had as many problems with him as Lance seemed to.

Lance's fingers paused. "Hey, you tensed up again. Did I pull something?"

"Huh?" Keith blinked his eyes open, smothering a wince at the bright lights. "Oh, no, you didn't. Just thinking about something."

He resumed his braiding, but still asked, "What about?"

"Nothing." He said it automatically, but Lance wasn't assuaged.

"Come ooooon," he drawled, then gave a light tug. He meant it as a joke, surely, but all the same Keith turned to stone, all of his defenses clicking back into place all at once. His hair had always been a favorite handhold for people, whether they were kids he got into fights with or foster parents attempting discipline. He couldn't help the way his body reacted.

"Woah, ok, sorry." Lance loosened his grip and Keith's cheeks burned. God, no matter which way this turned out he was going to fuck it up, wasn't he?

"Do you want to stop? We can skip until tomorrow."

"No, no." He said it too quickly, it made him blush even more furiously, but he felt… loose. Unmoored. Like he'd lost his handhold and was floating away. "We don't have to."

"... Ok." Keith could practically hear Lance's shrug. "Your call."

Within a few minutes Keith had dropped back into his doze, but this time a sickly feeling remained, stuck to the bottom of his stomach. That night he fell asleep easily again, but dreamed of broken promises, lost families, and homes that never were.


Keith was acting weird.

Well, weirder than usual.

The changes came with the implementation of Lance's braid-learning sessions. In the mornings Keith came to the breakfast table awake and alert, and not his normal 'I've-been-up-for-three-hours-already' awake, but actually well rested awake. That extra energy translated into training- even Shiro was impressed by how quickly and efficiently Keith went through his bouts with the gladiator.

But to him the biggest difference was socially. For the last few days, whenever Lance made a joke, Keith didn't bristle like an angry hedgehog anymore. In fact, a few times he actually laughed!

It was, for lack of a better word, creepy.

Four days after the braiding boot camp began, Lance was hanging out with Hunk and Pidge, thinking these thoughts, and figured if anyone would know the answer to his quandary, it would be the science geniuses. So, sitting up from where he'd sprawled himself on Pidge's bedroom floor, he asked his question.

"Guys, do you think Keith's a clone?"

Neither of them even looked up.

"What do you mean?" Pidge asked idly, never pausing in her typing. "That he's been a clone the whole time, or that he's been replaced?"

"Replaced, definitely." Lance frowned to himself and glanced at Hunk. "You guys seriously haven't noticed how he's been acting?"

Hunk just shrugged at him. "He's been less grumpy lately, I guess."

"He looks like he's sleeping better," Pidge chimed in.

"Exactly! What's up with that?"

"Maybe he's just having a good week."

Lance sighed and fell back onto the floor. Of course they wouldn't get it- they hadn't seen Keith yo-yo between a trance-like state and his best impression of a stone statue when Lance was practicing the braid. Well, whatever. The diplomatic visit was in three days, then their little sessions would end, and everything would go back to normal.

He hoped.


Finally the all important day arrived. The Castle entered Yaltuvia's orbit in the early hours of the morning, and after their daily training the Paladins spent the rest of the day making themselves presentable.

There was much whining and complaining about the fancy clothes from Pidge and Keith, but Lance actually liked his. The fabric was light and gauzy and just the right shade of blue to look like waves when he moved. Very on-brand.

A varga before they were set to descend to the planet's surface Lance made his hair braiding rounds. Allura was impressed by the quality, and afterwards gave him a compliment that made him blush brighter than a firetruck. Coran spent the whole time chattering about the last time he'd been to Yaltuvia and how gorgeous the architecture was. Hunk smiled all the way through and gave him a quick side hug afterwards, knowing how much doing the braids would remind Lance of his family.

Keith's turn was last.

Lance found him in his usual spot in the lounge, already sitting in front of the sofa in expectation. The suit jacket Allura had given him to wear was laying on the floor beside him, and Keith wore his usual jacket in its place, gripping the sleeves like it was going to disappear at any moment.

"Allura won't let you wear that," said Lance as he entered, making Keith jump almost a foot in the air.

"Jesus, Lance," he grouched, then looked at the blazer and deflated. "I know she won't. I'm just… biding my time."

"Well, that time is rapidly running out." Lance carefully perched himself on the sofa, wary of tearing his nice clothes. He expected Keith to complain some more, but instead he hummed a bit of a song to himself; yet another entry on the list of things Keith had never done before a week ago.

"What song is that?" he asked. Keith made to shake his head, but Lance had already begun the braiding process and kept him still, forcing him to answer verbally instead.

