Taking My Life Back
Just some personal reflections, and I'm thinking about quitting / leaving Tumblr.
Read on if you care to know more about me personally and where my life is going.
Also I have some farewell thoughts for mutuals at the bottom of the post. (except for the ones I know IRL)
I'm not planning on deleting any time soon, but I just wanted to get some things off my chest.
I'll probably reblog this a time or two in the next few weeks, before I go.
I'm at a point in life, where I've grown frustrated with my failures and shortcomings. I'm trying to turn things around, and I'm beginning to think that might mean leaving Tumblr.
It's funny, I've always reblogged the things that say something to the effect of "Lol if this website comes crashing down, then I'll finally be free." Yet I've only been tempted to leave once or twice, until now anyways. I wanted a place to dump some thoughts in case anyone cared.
Anyways, let's dive into some disparate but connected thoughts.
It's always been weird watching different discourse fly by on my dashboard. I have insights that I occasionally think are valuable, but because of former interactions that didn't go so well (and the general nature of internet discourse) I have generally relented.
A while back I saw some posts fly around about spiritual trauma. Oh boy do I know a thing or two about that. I won't divulge many specifics and details, since I belong to the generation that was trained to be transparent about absolutely nothing on the internet. I agree with that general wisdom.
The long and short of it is that I was abused by my third grade teacher and by the principal (husband of the 3rd grade teacher) of my (Lutheran) grade school. I'm not going to elaborate on specifics.
The result of that abuse was that for five years of my life, I believed I was going to hell essentially because of the grudge this woman held against me. I tortured my own conscience about it daily, which made me quite the hypocritical pharisee. It also instilled in me a paranoid fear of teachers that lasted until about half way through college. To some extent, I still have a general paranoia around any sort of authority figure that I'm going to suffer abuse.
Those five years were the worst of my life. I inherited depression from my mom, which began to manifest during those years, and at the same time, I became less and less active to the effect that I became morbidly obese. In fourth grade, thanks to naive parents who don't know the first thing about technology, I was exposed to and (to my shame) I became addicted to pornography. It became my escape from the trauma, and I have no greater regret in my life than that. I would do anything to be able to go back in time to prevent that. In sixth grade, I began to self-harm, and was effectively an atheist. In seventh grade, I planned to take my own life. Funnily enough, that didn't happen because I got hit by a car. That broke my left leg, and on account of all the attention and care that my parents gave me, I didn't follow through with my suicidal plans.
In eighth grade things finally started looking up. In my confirmation class, I learned about what we Lutherans call "objective justification", the aspect of salvation that Christ's atonement is an objective fact that remains true regardless of my experiences or emotions. My pastor said that Jesus died on the Cross for the sins of the world, for my sins, and that no matter what anyone says, they can't take that away from me. That gave me life. I was set free. I remember the tears and feeling of relief very vividly.
As an individual my highest allegiance is to the gospel itself. Christ gave me my life back to me, so now I want to give it back to him. I wouldn't be here right now without the gospel. For that reason, I am studying to be a pastor.
I'm still a part of the church body I was raised in (WELS), despite the abuse. I can differentiate the human abuse I suffered from my Savior who has never done me any wrong. My heart goes out to anyone who has suffered similar or worse abuse. My heart weeps that Satan would use those within the visible body of the church to abuse and drive away Christ's lambs. My encouragement to anyone who has gone through something similar is that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) I'd also encourage you to read Romans 8. My experience led me to choose Romans 8:28 for my confirmation verse. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
The other topic on my mind that pops up in Tumblr discourse is pornography. I can happily report that I am 17 days clean. My prayer is that I never fall again.
I've seen things go back and forth about how terrible porn is. I agree with that from experience. It's made my depression worse, made me a worse person, and made my life miserable. I get it. I also understand that it is horribly destructive to the women involved, often literally disfiguring them for life. It's gruesome, evil, wretched, and tragic all at once. It makes my stomach turn into knots just thinking about it.
But there's a fair amount of posts that seem to go too far. If you are disgusted by porn addiction, if you decide you don't want to marry a man who has fought this sin whatsoever, that's perfectly fair and fine and reasonable. I'm not complaining about that sentiment. But I've also seen things that suggest people who struggle with porn are sub-human or that they should be cut off from love and relationships. The idea that a porn addiction means you have no hope and are effectively a wild animal that needs to be put down.
It's demoralizing to see. It makes me question why I should fight the good fight, if common consensus is that I've become worthless and less than human already? It saddens me that I've seen this sentiment posted or reblogged by self-professing Christians.
Does Christ not cover this sin with his blood? Or have I crossed the line of your own personal justice, so as to deny me the saving work of the Son of God? Christ died for porn addiction. If the statistics are right that upwards of 70% of men use porn, do you think dehumanizing them really encourages them to quit?
Porn deadens people to the world around them. It sucks the joy out of life, and it destroys people. I'm not saying that it isn't sin. A sin is a sin is a sin. Christ is very clear in the sermon on the mount that lust is paramount to adultery. What I am saying is that by demonizing the people who use porn without qualification, you aren't crushing the stone hearts of the unrepentant, you are discouraging those trying to escape hellfire.
I'd just like to see more positivity. I'd like to see brothers who can thank God that it's been years since they last looked at porn. I want to be free myself. I want to hear about healing and forgiveness. I want hope.
Part of it too is that I didn't choose this. I was a traumatized kid who didn't know a damn thing. The first time I saw porn, it was because I made a typo that took me to some weird website that wasn't even in english. It confused and scared me. It made me feel things I didn't understand. But it made me forget the pain, so I came back. And so I fell into its demonic grasp.
It doesn't do anything now to blame my parents for not monitoring my internet activity. I acknowledge my sin and take responsibility for it, but at the same time I can't shake the feeling that I wouldn't have sought out a substance to abuse if I hadn't been abused myself. I know I'm not the only one. Like it's funny, I'll see posts that weep for the children who are exposed to porn, but then there's no mercy for those children once they've grown up and found themselves stuck in the pit of addiction.
Maybe it just comes down to the fact that demographically, Tumblr is overwhelmingly female. So maybe it's just a venting chamber for that frustration. In that case maybe I should just leave.
It also doesn't help that the porn-bots have come back. They alone are reason enough for me to quit Tumblr. I'm trying to cut out every stumbling block in my life, so maybe that's good enough reason.
[[If someone is reading this who happens to be struggling with that addiction I have three pieces of advice for you:
1. Read Scripture every day. Discipline yourself to value the word of God. One of the things that shocked me into taking this battle seriously was the realization that I had probably spent more time looking at porn one year than I had been in God's word. Read the Psalms, learn them as your own prayers. If you need a place to start, read John's Gospel. I'd also recommend the prayer discipline known as the Sons of Solomon (see sonsofsolomon.net for more info).
2. Have an accountability partner. If you are a Lutheran (or Catholic or Orthodox, or a denomination that practices confession & absolution) go to your pastor and ask him to forgive your sins for Christ's sake. There is a form of Confession in just about any Lutheran hymnal. Use that. Or google Luther's short form of confession and use that. Hearing the gospel pronounced over your sins is the motivation you need to fight the good fight. Christ has overcome your sins on the cross. Return now to your baptism where you were buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life.
