Things were not alright.
Keith had always longed to go to space. He had nothing left for him on Earth, so to fly, to leave, to be among the stars had made sense. He knew that was where he belonged.
But now he had left something behind on Earth, and he was beginning to hate space.
Keith had hated being with the Blades. It had been lonely, he'd rarely talked to others, and the mission was always put before anything and everything else. He'd received way too many lectures about not simply abandoning his teammates, even when everything worked out. It had made him long for Team Voltron where yeah, he may still get lectured, but it was usually from Lance about how he'd risked his life and he should trust his teammates to have his back more.
And now he was back with the team, but it felt more like his time with the Blades.
For starters, there were now a lot more people on board the Sekhmet than there had been on the Castle. For now, it was mostly non-combatant personnel to run the ship and make sure Coran didn't have to do every little thing. Most of the people who would actually fight were still on Earth being trained and would join them once the support fighters and other necessary ships had been built. The Garrison had started on them already, but all progress on them had been halted in favor of rebuilding the new castleship to act as their mobile base.
Unlike the other Paladins, the emptiness of the Castle had never truly bugged Keith and he hated that he could only find some peace and alone time in his own room and if he trained too much there was always someone there judging him.
And because there were so many new people on board, Keith found it hard to know them all. He'd never liked being in crowds in the first place. Now, he was constantly surrounded by strangers so he'd often retreat to the part of the ship that housed the Paladins and their closest friends.
But more than anything, the thing that reminded him most of the Blades and raised his uneasiness with their latest voyage into space was the tension that flowed within the team. It was palpable to all of them, but no matter what they did or what they tried to change, it persisted and affected each of them differently.
Hunk and Pidge got too caught up in their work. Sometimes they did this together when working in the lab, sometimes it was separately, with Hunk in his lab or the kitchen while Pidge camped out in her lab. Either way, neither was getting enough sleep and it was leading Hunk to more anxiety spirals and Pidge being even more snappish than usual. Keith couldn't even count the amount of times he'd gone to check on them and was met with a barrage of comments on his intelligence. It got old pretty fast so Keith had just given up on trying to reign them in.
Allura… She was putting on a pretty big confident front in front of everyone, but Keith had caught sight of her curled up in dark corners by herself, her hands shaking. He never would have expected it from her, and he didn't know how to deal with it. Usually, when he found her like that he would send Coran or the mice after her, but even the elder Altean did not seem as exuberant as he normally did. Romelle was a real boon here, as she seemed to be the only person who could make Allura smile as she asked about their shared culture.
Shiro tried to hold the team together, encourage everyone just like he always did, but he had his own problems. He'd had enough problems with PTSD from his time as a prisoner of the Galra, but the aftereffects from being trapped in the astral plane and the traces of the clone's memories made everything that much harder. Shiro kept feeling guilty for things he had no control over or that he wasn't even technically there for. Keith tried to be there for him, but Shiro still saw him as a kid, so Keith knew that he wasn't going to rely on them. Keith was almost glad that Adam and Shiro had reconciled, because he knew that Adam would make sure to look after him.
Well, Keith hated being in space.
He thought he'd grown up, he thought he'd matured while in the quantum abyss, but he found himself falling back into his old habits all too easily. He found his irritation rising way too easily when others seemed to be purposely obtuse, and he found himself snapping at others way too much (even if in the moment it seemed justified). He glared at the judgemental eyes of the new crew that he faced when he threw himself into his training since he didn't have anything better to do. He avoided Hunk and Pidge, and often found himself alone, though Kosmo kept him company in their stead.
Everything was just like before Voltron happened, except he now had a space wolf and his mom's number on speed dial as she returned to doing missions for the Blade.
Unfortunately, the tension didn't stop there as each of them dealt with their own problems.
Because when it started affecting Voltron they all realized how bad things had gotten.
The first time they tried to form Voltron since returning to space, they couldn't do it.
Shock rang silently over the comms as it fully hit them.
Except for at the very beginning, even with all the switches and interpersonal drama that had befallen them, they had never failed to form Voltron.
It failed the second time, the third time, even a fourth time, their efforts not being helped by having to dodge laser blasts from Galra ships and trying to explain to Coran, who was commanding their support on the Sekhmet, why things were taking so long. The fifth attempt, they finally managed to form Voltron, but their connection was as shaky as a newborn fawn walking for the first time. It had never felt like this ever before.
They did what had to be done, but Keith knew that he at least had been left feeling as unsteady as Voltron had. Especially as their formation had collapsed the moment the threat was dealt with.
And as the team gathered in their common room, most of them wide-eyed in shock, Allura was the only one whose face was filled with thunder.
It was a look Keith unfortunately recognized, from some of the most harrowing moments at the beginning.
"This will not happen again." Allura hissed. "It seems we must resume team training."
Hunk groaned and exchanged a look with Pidge. For the first time in a while, Keith knew exactly where they were coming from.
For a moment, he hoped that things would be better this time around.
If anything else, their attempts at team building made things worse.
They struggled to form Voltron, and even when they did, it usually fell apart soon after.
They began to learn how to fight without it.
