They really did it.
The Galra's reign on the universe was over for the most part, and Keith couldn't be more proud of his team. A week had passed since Voltron (and the Atlas) ended the war. He wasn't able to see much of the other Paladins since most of them were basking in the joy of reunion. Waking up to his own mother at his bedside was incredibly surreal. To think that he spent most of his life wondering where she'd gone, and what she was like. Their bond in the Quantum Abyss almost made up for all the lost time. He truly loved her, and knew that she never stopped loving him.
Since Keith sustained the least threatening injuries of the group, he was up and about after the second day.
Meeting Hunk's and Lance's families was a bit overwhelming for him, but they regarded him with great hospitality and kindness. It was nice to be with the Holts again, plus Colleen. Through the short conversations, it was clear that Pidge inherited her strong will. Seeing his Altean friends in a meager hospital room on Earth was different, to say the least, but they seemed to be enjoying the change in atmosphere. Shiro was surprisingly doing much better than he has in years. He had a clear purpose again: orchestrating the whole planet's recovery. And despite losing Adam, he was keeping it together. Keith admired his strength.
By the end of the week, the families were finally okay with leaving the Paladins alone during the night. Coran, Krolia, Kolivan, Sam, and Romelle were using the time to aid in whatever ways they could. The Paladins convinced Shiro that he couldn't live every second awake, and that they wouldn't disappear when he finally agreed to sleep during the night. That only left Cosmo in Keith's room, and nobody had any other visitors past 9pm. It started on the fourth night, Tuesday.
Keith would sneak into Lance's room, crawling into the small bed and ignoring all half-hearted protests from the younger man. Keith's excuse: Lance's small seizure on the third day. The subsequent tests found that Lance was okay, and the cause was a miniscule brain hemorrhage that was tended to immediately.
"I just want to make sure that you live through the night," Keith hissed defensively as he wrapped his arm tight around Lance's waist. He didn't have the luxury of constantly giving Lance the cold shoulder anymore; not when he almost lost his dear friend too many times to count in the past month.
To this, Lance would smile affectionately. It was a bit weak from the exhaustion of the week's events, but it was still bright. "Head of Voltron, honorary Blade of Marmora; I didn't know that you added 'Night Nurse' to your resume."
Keith wanted to retort but a chuckle escaped his lips instead. "Not bad, McClain." He suddenly felt warm in his sweatpants and T-shirt, but invited it as he closed his eyes. "Not bad at all."
Over the next few nights, the pair pushed away most of their past "rivalry" (as Lance would call it) and shared countless stories of how they grew up. It seemed as though Lance completely juxtaposed Keith in every situation. While Lance was surrounded by a loving family, Keith always struggled for affection. Lance was always outgoing and unashamed, and Keith had to veil his insecurity with sandpaper attitudes.
By the sixth day, Lance was able to come into Keith's room. He had a petting session with Cosmo first, and teleported into each Paladin's room to say goodnight. Pidge begged Keith to let Cosmo stay in her room for the night and Keith didn't mind it much. Her yelling at him from down the hall about it was a bit much, but he knew that Cosmo was really growing on the team. He insisted on leaving him nameless, but their affection towards the wolf grew tenfold after they had something to call him.
After leaving Pidge's room, Lance made his way into Keith's bed as Big Spoon this time, slinging his arm over Keith's slender abdomen. Their time together was enlightening for both of them, and their friendship benefited from each anecdote.
It was past midnight but they couldn't seem to stop talking, Keith absentmindedly tracing shapes on the hand holding him in place.
"Hey," Keith started quietly. Lance turned Keith's body to face him after hearing the vulnerability in his voice. "When we were stranded in space-" Keith took a deep breath. Lance frowned expectantly, anticipating where Keith was going with this.
"No, Keith, I didn't mean what I said." Lance opened his mouth then closed it again, chewing on his bottom lip in thought. "I only meant half of it, is what I really mean."
Keith was wounded. Even though the past couple nights with Lance were fun and rather needed, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was still unwanted. And now he just has more fuel for the fire.
"Why are you here then?" Keith murmured.
Lance's brows furrowed in confusion, then his face was devoid of all expression as he understood his mistake. He wasn't at all specific.
"No! That's not what I meant!" Keith's focus shifted down to the sheets underneath them. The last thing he needed was Lance's pity.
"It's fine, Lance." Keith moved to sit up but Lance held his arm firmly, pulling him back down and scooting closer to him. Keith was surprised, glancing up to Lance's face, but couldn't look back down as he noticed Lance's panic. His baby blues were wide, darting between both of Keith's indigo eyes.
"You did run away, Keith. You have no idea how much that hurt me personally. I needed you." Lance looked down for a moment, furrowing his brows in concentration. "But when I said that you should have stayed away, I was just speaking out of anger and-well-space madness? Anyway, I do want you here, Keith. Really."
Keith suppressed the urge to scoff. The honesty in Lance's features was hard to argue with, but he still felt like there was something wrong; specifically, something that he himself did wrong. So Keith said nothing. His stare was lingering on Lance's nose, purposely avoiding his eyes.
Lance audibly gulped, gripping Keith's shoulder with a shaky hand. He was beyond shocked to see how glassy Keith's eyes had become. It was in that moment that Lance pieced together every little tidbit of his life that Keith shared over the past few nights. They weren't just stories anymore; it became clear how much emotional baggage Keith had to deal with by himself. Even more, the burdening pain that he still carried around like a prison sentence.