3. Fortify. I got an app for my phone called fortify. If you make the most of it you'll have useful statistics and information for your own habits fighting this sin. It's made me aware of triggers to avoid, habits to break, and wholesome patterns of behavior to fill the void of time. It's encouraging for me, for example, to look back and see that so far this year I fell 66 days, but I've been clean 156 days. That's 70% clean.
Brothers, I am praying for myself, for you, and for all who fight this sin. May Christ strengthen us to overcome and win the victory.]]
Another edge to this is productivity and the deadly sin of ακηδια, or acedia, also known as sloth.
I'm fat and I know it. I have depression and I know it. I'm a fairly miserable and passive person, and I know it. I've wasted away years of my life on the internet, playing video games, and watching anime. I'm not in a position to claim that any of those things are individually sinful, but I know that my abuse of them has been.
Looking back, I wish I did sports in highschool. I'm broad shouldered enough to be a football player or a wrestler. I'd be in better shape physically, mentally, and probably socially. In general I didn't interact much in highschool or make many friends. I just kind of had spite toward everyone in my life, myself included.
I never did those things, because in highschool I was still working through depression (not diagnosed until senior year, when I had a nervous breakdown and then laid in bed for two weeks in January of that year.)
To some extent, I recognize I'm a victim. I also recognize that wallowing in the pain and regret and guilt, etc. doesn't help me. I've been trying to take steps to move on and move upwards in life. But it just keeps coming back to the fact that I waste way too much time.
In general, I'm tired of my own apathy. I think by and large my consumption of digital media, video games, and the internet are to blame. I want to take a step towards better using my time and finding things.
Life has been getting better. College was the best experience of my life, and somehow, Seminary has been even better. I've been making friends. I've been getting more active (I lost 40 pounds last year). I've been reading scripture more and more. It's just been a positive trajectory. I want to make the most of this. I've reached a point where I feel myself at another threshhold.
Tumblr doesn't take up the largest portion of my wasted internet time. No that goes to Youtube. But nonetheless, I'm at a point where I think it's maybe time to let this go. God-willing I'll receive a call and be ordained as a Pastor in the summer of 2024. I honestly don't want to be on this site still when I'm a pastor.
One last thing, if this is my last post, (I mean I've still got stuff in the queue, but if this is the last post I make) then I've got things I'd like to say to people I've followed / mutuals. If you'd like to keep up with me or talk with me, just DM me. I am unsure whether I'll delete this blog, even if I leave.
- You get to be the top of the list because you are the closest thing I've had to a friend on Tumblr. Somehow I've been on this site for a decade, and yet we haven't ever no-really talked. If you'd like to keep in touch, DM me. I'm bad at keeping up with people online, but you seem like a heckin' cool dude and I'd love to talk. I wanted you to know that I've been praying for you through the years, and I really want things to go well for you. I've appreciated every word we've shared. It's been really encouraging to me. I also appreciate your experiences and perspective.
- I think I've talked to you more than anyone on this website. I wanted to take a moment to say that I've read your posts about your personal struggles, and I've always said a prayer for you when scrolling through. A few times I've reached out to offer an encouraging word, and I honestly wish I did this more often. I am praying that you find contentment with your station in life. I really want you to be happy, that you find someone to share love and joy with for the rest of your life. I don't know if you are in church or not, but I'd encourage you to go the Lord's house. I pray that you find a good pastor who can help you spiritually.
I was going to message you, but I procrastinated on that for years. I remember when you posted (or maybe she posted?) that you and Shenzi were a thing. I was going to send you a message wishing you the best, but I never did. And then I found out you were going to marry this woman, and I was finally going to say something. But somehow I never did. Then I was going to write a devotion and encourage you with God's word when I heard about the legal trouble with your military situation, and then I never did. Now that storms seems to be passing (maybe) and I still haven't said anything. I think you're a really cool dude. I admire you for joining the military, and I look up to you as an example of masculine virtue. Honestly, reading you talk about that is what in part has inspired me to work out and start taking better care of my body - so thank you for that. I feel like you could have been one of my best friends, but I never took the opportunity to get to know you. A while back I saw Shenzi reblog a joke post about having a table of Tumblr friends at a wedding. I kid you not, if I were invited to the wedding, I'd come. I pray that you and Shenzi have a wonderful future together, and it's been a pleasure to have you as a friendly acquaintance on this website. The little bits of encouragement we've swapped back and forth have meant a lot to me. I still grin every time I see your profile picture.
- From our interactions I sense a kindred spirit in you. If there were opportunity, I'd love to just vibe to Rush sometime or chill and talk. I keep trying to come up with more to say, but I'll simply say what I'm going to say to everyone. I pray for you and wish you the best.
- I think of all the people I follow, I appreciate your sense of humor the most. You are another fellow I wish I had actually talked to on this website. I wish you the best.
- Thank you for your work on Tumblr, if I can call it that. I've been plenty more equipped as a prolifer to have conversations and direct people to resources because of reading stuff you've posted. I've also prayed for you and your husband and hope life goes well. I've also appreciated your dialogue with other Christians on here. It's given me a broader perspective on how to engage in dialogue with non-lutherans, a skill I did not have at all when I first joined. Without knowing it you've better equipped me as a future pastor, thank you.
- I think you're a really cool admirable person. I admire how articulate and principled you are. I want to imitate your integrity. I envy your energy and patience. I've seen you put up with some truly infuriating and baffling discourse, and yet you almost always seem to keep your composure and say something good and useful. In some ways you even intimidate me. Maybe it's just one of those effects of only knowing of someone through social media, but I genuinely think you are an ideal woman. I pray for your future endeavors, and I wish you the best. When I've talked to people irl and somehow (God forbid) Tumblr came up, I've always thought of your blog as a good enough reason to be on this site.
- I'm glad that you found Christ, and that in your zeal you have shared your Savior on this platform. We've talked a little bit, and I was glad to have those conversations. I hope and pray that all goes well as you seek to serve God and pursue a truly Christian life.
If you read this, leave a like or let me know. Again if you want to stay in contact, DM me and I'll give you my discord or maybe even my phone number.
Here is my gift for @twintailwife for @sheragiftexchange ‘s Easter exchange! I’m sorry it took so long to get to you, but I hope you like it! I haven’t watched season 2 yet so you don’t have to worry about spoilers ^^
Relationship: Catra&Entrapta (though you could see it as shippy if you’d like)
Despite Entrapta being promoted from prisoner to lead engineer, Catra’s job as her babysitter (for lack of a better term) remained much the same. The constant whirring of machines filled the room. The nerdy princess alternated between muttering to herself, recording her thoughts, and practically yelling when she thought Catra might be interested in how her work was coming along. Which she was, kinda. Well, she was interested in the end result. Well, the end result of this particular project. It was supposed to be a gun that fired— as far as Catra understood— Black Garnet laser restraints, like the device that shut off that one princess’s powers (what was her name? Glitter?) but in a neat, portable form.
“Catra, check it out!” was the only warning she got before a glowing net was sent sailing towards her. She dove onto the floor just in time to see the netting’s pattern burned into the box she had been sitting on.