"Not one you'd know."

Lance frowned to himself. Despite how carefree Keith had seemed lately, he still tended to clam up when Lance asked him personal questions, no matter how many details Lance offered him in return. Kinda unfair, kinda frustrating, but whatever, it wasn't like it mattered. This was the last time they were going to do this.

After all the practice they'd done the braid took almost no time at all. Lance's fingers moved quickly and dexterously, and within ten minutes he had it done with all of it's fancy twists and folds and got it tied off with the red ribbon Allura had given him.

"There we go," Lance said cheerfully, pleased with his performance, "all done."

Keith straightened up slowly. He hadn't had time to get into his weird daze, but he was seeming a little affected.

"Thanks." Keith ran careful fingers over the ridges of the braid, then stood up and reluctantly swapped his jacket for the fancy one Allura wanted him to wear. "Guess we'd better get this over with."

"Lighten up, Mullet." Lance went to his side and threw an arm over his shoulder, reveling in the affronted look Keith gave him. "It's gonna be fun. You just wait and see."


So far, Lance's prediction had proved correct. The team came to an agreement with the alien government within a couple of hours and nothing exploded or tried to kill them. Which, by team Voltron standards, was a pretty big success.

Next came the party, and Lance was living for it. He knew a lot of the others didn't enjoy their various galas and banquets as much as he did, but he was an extrovert, damnit, and he had to find something good in all of this space war nonsense or he would lose his mind.

The ballroom in the Yaltuvian palace was almost as big as the one in the Castle of Lions. A whole orchestra was lined up against the far wall, and although the instruments were obviously different and didn't sound a thing like Earth music, they still had a quality of elegance and sophistication that made the music perfect for waltzing. Or, at least, alien waltzing.

That's what they were all doing at the moment. This planet's government was made up of six different parties, and to symbolize their equality, a member from each had been offered a dance with one of the Voltron Paladins (plus Allura). Lance was pretty much the only one excited for it, with Pidge and Keith looking like they wanted to stab Allura the moment she suggested it, but they were on song three and so far no murder had been committed.

Lance's partner was pretty- an alien with broad shoulders and lilac skin. Their face looked somewhat like a fish, but somehow in a way that worked for them, and thin purple skirts swirled around their legs. Their hair was light blue and fell to the middle of their torso, which seemed to be the norm on the planet, done up into the same braid that Lance had spent so many days laboring to learn.

He was having a good time. Chatting, dancing, nice music. It was fun. Even so, he kept an eye out for his teammates as he swirled about the dance floor; he hadn't forgotten about Sendak's invasion.

There was Shiro, making polite but stiff conversation with a partner than was a foot and a half shorter than him. Allura, giving the Crown Prince a winning smile. Hunk, focusing more on avoiding any toe-stepping than the person he was dancing with. Pidge, staring about forty five degrees off from her partners face and babbling at a quick pace- probably about some project or another that could distract her from the awkwardness of touching a stranger.

It took him a minute to find Keith. He and his partner were closer to the corner, and Lance gave a sympathetic cringe when he realized who the partner in question was.

The Yaltuvian had as much height on Keith as Shiro had on his partner, and maybe more. His skin was a deep, dark gray that reminded Lance of an Earth whale and a stature to match, with beady green eyes deeply set into his wrinkled face. From what Lance had gathered during the talks he was the leader of one of the more conservative parties in Yaltuvian politics.

He and Keith must be having a great time, Lance thought to himself with no small amount of amusement. He would have to remember to tease him about it later.

Lance's partner, whose name was Livith, had fallen silent a few minutes before. She seemed to be getting tired, and Lance didn't blame her- Yaltuvian dance songs went on forever. However that left Lance with a lack of entertainment while his body automatically completed the swaying motions of the dance, so to keep himself amused, he looked over Livith's head and watched Keith with his ridiculous mismatched partner.

Keith was looking straight down at his feet. Lance couldn't tell if it was to make sure he didn't screw up the dance or if he just didn't want to look at his partner, but either way it was kind of an amusing picture with the big alien practically glaring lasers into the top of his head.

They did a turn, and when Keith came back into view Lance noticed something. One of the shorter strands of hair from his bangs had escaped the braid and now fell over Keith's forehead. At first Lance wasn't too concerned (Hunk's had begun doing the same as soon as the dancing began), until he looked back at the alien's face and his breath caught in his throat.

He was glaring down at Keith's braid, and he did not look happy. No, he looked absolutely furious.

Mid-step the alien stopped dancing. When Keith crashed into his chest he sneered, and with one huge hand grabbed the entire braid and pulled, making Keith release a shout that froze the entire room in its tracks.