The problems began to pile up as it wasn't just in the Lions that things were going wrong.
Due to the shift in their tactics, they were spending a lot more time in their individual Lions and on the ground. And sure, in the past, they'd done a lot of missions that required them to be out of the Lions, but even when he was with the Blade, Keith couldn't remember it being this hard to fight.
The team would easily get overwhelmed by the remaining Galra forces. It seemed like there were suddenly even more of them despite the fact that there should be a lot less still in the game to control the empire. Every time Keith turned, there were more forces for him to slash down.
Not to mention that their plans were suddenly going off the rails a lot more quickly. Sure, their plans had always had to change usually mid-battle, and they tended to finish things off by the seat of their pants, but now they weren't even able to complete simple infiltration missions.
All they were supposed to do was sneak in and have Pidge hack the computers and get current troop movements. Instead, Keith, Hunk, and Pidge walked right into an ambush, having forgotten to take care of the secondary cameras that picked up heat signatures and that there was a parallel corridor that the Galra could use to cut them off. Such a small detail that it felt like someone should have pointed out when they were planning.
That was the mission where things finally came to a head.
Pidge exploded the moment they returned to Sehkmet's hanger. Part of Keith was glad that it was her instead of him, because his anger had been simmering under the surface ever since they'd barely escaped, the Lions having to come rescue them in the nick of time.
"What the heck was that?!" She rounded on Hunk, eyes blazing. "How could you let them get the drop on us!"
Hunk balked at the accusation. "Me? Why are you blaming me?!"
"You're the one with a gun! You can give us distance and watch out for anyone approaching us!"
"It's a cannon! It's for crowd control and taking out large targets! You should know it doesn't help much in small spaces, especially if you guys insist on being so close to the enemy!"
"Oh, so now it's our fault!"
Pidge and Hunk devolved into bickering, their argument quickly getting more heated. Keith tried his best to sneak away, even as he could see Shiro and Allura making their way in, but Hunk's frustrations soon turned to him.
"And Keith? Do you have a death wish or something? You launched yourself at them!" Hunk accused him.
Keith balked. "You're getting mad at me for taking out a threat?!"
"No, it was reckless! You just dove right in there without a single thought and you weren't close enough for us to provide back-up!"
"Usually I don't have to worry about that!" Keith snapped, his temper flaring up and his fingers curling.
"Guys, what - " Shiro tried to intervene, but Pidge interrupted.
"Speaking of back-up, Lance, what were you - " Pidge blanched as her words hit her and it was like someone had opened an airlock.
The puzzle pieces fell into place, and Keith knew that he was not the only person whose eyes widened at the picture that formed.
A stunned silence rang through the hanger. It only took a moment before it became too overwhelming for Keith and he turned on his heel and walked out.
"Kei-" Shiro began to call out for him, but Keith cut him off.
Keith couldn't deal with it.
The reason for all of this was Lance.
Lance was the one who would make sure that none of them got too caught up in themselves and bad habits and coping methods. He was the one who would check on everyone and make sure they were all right.
Lance was the one who would try to release the tension with a joke or bonding activity, to make things lighter by just a little even when things were at their worst, even when they would snap and snarl at him despite relaxing at his words.
Lance was the one who would point out flaws in their plans, who would see the angles that they didn't see, even if they derided his points and made fun of him. He was the one who could make plans on the fly, adapting to what they had and/or needed, and would roll with the punches until they got through the crisis.
Lance was the one who would watch their backs in the field, probably taking out more targets than they would ever know. He would shoot down anyone before they even got near, before those on the ground could even notice them, and he would do it without thanks or thought about his own position.
Lance was the one who'd been there since the beginning, who'd been there for every formation of Voltron. He was the one who, now that Keith thought about it, had had a connection with every single one of them since the start, one way or another. He was the one who time after time would always bring them together.
Lance was the one who brought them all together in the first place when he spotted Keith from the top of a roof and decided that they all had to help rescue Shiro.
There was a buzzing in the pouch around Keith's waist, and he absently pulled out his ringing communicator as he stepped into his room.
INCOMING CALL… LANCE
A flash of heat ripped through Keith and he threw his communicator at the wall full force.
Luckily, Pidge had made their communicators as sturdy as an old-fashioned Nokia phone, so it just bounced off the wall and onto the floor before clattering to a stop. After a few seconds, the buzzing stopped, but after it vibrated in one last pulse, Keith knew he'd find yet another voicemail left on his phone.
Keith slumped against his closed door, the anger gone as quickly as it had come. He wiped his hand down his face.
"You thought you were the least important, the one who contributed nothing…" Keith muttered, mostly to himself, but his eyes settled on his phone.
Due to their negligence, Lance had left the team, sure that they'd be fine.
And yet without him, it seemed like all they were doing was falling apart.
Keith laid down on the couch, frowning at his communicator.
He'd listened to Lance's message. It was the same as usual: just updates on how training was coming, little anecdotes from Lance's day, something interesting that Lance had done with one relative or another. Lance frequently called, usually two to three times a week, but Keith could never bring himself to pick up. At first, Keith had still been some weird mix of angry and sad that he couldn't bring himself to face him. Then, as time went on, Keith didn't know how to apologize for ignoring his calls and he got an odd prickly feeling in his stomach at the thought of talking to him. It was better to just ignore Lance, and maybe Lance would get so busy that he'd forget.