“Watch it!” she glared at Entrapta, her ears pressed flat against her head.
Entrapta ran over to inspect the damage “Sorry! I thought I’d finally got it to shoot hard-light.” She held out a tendril of hair to help Catra up, which was quickly batted away.
“Am I seriously just your guinea pig?” Catra asked as she stood up, checking herself over in case she didn’t fully dodge the blast.
Entrapta shrugged, “I dunno, I figured I should try and get you involved since you’re always here.”
“ ‘Since I’m always here’— you know this is my job, right?” she asked, pinching the bridge of her nose, “Like if I had a choice, I wouldn’t be spending my free time watching you talk to yourself and, like, occasionally handing you a wrench.”
Her face fell, “Oh. Yeah. I guess that makes—” Suddenly, Entrapta shot her a confused look, “Wait, if this is your free time, why don’t you do something you actually like?”
“Because the Horde doesn’t like us being idle?” she said, strolling back to her now-charred seat. “Besides, when I was a cadet I’d be put on cleaning duty so this is wayyyyy better. Now I’m your ‘research assistant’.” she gave the word air quotes and a roll of her eyes.
“Well,” Entrapta began, grabbing the gun from the floor and walking back to her workbench, “I don’t need an assistant, so go do something fun.”
“I would if there was anything fun to do in the Fright Zone.”
The sound of her slamming the wrench down made Catra’s hair puff up in surprise. She hurriedly smoothed her tail as Entrapta turned around. She wasn’t angry, just shocked, her purple eyes wide in disbelief. “There’s nothing? No games or books or” the princess wrinkled her nose, “sports?”
“I mean I guess we kinda make our own games. I remember we used to blindfold Kyle and make him guess who’s socks he was— “
“That just sounds like bullying. You mean you don’t even have sports?”
“What’s a sport?”
Without answering her question, Entrapta whirled back around. She used her hair to grab a box of scrap that was sitting nearby. “Catra, we have to fix this!”
Curious, Catra went over to the workbench and watched over her shoulder as she pulled out seemingly random bits of metal and circuitry. “Are you...gonna make a sport?”
With a proud smile, Entrapta pulled down her mask “We’re gonna do something better. We’re gonna make a video game.”
Catra nodded, though the words meant nothing to her. “And what about the gun?”
A lock of purple hair tapped her on the shoulder. “I can multitask!”
At first, Catra simply waited as the creation took shape. Coming over from her usual perch every so often to watch the princess’s deft hands at work. She knew Entrapta was too proud to mind having an audience. In fact, she seemed to gleefully accept it, providing details and answering any questions Catra may have had— about the gun, that is. When she asked what the Video Game was, or what its screen would be tuned into, or what the knobs and buttons were for, all she got in response was a cheeky “You’ll see!”
One day, as Catra walked in, a new prototype of the gun was thrust into her arms. “I think I’ve gotten the hard light to work! Can you take that to the training deck and test it on some bots?”
“Hi to you too.” Catra smirked, inspecting the supposed new and improved weapon. The outer casing looked the same as the one that nearly cooked her, maybe its barrel was a bit wider, but she supposed all the important changes were on the inside anyway. She put the sling over her shoulder, “Sure thing. You gonna give me one of those dumb little recorder things you’re always carrying or does the ‘research assistant’ have to settle for a pad and pen?” she said, shrugging the gun into place to free her hands for air quotes.
“I didn’t think of that,” Entrapta said, looking around the lab (with each passing day, it looked less like a place of work and more like an exploded cargo ship). When she resorted to checking the floor, something else caught Catra’s eye.
The Video Game sat unattended on an empty crate-turned-desk. Its screen glowed faintly, with long blocks of letters and numbers scrolling through it. What was it? Some kind of secret code? Head tilted curiously, she started walking towards it. A loud thud and sudden squeak of pain pulled Catra’s attention away from the strange device.
“You okay?” she asked, suppressing a laugh as the princess climbed out from under a table, rubbing her head.
“Yeah. I couldn’t find anything. It’s not very scientific, but I think I can trust you just to remember the results, right?”
Remember them? Yes. Know what to look for and what it meant? Probably not. Still, when she returned after the trial, Entrapta seemed pleased with her report. The nets were solid, though they still left scorch-marks on her targets and the gun couldn’t fire more than five times in a row without overheating. (She pushed it past its limit actually, Entrapta later told her that one of the internal components straight-up melted at the edges.)
And so, for the first time since she’d been forced to do it, being Entrapta’s research assistant was almost enjoyable. Nearly every time Catra went down to the lab, she’d be given a new prototype (and at least five minutes of rambling about its improvements, which she slowly began to understand) and sent to mess around with some robots. When she came back, she’d sit on the princess’s desk and they’d talk about what needed improving. (Even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye on that— apparently completely vaporizing your enemies was a step back instead of forward since it was supposed to be a nonlethal weapon.)
One day, Entrapta decided to follow her to the training deck. “I think we’ve finally perfected it!” she said, eagerly shoving the gun in Catra’s waiting hands. She continued with a smirk, “And coincidentally, your video game has just been completed too.”
“Something tells me it’s been ready for a while.” Her tone wasn’t accusatory, it was playful if anything, but when Entrapta answered, she sounded almost ashamed.
“Yeah...It’s just that progress was going a lot smoother now that I had someone experienced with weapons to test out the prototypes and—”
“Hey, hey, it’s cool. Juuust make sure you tell Hordak I had a hand in this too.”
Her face brightened at that, “Definitely! Now come on, let’s go take it for a spin!”
Being the final test, Catra should have expected it to be more boring than the others. No explosions, no runaway lasers, no melting parts, just results. The hard light it fired had turned red with the Black Garnet’s influence. The “nets” crackled and popped with excess energy, but Catra’s targets stayed perfectly still within them. When they were all down, Entrapta ran out to inspect each one, muttering into her recording device.
She couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride when the princess turned around cheered, “I was right, we did it! It works perfectly!” When she ran back, Catra half-expected to be hugged by her prehensile pigtails. Thankfully, Entrapta kept her hands (and hair) to herself. “Thanks for your help! I’ll make sure Hordak knows you get twenty percent credit!”
“Aw, twenty? Come on, you said I was vital to this project’s success. Gimme fifty.”
“I never said that! I mean it’s true, but I didn’t say it. Thirty is as high as I’ll go.”
Catra leaned in with a wry grin, “Sixty.”
Entrapta crossed her arms, “All you did was shoot the gun, why are you being so—” Catra cut her off with a laugh.
“Nah, sorry, I’m messing with you. Tell him whatever you want.” She slung the gun onto her back. “Let’s just head back to the lab before any cadets hear us and start asking questions.”
The transaction was quick, Catra had barely stepped foot in the lab before Entrapta got back to her with the Video Game. It felt rushed, but she really didn’t have another reason to stick around, did she? That geeky princess already held her up for longer than she should have anyway. Now Catra had something to do. Something weird that nobody in the Horde knew about, so they couldn’t even tell it wasn’t work.