"Oh, man," Lance whispered as he pulled Keith tight against his chest. Keith initially protested, weakly pushing against Lance's body. But as soon as the first tear fell, he couldn't help but cling to the younger man in his bed.
"I promise I'm not the only one that still wants you here." Keith hid his wet face in Lance's neck, finding a strange comfort in his scent. "Our friends, the Blades, the whole world values you so much, Keith Kogane." A hiccup escaped Keith's lips and the dam ruptured. Lance held him tight as he sobbed, rubbing soothing circles into the small of his back.
Keith was sick of pretending not to care about what others thought of him. In reality, it always niggled at him like a tapeworm. No one was around when he'd break down like this. Not after his father died, or an especially tormenting school day, or a narrowly won battle with the Galra. Shiro didn't even know, yet here Lance was, soaking in every tear Keith shed and giving him more physical comfort he's ever had in his life.
Lance was used to comforting people. He wore his Uncle Badge proudly and it helped him relate to people on an empathetic level. So when he started to rock Keith in his arms gently, it felt natural.
"You're so important, Keith." Lance shushed him quietly. "When I died, there was only one regret in a sea of great memories. I really wished that I'd gotten to know you better instead of throwing the one-sided rivalry thing at you. There were so many-"
"What do you mean you died?" Keith gripped Lance's shirt tight in his fists, connecting their eyes worriedly.
"Right," Lance started. "So we were in this situation and it was a really big fight, and Allura-you know how Allura can be sometimes, Keith. And I couldn't just stand by, so I saved her and ended up dying."
Keith was horrified. He thought he couldn't cry fatter tears but Lance always proved him wrong.
"What the hell do you mean you died?" Keith all but yelled.
Lance's ears were red. He didn't want to make Keith feel worse; he didn't even think Keith would care so much. "I mean, I died. But Allura brought me back so we're even! It's okay, really, I'm okay!"
"Since when did Allura become Voltron's personal defibrillator, Lance! I can't believe you fucking died and didn't tell me!"
Keith was in hysterics now. It was surprising that nobody came to check in on them yet, but Lance wasn't going to let it get to that point.
He held Keith's face in his hands, wiping the free tears with the pads of his thumbs. "Breathe." The gentle command made Keith catch a small grip on the situation. Lance was alive and well, and he told him that Keith was on his mind when he died-when he fucking died. That fact alone made it a tad harder to get air in his lungs but it warmed his heart immensely. It had to have happened when he and Krolia were in the Quantum Abyss, and the first thing Keith said to Lance upon coming back was that he didn't have time for him. Jesus.
"I-I'm sorry, Lance," Keith whimpered. "I'm so so sorry I treated you like you were disposable."
"No. I projected so much of my crap onto you that I didn't even notice how...how-" Keith struggled to tame his hyperventilation, gripping Lance's shoulders.
Lance slipped one of his hands down to the nape of Keith's neck, grazing the hair calmly. "I know, Keith." The moment was almost electric. There was so much understanding and compassion shared in the silent gaze.
"We're okay now, Mullet," Lance whispered soothingly. "I mean it." Keith choked on a dry laugh and Lance had no choice but to take in how adorable Keith looked in the moment: his wet eyes were crinkled in a small smile while his pouty lips were trying their best to look serious. Lance beamed at him.
"Thank you," Keith breathed out quietly.
Lance nodded slowly. "De nada."
Steadily, they found their way back to lying down. Lance cradled Keith's head on his chest while Keith just held on. A silence washed over them for nearly a half hour. Right when Lance was about to doze off, Keith's raspy voice sounded.
"One time, I walked in on Adam and Shiro having..." Keith trailed off, thankful that Lance could not see his face. "...a moment, when I slept over at their place."
Lance was uncharacteristically quiet so Keith dared to peek up. Lance was smirking, asking a question with his eyes. "You don't mean-"
"Shiro seems like the type to keep going, even if his grandpa walked in on him." Lance was curling his fingers through Keith's hair.
"You're right, he didn't stop." Keith could feel Lance's laugh vibrate against his chest. His cheeks were warm and he was debating on whether or not he should continue. He took a calming breath.
"I was maybe fourteen or so," he paused, chewing on his lip. "But that was the first time I accepted that it was okay for me to like guys."
Lance's chest stopped moving. All was still for nearly ten seconds. Keith was already regretting his confession, but that was before Lance smiled broadly. "Damn, you were a late bloomer. I knew I was bisexy from the moment I learned the definition."
Keith blinked, shocked. It was really that easy? "And when did you learn the definition?"
"I was eight. One of my older cousins came out to me and I said, 'Yeah, Anita, same.'"
Keith's smile was slow but sure, and Lance followed suit. Once a snicker surfaced from Keith, he allowed himself to respond. "Of course you did."
The warmth between them was so comfy. Keith felt safe.
"I'm gay, by the way."
Lance flashed one of his signature smirks before closing his eyes and tilting his head up towards the ceiling. "I knew my gaydar was perfectly tuned." Keith shoved him playfully before getting comfortable in Lance's hold again.
"No way the ladies could steal that smolder before I had a chance to try." Lance mumbled quietly. Keith was back to blushing profusely, burying his face further into Lance's neck.
"Shut up, Shitshooter."
Keith smiled soundly to himself. He would overthink it for an hour to come, but he leaned up and kissed Lance's chin. He knew Lance was smiling still as he tangled their legs together. Keith allowed himself to close his eyes, whispering contentedly in the dark.