Lance left his partner without thinking twice about it, instinctively falling into a group with the other Paladins, as they'd been trained to do in dangerous situations. Everyone was watching as Allura took up the front position, her previously delicate expression twisted with rage, and the alien dragged Keith back towards them.

Dragging him by the hair, and the memory hit Lance like a punch in the gut.

"What is the meaning of this?" Allura demanded hotly when the alien was within earshot. Keith struggled against his hold, but half-heartedly, probably not wanting to cause any more of a scene than was already happening.

"His braid," growled the alien, like Lance had been fearing he would. "It's disgraceful! You dare come to our planet seeking our aid while displaying such disrespect?"

"Calthos," said the Crown Prince, still standing at Allura's side, "there is no need for this display. The treaty has already been signed."

Calthos opened his mouth again, but he made the mistake of tightening his hand and making Keith wince. Shiro's voice issued forth like a thunderbolt.

"Let him go. Now."

Despite his size advantage Calthos paused at the command, eyeing first Shiro, then Allura, then the Prince. This time he spoke more quietly, though with the same acidic edge to his tone.

"I demand repercussions for such clumsy craftsmanship-"

"He didn't do the braids," Lance cut in, finally saying what he'd wanted to say since he'd seen the alien get so angry. "I did. I did all of them. If it's messy it's my fault, not Keith's."

Again, Calthos visibly hesitated. After all, his entire party's reason to not join the alliance had been based on Keith's Galra ancestry- and if Lance was the one who screwed up the braid, his argument fell apart.

Eventually Calthos scowled and shoved Keith forward, releasing his hold and allowing him to rush over to Shiro. His face was distressingly pale, and his eyes darted from face to face around the room, as though expecting someone else to continue the attack.

"Fine," he spat at the Paladins. "History will prove our folly."

The expression on Shiro's face said he wanted to make Calthos regret his folly right that very minute, and exactly none of the Paladins would have been opposed. But for the sake of diplomacy they dispersed and allowed the matter to be resolved. Shiro took Keith home to the Castle, and for the rest of the night Lance tried to forget how scared he'd looked in Calthos' grip.


Keith didn't sleep well that night. Or the next. Or the night after that. And it was infuriating.

They'd long since left Yaltuvia's orbit. Their alliance secured, off to fight more evil-doers, everything was perfectly hunky-fucking-dory. Keith's brain just couldn't get the memo.

For the third night in a row Keith laid awake in his bed at three a.m., hugging his pillow to his chest and staring listlessly at the opposite wall. Having a week of sleeping well had ruined him, and now he felt like he was going to go out of his mind if he couldn't fall asleep within the next two minutes.

With a sigh he declared defeat and sat up. Still holding the pillow, he drew his knees up to increase the pressure, then thunked his head down on top of them with little care for the dull pang of pain.

This was so, so stupid. He knew this was going to happen, the whole time, he knew Lance wasn't his friend, that he was only spending time with him to help the war effort, and he told himself that, he told himself that every day.

And yet, someway, somehow, he still managed to be upset. Still managed to feel abandoned.

But what was worse was knowing he wanted it, and being afraid at the same time.

As much as he wanted contact, up to the point of moping in the middle of the night just because he wanted a hug, for God's sake, the thought of it also made him go cold. Calthos had reminded him how easy it was for people to turn on you, for good touch to go bad. Lance could've done that to him at any point, and with how vocally he declared his distaste for Keith, probably would if he ever allowed himself to be that vulnerable again.

He just had to accept it. Like with the lights- something was wrong with him and he'd just have to deal with it. Getting the itching tingle that ran down his spine and his neck to go away wasn't worth putting himself in that position again.

Well, he'd dealt with it for years. He could keep dealing.


Lance wasn't exactly surprised when Keith went right back to his old grouchy self as soon as they left Yaltuvia behind. He never mentioned Calthos or what had happened, trying to play it off as though he didn't care, but Lance could understand why it scared him.

What he didn't understand was how Keith was reacting to him.

After all of that hair braiding and Lance's (rather valiant, if he did say so) defense of him at the ball, Lance thought the two of them had… well… bonded. But if anything Keith was acting more prickly towards him, snapping at every little joke and prod and icily ignoring him every other time. Maybe not so abnormal to an outside observer, but Lance could see the difference. Keith was angrier before, Lance could see it in his eyes- angier, and more scared.

But the question remained- why?

"Why do you even care so much?" Pidge asked him after a day and a half of listening to Lance ramble about it. "Isn't he supposed to be your rival?"