She held the device, messing around with the knobs and buttons experimentally. The screen was blank, but that was just because it wasn’t turned on yet. “So what is this, now that I can know?”
Entrapta looked up from her notebook, where she was writing down the end results of the prototype at lightning speed, “It’s Dread! Or more accurately, I’ve built a discreet, custom handheld console that runs Dread. It’s not my favorite game, but I’ve seen calculators run it and given that I didn’t have a lot of time and resources dedicated...” she prattled on for a bit, eventually trailing off when she realized Catra had absorbed none of that. “Uh, well you use the buttons and control stick to control the character on screen and kill monsters. If someone comes by, there’s a button on the side that you can press to pause the game and make it look like you’re video chatting with a force captain out on the field.”
Catra nodded, “Wow, that’s a lot. Thanks. ” Even if she didn’t wind up liking it, it deserved a fair shot. This was, technically, her reward for being a good assistant.
“No problem! And now you can actually have fun when you’re not working instead of being stuck here all the time.” Entrapta added with a laugh.
Catra wasn’t sure how to respond to that, but she didn’t seem to need to since the princess returned immediately to her work like the conversation never happened. She left without saying goodbye.
Dread was hard. It was stupid and cheap and kept her on her toes the whole time. All that considered, Catra was surprised how much she liked it. At the end of every level (she assumed, since she had yet to pass the first one) there was a “boss” and the “boss” was a whole new kind of challenging. But much like a real battle, once she knew what she was up against, the path to victory was pretty clear.
As the beast roared and explosions rang out across the screen, she felt...oddly proud for having basically nothing. She put down the console and turned around, words already falling out of her mouth before she could stop them “Hey Entrap— “ Right. Entrapta was several floors below her. She wasn’t her unwilling lab assistant anymore. She was by herself, in her bunk. Which, all things considered, was exactly what she wanted.
And yet she found herself headed down to the lab anyway. Because it was quiet in her room. And even though she could hide it, the sound would still give away that this was some sort of game. The near-constant whirr of machinery and Entrapta’s comments would drown it out just fine.
Tentatively, she opened the door, fully expecting Entrapta to ignore her. Instead, she spun around in her seat and waved one of her pigtails at her. “Hey Catra, how’re you liking the game?”
“It’s fun.” tension Catra didn’t even know she had suddenly melted away. “I managed to beat the first boss, actually.”
“Really? Great job! Hey, uh, since you’re here,” she hesitated, twiddling her thumbs nervously. Catra tilted her head. “Would you mind helping me test something?”
She shrugged, but couldn’t suppress the smile on her face as she put down the console. “Yeah, I mean, since I’m here, why not?”
Enough - Shance Fluff
Read here or on AO3.
Shiro’s eyes tracked Lance, as they always did, as he danced across the training deck, weaving and dodging around Keith’s and Pidge’s relentless assaults. The three of them sparred with long training staves, the loud crack of them connecting with one another interspersed only occasionally with the softer thud of them slapping against an exposed thigh or across the backs of shoulders. Pidge and Keith swung at Lance in tandem, and Shiro sucked in a soft breath as Lance bent himself in half and slipped between them like he was doing the limbo, his lips set in a thin line of concentration. He planted the butt of his staff against the ground and shoved away as Keith whipped his own stave around in a counter attack. The end of Keith’s stave barely missed Lance’s chest, but it was a miss nonetheless. Shiro watched Keith’s brow crinkle, though he didn’t have a chance to dwell on the failed attack, because Lance was advancing on the both of them, twirling his stave like he was in colour guard.
Keith brought his stave up and blocked the attacks while Pidge attempted to jab at Lance’s legs. So quickly that Shiro’s eyes couldn’t quite process it, Lance delivered two strong hits to Keith’s stave and then cracked down on the top of Pidge’s, then whirled and hit the bottom of it and pushed, forcing her to spin it upward. He brought his stave down and swept her feet out from under her, then brought it across her chest so that she stumbled against Keith. Keith maintained his balance, but just barely. As he fought to stay upright, he wrapped an arm around Pidge and took a step back, eyes going wide when he felt his ankle collide with Lance’s stave, which was poised to knock his feet from beneath him.
Shiro exhaled a soft breath he’d been holding and he felt his chest swell and grow tight. At first, Lance retained a stoic expression, and then his character fell into an easy grin. He stepped forward and held Keith steady while Pidge righted herself, scowling. Lance grasped Keith’s arm, and his eyes crinkled up as his grin widened. Keith smirked back at him, returning the friendly grip.
“You’re a quick learner with these staffs,” he said. Lance shrugged, but the smile didn’t leave his face.
“I guess since my bayard took this shape, it’s come to me a little easier. It’s nice to have something more hand-to-hand so I can actually be useful in a fight,” he said, patting the blue bayard by his side.
You could never see a day of combat and you’d still be so invaluable, Shiro thought to himself.
“About time,” Keith joked. Shiro knew it was spoken completely in jest, that Keith knew exactly how important Lance was to the team, but when he saw the corner of Lance’s mouth twitch so minutely, he wanted to pull him away and shower him in every kind truth the boy deserved.
But he wasn’t really a boy anymore. They’d been in space for approximately two years now, give or take some months. It was difficult to keep track of Earth time in deep space, probably trillions and quadrillions of light years away from their home. Lance was probably twenty two, if Pidge’s Earth calendar was even somewhat accurate. He’d grown taller and broader, his musculature lean but strong. His blue eyes still shone with mirth, but layers of the shit they’d all seen left a haze sometimes. Shiro wanted nothing but kind truths and a gentle, quiet life for Lance, but that wasn’t in their cards.
And somehow falling in love was?
At least, it was one of Shiro’s cards. A colourful tarot card with Lance’s face on it, holding a bow in one hand and a knife in the other, fell into his palm maybe a year ago. He held onto it, barely able to comprehend what it meant, until he looked up and saw Lance. Lance, pestering Pidge as she worked on a new upgrade for the Green lion. Lance, sprawled on the couch with Hunk and talking about their time in the garrison. Lance, brushing out Allura’s hair and humming a song to himself. Lance, laying down lightning fast cover fire to keep Keith safe as he hacked away at enemy sentries. Lance, head bent and frown in place as he and Coran worked out their next plan of attack.
And he’s absolutely one of the most beautiful people Shiro has ever seen, on top of everything else. What chance did Shiro ever have, anyway?
Was it inappropriate? Sure. Shiro was a leader, the head of Voltron. For all intents and purposes, a commanding officer, despite not being that much older than Lance. But Shiro was nothing if not good at learning, and one constant lesson that kept cropping up no matter where they were in the galaxy was that when love presented itself, one should seize it and hold fast.
So as Keith and Pidge made their way to the weapon racks to put their staves back, Shiro crossed the room, grabbing a fresh water bottle and towel and approached Lance. He was leaning on his stave, staring at nothing. Shiro tossed the towel at him. Lance startled, but his reflexes were quick, and he caught the towel before it hit the floor. He blinked up at Shiro, and his face relaxed into a small smile.
“That was amazing to watch, Lance. You were incredible,” Shiro complimented.
Lance inhaled sharply, his eyes careful and his lips quirking into the barest of smiles.