Keith should've known better than to underestimate Lance's stubbornness. Lance still called and he always left a message that Keith would eagerly listen to later.
Keith tried to convince himself that it wasn't a big deal. After all, Lance called the others, too. This far from Earth they could only really get vocal and text messages, but every few weeks someone would talk about how Lance had gotten a call through to them.
Keith noted that no one else got as many calls as he did. He tried to ignore the way that thought made his face heat up.
It didn't matter though, because due to his awkwardness, it wasn't like Keith and Lance were going to talk anyway.
Keith sighed and closed his eyes, the hand clasping his space phone coming to rest on his forehead. He needed to figure out a way to get past this. After all, he did want to talk to Lance, but if he answered a call now, it'd just -
"You know, you can always call him, right?"
Keith jolted upright and whirled in the direction of the voice.
Adam didn't even look up from his book; he just raised an eyebrow in response to him as he flipped a page.
"Adam - how - how long have you been here…?" Keith stumbled, a blush rising at having been caught sulking.
At this, Adam looked up, confused. "I was here when you walked in." A smile tugged at his lips. "Then again, you were a bit engrossed in your phone."
Keith wanted to sink into the ground. He really had been caught up in his thoughts, but he should've been paying more attention.
"Anyway," Adam turned back to his reading, "if you really want to talk to him, you can call him. Or you could actually answers when he calls. Communication is a two-way street, and at least he's trying."
Keith glowered at Adam. Between Adam and Shiro, Adam had generally been the sensible one, especially when it came to relationships. Shiro really tried to be more sensible, and he may have fooled practically everyone, but Keith could remember him attempting to do stunts with a hoverbike to impress Adam, so it didn't really work with him.
However, Keith also remembered Adam and Shiro's break-up when Shiro decided to go on the Kerberos Mission and the days where they remained civil in front of him to seem normal but weren't talking otherwise.
So Adam really didn't have room to talk.
"Keith, I can hear you thinking from here." Keith jumped again at his words. "Don't make Takashi's and my mistakes. Talk to him."
Keith's eyes slid to his communicator again. "What if… what if he doesn't want to talk to me?"
He could feel Adam's deadpan stare even before he glanced up to see the man tiredly push his glasses up his nose. "Exactly how many times has he called you in the past week?"
"Besides, apparently he gets all mopey about you not answering him or calling. I'm pretty sure everyone would be happier if you just called him already."
Keith narrowed his eyes at him. "How do you know that? Does he call you?"
"Well, yeah." Keith's jaw dropped but Adam shrugged him off. "I was his advisor back at the Garrison, so sometimes I advise him. But he didn't tell me that you not talking to him is upsetting him.
"Veronica, on the other hand, does have a pair of eyes to see him moping though, and, as one does, she's eavesdropped on Lance whining to Rachel about you not calling."
A stirring of confusion went through Keith at who exactly Veronica and Rachel were, though the names sounded familiar, but he pushed it aside to weigh Adam's sincerity in his mind.
He knew that Adam was probably right.
Back when he was in the Blade, one of Lance's biggest complaints had been that he never tried to contact them, though he knew that Lance had at least attempted it via some stern, exasperated words from Kolivan about how Lance kept asking how he was and tried to break into a Marmoran communication frequency.
Even now, Lance was the one reaching out to Keith. Just like always.
And things had been at their best back when Keith had decided to meet him halfway.
That, more than anything, solidified Keith's resolve.
"Okay." He said quietly, and though he didn't look up again to see the smug approval probably on Adam's face, he knew it was there. "I'll answer next time he calls."
Adam chuckled, "You do that, kid."
Keith's grip on his phone tightened, even as a warm fluttering filled his chest at the thought of talking to Lance again.
He would talk to Lance. He'd make sure of it.
AN: So originally this was just one big Part 2. However, I have decided to split up my part 2 as there are some very distinct ideas in these parts. And the now part 3 is just, huge. There is a lot going on there. But I did want to try to finish this for Keith's birthday as he and Lance are the key players in this fic. So you'll get this part 2 on his birthday and I'll try to get part 3 out by this weekend.
Anyway, have some Adam. I know we don't have a lot to go on for him canon-wise, but I do like the headcanons that he was Lance's advisor while at the Garrison and that he, Shiro, and Veronica knew each other. He's a pilot but he also double majored in communications so he can do either. Someone on the crew once mentioned that Shiro is kinda a disaster similar to Lance when he was younger, so I like to imagine Adam as the cooler, actual chiller one until you get him riled up of the two. And yeah, you'd think Keith would recognize Veronica at least, but I feel like Keith is terrible with names and faces. I fully support that whole 'Keith didn't recognize Lance because he thought he was named Taylor and Lance had a growth spurt while he was gone' theory.
Also, have some pining Lance and Keith phone call angst courtesy of me reading Leopika fanfics and being inspired.