"He is!" Lance insisted with an affronted huff. "But he's a part of Voltron, and I don't want any of his weirdness contaminating everyone else!"

It was a lie. Really the mystery behind Keith's strange behavior was driving him insane- and he also might've just cared. Sue him.

"I don't know what you're expecting to get from us," Hunk said with a rueful glance in Lance's direction. "Pidge and I are the last people who could give you an answer."

"Yeah," Pidge chimed back in, "Keith barely talks to either of us, and I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm not the best with people."

"I know, I know," said Lance with a sigh. Leaning back against the wall he cast his eyes to the ceiling, diving back into his memory for any bit of knowledge he had about Keith.

He's a piloting prodigy. He's a loner. He's Galra. He has that weird shoulder touch thing with Shiro. He's possessive of his knife. Lance could remember a comment from that Griffin kid, years ago, about Keith's parents, so maybe he's an orphan. He froze when someone hugged him unless it was Shiro, then he reacted like a kitten who had just encountered an electric blanket for the first time-

In an instant it all clicked together in his head. Sitting bolt upright, Lance shouted, "Keith is touch starved!"

Hunk and Pidge stared at him like he'd gone crazy, but after a few seconds Pidge's gaze softened into something sympathetic.

"That… actually makes sense," she murmured.

"Oh man," said Hunk, "that sounds awful."

"It would match the timeline," Pidge continued, staring through her computer screen rather than at it. "Last week he was getting a consistent amount of touch every day during your braiding practice sessions, and now he's not."

"So what do we do about it? Talk to Shiro?" Hunk was looking between Lance and Pidge anxiously, getting worked up already. Lance shot him an encouraging smile.

"Don't worry, I know what to do."


Lance marched purposefully down the hall towards Keith's bunk. With him he carried a duffle bag filled with everything he would need for the upcoming battle, which he predicted would go down in history as the most hard-fought victory in the universe.

He held his breath as he knocked on the door. Keith was unpredictable sometimes, it was entirely possible he was still on the training deck or had wandered off to some other part of the Castle. But thankfully he wasn't- only a few seconds after knocking the door slid open, revealing a very grumpy looking Red Paladin.

His expression twisted up when he saw Lance. "What do you want?" The scathing tone wasn't exactly encouraging, but Lance plastered a grin on his face anyway.

"Good, you're here!" he said, and without waiting to be invited, pushed past Keith's shoulder and into the room.

He would never get used to how bare Keith's room was- his own bunk was full of random knick knacks and pictures taken with locals all across the system. Hunk's room was a dragon's hoard of pillows and blankets and boxes of recipe cards, and Pidge's was, quite frankly, a biohazard. But the only thing Keith had to distinguish the room as his rather than just another empty bunk was his jacket, hung neatly on the wall near the door.

"What are you doing, Lance?" Keith asked in irritation as Lance deposited his duffle onto the bed. Lance ignored him and dug through his bag, producing hair brushes and combs and elastics in far greater numbers than he technically needed.

"I found something in the library earlier," he said when he could no longer stand Keith's gaze lasering into his back. "A big book of traditional Altean hairstyles. I wanna learn how to do them for Allura."

"Then why don't you practice them with Allura?"

Once the bag was empty of almost everything, Lance turned to face Keith with a pout. He was standing at least two feet away, arms crossed and body partially turned away. His body language shrieked defensive.

"Because I want it to be a surprise, duh."

In reality, Lance had specifically asked Allura if she had any such books, and she'd been more than happy to give it to him. But what Keith didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

It was slight, but Lance noticed when Keith faltered. He was gnawing on his lower lip, seeming conflicted, and eventually asked, "Well, how many are there?"

Lance smirked. With a flourish he reached into the bag and produced the book- a hefty volume of more than five hundred pages. He put it on the bed with a satisfying thwap as Keith stared with wide eyes.

"Well?" Lance prodded when he didn't immediately speak. "Are you in, or out?"

Keith hesitated a moment longer. Remembering the look on his face from the ball, Lance changed his approach.

"Look, I know what happened on Yaltuvia freaked you out." Keith immediately returned to his stone statue persona, but Lance pushed on. "And I get why you might not trust me entirely. But… do you remember what we talked about? What I said about my family?"

Keith gave a suspicious nod.

"Then you know how important this stuff is to me. I take it seriously. I'm still gonna kick your butt in training, don't get me wrong, but this is different."

Lance's comment about training got Keith to snort, which was the intended result. After another few seconds of consideration, his shoulders lost their tension.

"Alright," he said softly, "I'm in."

Lance couldn't contain his grin.

"Let's get to work."