“Oh, thanks Shiro.” He took the water bottle that Shiro offered, uncapping it and taking several long drinks from it. He brought the bottle away from his lips with a smack, dragging the back of his hand across his mouth. “Did you want to spar?” Lance offered, raising one eyebrow slightly. Shiro wondered why he’d ask like that, like he was confused about something, but then he realised that he probably was staring at Lance with a rather stupid look on his face. He blinked and shook his head.
“Oh! No, I just got done hand to hand with Hunk and he really didn’t go easy on me,” he chuckled. Lance smiled at him.
“Okay. Well, I’m going to go wash up,” he said. The smile on his face fell a little, and Shiro tipped his head to the side almost imperceptibly. But Lance had started walking away from him already, his long legs carrying him away from Shiro quickly.
“Maybe tomorrow, Lance?” Shiro called, taking a step toward him. Lance paused, twisting around and looking back at Shiro. “Maybe you could show me some, uh, techniques tomorrow?” he asked hopefully. The small half smile graced Lance’s lips again, and he gave a short nod.
“Sure, Shiro.” He gave a little wave with his staff, and then turned away again. Shiro watched him walk away with more than a little wistfulness in his gaze. This was going to be harder than he thought.
The next opportunity Shiro found was a week later. Allura had ordered the Paladins to find each find an activity to do by themselves, that didn’t involve even being in the same room as the others. Her purpose behind this was that everyone needed time to move in and out of their own head and center themselves. She insisted on it, and finally convinced them by assuring them that she and Coran would be doing the same.
Hunk left to tinker with the training bots, and Pidge cooped herself up in the Green Lion’s hangar. Keith took Red out for a joyride, Coran was in the kitchen, and Allura found a corner of the ship’s small library and curled away there. Lance had waved at his teammates and then wandered off down a corridor, hands stuffed into the pockets of the jacket that somehow still fit, though it didn’t hang so loosely on his frame anymore. Shiro grabbed a datapad and cast a sidelong glance at the blue paladin as he left the commons. He hefted the datapad in his hand, pursing his lips at it once Lance wandered out of sight. He thought about opening the reader Allura helped Pidge develop, so that he could learn Altean. He toyed with the idea of poring over the latest reports from their previous mission. He thought about training.
“Nope,” he said aloud to himself, tossing the datapad to the couch. He stretched his arms upward and set a course for his bedroom. He left the door open, but turned the lights off. He toed off his boots and swapped out his black clothes for softer, looser fitting lounge clothes. He pressed down the slight feeling of “you should be doing something productive!” and squirmed around beneath the blankets until he was completely comfortable. He allowed himself a quiet, happy sigh before he threw an arm over his eyes and committed himself properly to a nap.
He had no nightmares.
He was grateful for it, but there were also no pleasant dreams, either, which meant that when he woke up, it seemed like only five minutes had elapsed. But there was Hunk in his doorway, hands clean but arms covered in grease and a few small scratches. He leaned against the doorframe, smirking playfully at Shiro.
“Mmm,” Shiro mumbled, rubbing at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His voice was rough from sleep, and he arched his back, satisfied that it didn’t pop or creak. “-time is it?”
“Almost dinner time,” Hunk answered with a shrug. He ignored Shiro’s sleepy grin - there were no clocks in space, ticking the time by in increments of twelve. Asking for the time had become something of an inside joke between them, and a way to remember that Earth was still a part of them. “Everyone is back except you and Lance. I found you first, but...”
“Coran is cooking and I just don’t trust him in my kitchen, man,” Hunk sighed, crossing his arms. Shiro chuckled and threw back the blankets, suppressing a shiver at the lack of warmth. He didn’t really want to leave his bed, which was rather comfortable despite its stark appearance, but the thought of seeing Lance spurred him into action.
“Go take care of Coran, I’ll find Lance.” He stuffed his feet into his slippers, the Black Lion ones that Lance had found and insisted that he wear. He wished Hunk luck in the kitchen and wandered off to search for Lance. Logically, he made his way to Lance’s room, but found it empty. The bedsheets were rumpled and on it lay his signature green jacket, his jeans, socks, and shirt. So he was running around naked somewhere. Great. Shiro cleared his throat with a little cough and turned away from Lance’s room, making his way down to the Blue Lion’s hangar. Blue stood tall and proud, still and cold. Shiro concentrated on his connection to his own lion - he’d discovered that, due to his bond with Black, as the leader of the lions, he was able to sense, to some small degree, the other lions as well. Red was still rumbling happily from her recent outing with Keith, but Green, Yellow, and Blue were silent. Lance hadn’t been through to see her this afternoon.
Shiro left the hangar and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his lounge pants, wandering up the corridors of the castleship at random until he found himself at the observatory. He stepped into the room and looked around, and sure enough, found Lance. The blue paladin had earbuds in his ears and was dressed in all black yoga clothes - a tank top and black cropped pants that stopped just below his knees. Tight black pants, Shiro noted, swallowing. Tight and stretchy looking. Well. He was about to say something, see if he could avoid startling Lance too badly while still getting his attention, but Lance folded his legs and sunk to the floor, his back to Shiro. He laid down on his back with his arms flat on the ground, and then brought his legs straight up in the air. He held them here for a breath or two, then slowly eased them down over his face, lifting his back from the ground, keeping his legs straight and resting all of his weight on his shoulders. Shiro’s eyes widened as he watched Lance lower his feet to the floor behind his head. Shiro covered his mouth with his hand, feeling both awe over this incredible skill and embarrassment for the slew of less than appropriate thoughts that stumbled across his mind. Lance held the pose for one minute, then two, and was approaching three minutes when he finally lowered his legs, slowly, back down to the floor, where he remained still for several minutes after.
He finally sat up, dislodging the buds from his ears and twisting his neck from side to side. Shiro watched him shake himself out, sitting cross legged on the floor. He smiled a little, and then stepped further into the room.
“Lance, there you are!”
The blue paladin turned his head around quickly, his eyes going wide. His bangs stuck a little to his forehead, which was beaded with a fine layer of sweat. “Shiro!” he said, his voice soft with surprise. “How long have you been there?”
“I just got here,” Shiro lied smoothly. He didn’t make a habit of lying to his team, but he really didn’t want to embarrass Lance by telling him that he’d been staring at him while he bent himself into impossible contortions. “Hunk sent me to say dinner’s about ready.” This mollified Lance, who twisted to his feet easily, as if he hadn’t just been pretzeled up in a position Shiro didn’t think a human body could physically attain. Lance left his yoga mat where it was and padded over to Shiro, barefoot. Feeling bold, Shiro extended his elbow to Lance with a grin.
“Hunk sent me an escort? Aw, he’s fond of me after all,” Lance joked. Shiro winked at him.
“Like a personal valet,” he said. Lance chuckled quietly to himself and bumped Shiro’s elbow playfully with his own, instead of taking his arm. Shiro dropped his arm to his side and hid his slight disappointment by asking Lance how his personal yoga time had gone.
The marketplace of the planet Juuyu was a vast, colourful series of stores, stalls, booths, and carts. The winding streets were paved with the planet’s trademark glittering stones, shimmering and iridescent in the early evening light. People from innumerable planets milled about the market streets, haggling and bartering and hocking their wares. The planet was a crossroads, a peaceful meeting point for a half dozen galaxies and hundreds of different planets. Long ago, when the lions had first emerged from King Alfor’s lab, they and their original paladins had rescued Juuyu from a fleet of pirates that had been laying siege to the planet for several decades. The denizens of Juuyu, which included several merchant princes from the neighbouring planet of Kentar, were endlessly grateful to the paladins for their rescue. Statues of the lions were erected all over the planet, guardians and reminders of the great deeds they accomplished. Native Juuyan people typically lived extraordinarily long lives, and many remembered the events of those three days well enough to continue telling the tale of the lions of Voltron.
When the lions returned at the behest of Coran, a chaos broke out across the planet. The oldest of the Juuyans wept at the sight of their saviours returning to them once more, and every other person, whether native or a visiting merchant, gaped in reverence and awe as their planet’s greatest legends landed near the King’s palace. The paladins were quite used to gratitude and respect at this point in their careers, but the level of deference and veneration they received from these citizens, especially the elders, floored them. Hunk wiped tears from his eyes as one of the elder Juuyans fell to her knees, weeping and clutching a pendant around her neck that looked suspiciously like a yellow lion, with the most serene smile on her face. Their lions, for their part, roared proudly in unison and then settled down onto their bellies, resting comfortably and completely at ease, which was something they never did outside of their hangars. The paladins had barely begun making their way to the King’s palace when the Juuyans began placing flowers by the enormous paws of the lions, some even being so bold as to place their hands upon the cool metal reverently and gazing up at them, tears in their eyes and words of praise and thanks on their lips. Shiro could hear the happy rumblings from each of the lions in the back of his mind, and though he was surprised how comfortable the lions were here, he had a feeling that they needn’t worry over their lions on this planet.
They were greeted by the King at the doors to the palace, who dropped to his knees before them and gazed at them with the same peaceful adoration that the rest of his citizens did. They were treated as gods, as well as Allura and Coran. The King insisted on showing the paladins to their quarters himself, all the while sharing with them the story of how the lions had prevailed over the pirates and saved Juuyu, its citizens, and their livelihood so many thousands of years ago. The apartments, which took up the entire east wing of the palace, had been built specifically for the paladins, who had apparently returned several times to maintain a relationship with Juuyu. The apartments were lavishly decorated and maintained through these last ten thousand years - there was not a speck of dust to be seen, the tapestries were vibrant and free of rot, and there were fresh flowers in every vase they came across. Lion statues and accents of red, green, blue, yellow, and black were everywhere, tasteful and elegant and opulent.
They were into their third day on the planet, and Shiro was on a mission. He’d heard from one of the servants in the palace that a restaurant had opened in the marketplace, run by a Kentaran shapeshifter that had been to Earth seventy odd years ago. He had brought back a few recipes that were wildly popular here. She said that the food was adjusted a little to better suit the palates of the citizens and visitors, but that he had tried to keep it as natural to Earth as he could. Thanking her profusely, Shiro quickly left the palace and made his way to the marketplace.
He found the building, which didn’t look at all like it served anything from Earth, but he entered it and requested a menu from the flabbergasted and pleased server. Helpful little hand-drawn pictures accompanied every item, and Shiro studied the menu for nearly fifteen minutes. It was an expansive menu, and contained dishes from twenty-two different countries on Earth. He pulled out his phone, or the space equivalent of a phone, and began to compile a list of everything he was going to order. He couldn’t leave this building without taking back massive quantities of Earth food with him for his team. Food goo had gotten old a very long time ago. He ordered sushi, fried cakes, fruit pastries, pizza, lo mein and vegetables, shrimp-esque pasta, several pints of ice cream, odd looking square hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and several burritos. And then his eyes fell upon one dish on the menu, and a grin spread across his face. He ordered two bowls, and graciously accepted the help carrying it all back to his friends.
He found Hunk, Keith, and Pidge first. Keith and Pidge were napping in front of a projection-movie of the Legend of the Lions. He opened a pizza under Keith’s nose - it had been his absolute favourite back home, and it didn’t take long for him to breathe deeply with a serene smile on his face and then sit bolt upright, startling Pidge from her slumber. The red paladin stared around with wide eyes, and then scrambled for the pizza, demanding to know where Shiro had acquired it. Pidge clamored after him, a wide grin on her face, reaching for a slice with twitching fingers.
“Oh my god I love you so much,” she mumbled, her mouth full of cheese pizza and grease. Shiro chuckled, raising an eyebrow as Keith set two pieces on top of one another and then crammed half of it into his mouth at once.
“Lance is rubbing off on you,” he mused. Keith narrowed his eyes at him with a look that very clearly said ‘I would flip you off right now but you’re a bringer of pizza and I can’t possibly be bothered with anything but a food coma right now’. Or at least that’s how Shiro read it. Maybe Lance was rubbing off on him, too.
Clearing his throat, he indicated that he was going to find Hunk and Lance and bring them in. Keith and Pidge both made muffled noises of consent, entirely too busy with the pizza to even notice the rest of the food on the table, let alone Shiro backing out of the room with a bag in his hand.
He called Hunk, as the yellow paladin was nowhere to be found in the palace.
“What’s up, Shiro?” he answered.
“I found a restaurant that serves Earth food and bought half their stock. It’s in the media room with Keith and Pidge. They’re digging into the pizza now and -”
“Did you say pizza?” Hunk asked seriously, his voice calm and tight. Shiro laughed.
“There’s sushi and pasta and burritos, too,” he said. There was a long pause, during which Shiro couldn’t hear anything, not even breathing.
“I love you, Shiro.”
“Hunk?” But there was radio silence on the other end, and when he looked at his space phone, the screen had gone dark again. Smiling to himself, he readjusted the bag in his hand and made his way to Lance’s room.
The blue paladin had been, well, a little blue lately, and Shiro hoped that this surprise would cheer him up. He knocked on the door and stood quietly, though his mind was anything but patient. He had to physically restrain himself from rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet like a child waiting in line for a ride at their favourite theme park. A moment passed, and the door opened, revealing Lance, wearing a blue and gold silk robe and grey lounge pants.
“Oh, hey Shiro,” he greeted, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “What’s up?” Shiro lifted the bag up.
“I have a surprise for you. Can I come in? Or we could go somewhere else?” he suggested.
“We’re both already here,” Lance said, shrugging and stepping aside to let Shiro in. “And now that you said you have a surprise for me, I really need to know what it is.” He followed behind Shiro, peering at the bag. “Am I going to like it?” Shiro laughed.
“I hope so. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it.” He set the bag down on a round, gilded table with three tall chairs around it. He pulled two tubular containers and lightweight wooden utensils from the bag and set them down on the table. The tubes of food had a flattened bottom so they sat on the table without rolling. Shiro grabbed one and popped the clips on the sides open and removed the lid, setting it aside. He placed the tube in front of Lance, slid him a fork, and said nothing.
Within the tube was a meal of rice and beans, interspersed with what looked like red peppers and onions. The rice was dark, but Shiro knew enough about the dish from Lance’s description to know that it was white rice stained by the black bean juice. It was aromatic and quickly filled the room. He glanced up at Lance; his eyes were wide and his mouth hung open slightly. He gripped the edge of the table and fell into one of the chairs, leaning forward before reaching out and grasping each end of the tube.
“Where did you find this?” he asked, his voice wavering as he kept his eyes fixed on the meal in front of him.
“One of the people in the palace told me about a restaurant that served Earth food, thought we’d like to check it out. I bought a ton of food; most of it is with Pidge, Keith, and Hunk, but I brought this specifically for you. I figured-”
“I haven’t had congri since before I left home for the Garrison,” Lance whispered.
Shiro seated himself in the chair opposite Lance, resting his forearms on the table and picking at the cuticles on his left hand. “I was surprised to find it on the menu, and I remembered how fondly you spoke of it. I figured I’d bring it to you first before we went for the other food, in case you have to hide your disappointment if it’s terrible,” he said lightly. Lance looked up at him, his eyes wide and a little shiny.
“How could this possibly be terrible? I didn’t think I’d ever have this again,” he said, blinking rapidly. He ducked his head and grabbed up a fork, scooping some up and slowly, almost cautiously, bringing it to his mouth. After a few chews, his face split into a smile and he quickly rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his free hand. He swallowed, laughing and gasping for breath simultaneously. He quickly shoveled another two bites into his mouth, and he didn’t stop the next tears from slipped down his face. Shiro stared at him the whole time, content and happy knowing that he’d done something good for someone who deserved it and so much more. He watched every emotion flicker over Lance’s face. He recognized homesickness, having seen it in every person he’d been living with for the last two years. He saw melancholy, happiness, bittersweet memories for people who were probably mourning him. They all melted so seamlessly into one another, and they all came crashing around Shiro when Lance looked up at him and held his gaze. The air around them felt still and Shiro held his breath until Lance smiled at him again.
“How is it?” he asked quietly. Maybe it was a loaded question, but for the life of him he couldn’t think of anything else he could possibly say (because ‘dear god I love you more in this moment than I have ever loved anything’ didn’t seem appropriate).
“It’s - it’s perfect. It’s a little different, like, it’s got this strange kind of papery texture to it at first, but I figure that’s just alien food for you, but it reminds me so much of mama’s homemade congri.” Lance jammed the fork into the rice and took another large bite, chewing quickly and swallowing. “I remember washing and cooking the beans with her when I was a kid, and then having to wait another half an hour after that until the rice was done cooking. It was torture for a six year old but it was so worth it and I-” he broke off his rambling, swiping his tears away again. “It’s nice to remember.”
Shiro sighed happily, hoping that he didn’t sound too dopey. He pushed the second tube of congri toward Lance with two fingers.
“Well, I brought a second serving of it. I’ve seen how you can pack food away. God only knows where you put it,” he joked, rolling his eyes. Lance laughed, loud and from his belly - Shiro hadn’t heard that laugh from him in a while, and he may have heaved another sappy sigh, but he wasn’t counting.
“No, you eat it. Congri this good should be shared.” He nudged the tube back toward Shiro. He opened the container and picked up the wooden fork, taking his first bite of congri. Lance was right about the papery texture, but it didn’t take away from the flavour of the dish at all. Lance watched him knowingly. “Good, right?”
“It’s very good,” Shiro answered truthfully. He took another bite as Lance nodded sagely.
They ate their meals in silence, punctuated only at first by a few sniffles from Lance. Shiro kept his eyes on Lance when he thought he could get away with it, when Lance was engrossed in his food and his mind was a hundred galaxies away. Lance finished first, setting his fork in the tube and holding onto the ends of it.
“Thank you, Shiro,” he said quietly. Shiro was finishing the last bite of his food, bringing a napkin to his mouth and wiping at the corners of his lips. “I can’t... I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”
“Then I’m happy.”
Even if you are super dense.
A few weeks later, the lions all but limped into their hangars after a particularly hairy fight with a fleet of Galra ships, preceded by a vicious fight on a Galra infested planet. The paladins met briefly in the commons of the castleship, just to touch base with one another and Allura and Coran before turning in for a well deserved sleep.
Shiro waited until everyone else had left the room before he took his leave as well, padding down the hallway that would lead to Lance’s room. He was sweaty, sore, bleeding, and gross, but he knew he needed to catch the blue paladin before he hopped into the shower and passed out face first in his bed. He approached the door to Lance’s room and knocked twice, holding his helmet in his hands, rubbing his thumb against the base of it.
“Come in!” Lance’s muffled voice called out. The door slid open, revealing Lance only half dressed in his armour. He had taken off his breastplate and gloves, revealing the tight fitting black flight suit beneath. Shiro swallowed, hopefully inaudibly, at the sight of Lance’s broad shoulders and toned, lean waist. He looked up toward the door and offered Shiro a small, exhausted smile.
“Hey, chief,” he greeted. “Long time no see.” Shiro chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck.
“I just wanted to say, before you went to bed, that I, um, we, really counted on you back there, and you came through for us. We would have been done for without you,” he said. Lance smiled, faintly, and bent back over to remove his greaves and boots.
“Oh, thanks, I guess,” he said, somewhat bashfully. Shiro shook his head, taking another step into Lance’s room.
“I mean it. You provided rapid, consistent cover fire that allowed Pidge and Keith to get out of dodge, and then stayed behind to make sure the sentries couldn’t launch from their loading bay to come after us. We wouldn’t have made it out of there in one piece if it hadn’t been for you,” he said earnestly, as sincerely as he could. None of it was an exaggeration, of course; Lance had used every bit of his agility and decisive thinking to formulate the best tactics to get the team out of there safely. It was his own creative brilliance shining through, along with time spent with Coran going over ancient Altean military strategies. Shiro had been on the exterior of a building when Lance had begun barking orders through the comms, indicating when Keith and Pidge should move and which paths had already been cleared for them. Listening to the unwavering, hard edge Lance’s voice had adopted had, at the time, filled him with pride. Thinking back on them now, they sent bolts of arousal down Shiro’s body.
“I guess?” Lance set his armour in the storage pod in his room, closing the door and activating the castle’s automated care system, which would provide small repairs to the armour and thoroughly clean it. He scratched the back of his head, staring at the pod instead of looking at Shiro. “I mean, I didn’t do anything that you or any of the others wouldn’t do, too. I’m just glad you guys made it out of there without breaking any bones.” He turned to Shiro then, a weak grin on his face. “No stints in the healing pods sounds after sounds like a successful mission to me!”
Shiro kind of wanted to put his own head through a wall.
Maybe I haven’t been romantic enough, Shiro thought to himself. The only problem being that deep space didn’t lend many opportunities for great romantic scenery. The novelty of meteor showers had worn off for them, especially when they had to pilot their lions through one. Sunsets and sunrises only happened on planets with normal suns. The training deck wasn’t exactly the ideal place for a picnic, either. He wished they’d been to a planet with a beach that wasn’t toxic, but they’d had no such luck. Lance had talked on and on about growing up by the beach, sitting with his toes in the sand when the water and wind became too cool for swimming, and Shiro didn’t even have the means for a simple date to a beach.
He paced in his room until he stopped suddenly. He pinched his chin and debated on whether or not this most recent idea was a good one. Placing his trust in this person was risky. She was ruthless, and collected secrets on people like they were pogs. However, the sooner the proverbial scales tipped in his favour, the sooner her dirt on him would lose its power.
He had no choice.
He needed Pidge.
Fortunately, she just rolled her eyes and thanked him for finally busting a move on Lance, as watching him pine away had been borderline physically painful for her. Shiro leveled her with a flat gaze and implied to her that her dance with Keith was also growing stale to watch.
“That’s neither here nor there,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand, though he hadn’t missed the way a flush crept up her neck. “All I have to do is give him a sweet ass knife or something and it’ll be fine. I’m just waiting for the right moment.”
“And this is my right moment. Or, I hope it is.” Shiro chewed on his lip. Pidge nudged him with her elbow.
“This is as cheesy and romantic as we can possibly achieve on a castle floating in deep space. Lance loves romance. He’ll trip out of his pants and into your arms in no time, big guy,” she said, wiggling her brows at him. Shiro put his palm on her face and shoved her away as she cackled.
“I just want him to stop being so thick headed and see that I’m trying to-”
“Woo him? Court him? Bend him over and-”
Working to set things up in secret was a nightmare for Shiro. He was using the observatory, which was where Lance liked to practice his yoga. He and Pidge alternated in keeping the blue paladin busy with menial, mind-numbing tasks and lots of kicked puppy looks. Actually setting things up was only troublesome because of the lewd jokes Pidge made every few minutes. She’d point to various control panels and point out how she thought Lance would look splayed out across them. As she tinkered with the projector, she mimed crude gestures with her thumb, forefinger, and a screwdriver. Testing the projector had been even worse - she made shadow puppets of Shiro and Lance, making exaggerated kissing noises.
“Will you cut that out and turn the damn thing on?” Shiro sighed.
“Sure!” she chirped. Pidge circled around to a spare laptop she’d set up and navigated to the projector program, and then clicked play. “Whoops.”
Shiro watched in horror as two men - two oiled up firefighters - began kissing each other passionately, grinding their hips together and moaning loudly, projected on the wall of the observatory. He whirled around and glared as fiercely as he could at Pidge, who was grinning wickedly.
“Just a little inspiration,” she said sweetly.
“I hate you,” he mumbled dispassionately.
The castleship’s version of evening approached, the lights within dimming just slightly. Shiro glanced up at them, then around the room. It was set up as well as they were going to get it, he supposed. The projector was ready to go, and the right video was queued to play at the press of a button.
“I don’t think there’s much more to be done, except hope it goes well,” Shiro muttered, carding a hand through his hair. Pidge stepped up next to him, her tool bag packed up again. She wound her arm through his, resting her head against his metal bicep.
“This is perfect, Shiro. Lance is going to be over the moon for it. And if he’s not, then he’s a pod person and we should start looking for the real Lance,” she said reassuringly. Shiro reached across with his other hand and squeezed Pidge’s arm gently.
“No problem, Shiro.”
Dinner was as normal an affair as any, even if Shiro felt like he was sweating buckets. Pidge chattered happily with Keith and Hunk. She tried drawing Lance into the conversation as well, but the blue paladin remained quiet, claiming exhaustion from cleaning the healing pods that afternoon. Shiro felt a pang of guilt; Pidge must have seen his somewhat panicked look and gave him a small smile to reassure him. His breath hitched up again when Lance announced his departure, not even halfway through his meal. Shiro gripped his spork tightly as he watched Lance retreat from the kitchen.
“Oh, Shiro, didn’t you want to go over that new training routine with us early tomorrow morning?” Pidge piped up. Keith and Hunk blinked at her, then looked to Shiro expectantly. She lowered her gaze and gave him a pointed look. “The one you read in a book last night - you told me earlier.” Shiro blinked, his mouth forming a soft ‘oh’ of recognition.
“Yeah, that - that’s right. I forgot all about it,” he said quickly. “It’s a technique that focuses on footwork over immediate assault and I think we could all benefit from it. It’s also supposed to improve fine motor skills and enable you to maneuver terrain better,” he fabricated quickly. It didn’t sound like complete bullshit, at least. Keith nodded and Hunk shrugged.
“I’m down for that,” Keith said. “Shouldn’t you have said something when Lance was still in the room, though?” He looked at Pidge. The green paladin shrugged shamelessly.
“Whoops.” Shiro made a show of rolling his eyes. He pushed back from the table, barely having started on his own meal.
“I’ll go tell him.” Before he was dragged back into any conversation, he strode from the room, doing his best to not seem like he was sprinting after Lance.
He might have to sprint after him, he thought. Where did he get to so quickly? Shiro jogged down the corridor and took a hard left, toward Lance’s room. Christ, he was quick. He was already approaching his door, ready to retreat for the evening.
“Lance, hold up!” he called. Lance paused and turned around, an unreadable expression crossing his face before he relaxed into a small smile.
“What’s up, Shiro?” he asked, leaning against his door. Shiro jogged up to him lightly, stopping a few feet in front of him.
“Did you, uh, have anything planned for the night?” he asked. Lance shrugged.
“Not really. Was gonna read a little, but nothing I can’t put off if you need help,” he offered. Shiro shook his head.
“No, I don’t need help with anything. There was just something I wanted to show you, if you felt up for a little company for a while,” he said, trying not to sound bashful or nervous. He didn’t think he was doing a very good job. Lance didn’t answer right away; his crossed arms tightened just a little, causing Shiro to take an involuntary step back. He breathed in and then nodded once, and Shiro relaxed a little. He offered Lance his most sincere smile, hoping to put the other man at ease, then motioned for him to follow. Lance walked beside him, half a step behind him. Shiro shortened his pace a little, feeling a little guilty for how tired Lance was if his long legs weren’t keeping pace with Shiro’s own stride.
Lance remained quiet, and while Shiro was a little concerned by his silence, he didn’t mind not explaining that he was taking Lance on a surprise date. Rather to just let him walk into the observatory and be, as Pidge said, totally blown away and swept up in Shiro’s romance. Shiro’s expectations were a little less gilded than Pidge’s fantasy, but he hoped the sentiment was there, at least. Best case scenario, Lance would fling himself into his arms and they’d cuddle, and maybe kiss, for the rest of the evening. Worst? A firm handshake from Lance as Shiro tore his hair out and started back at square one. Shiro firmly pushed thoughts of the latter from his mind, focusing on what this evening really meant: something nice done for Lance. Whether Lance ever reciprocated his feelings or not, he still deserved kindness and someone to care about him. If he kept trying and failing as he had been, despite Lance’s proclamations at desiring a cliché romance, then he would, happily or not, resign himself to Lance’s platonic gratitude. Lance deserved the world, a glittering, magical, gold-dipped world filled with everything that made him smile and nothing else. He deserved happiness, and if Shiro could give him that, however small the doses out here in space may be, then he would. Always, without fail.
Steeling himself, he pressed open the door to the observatory and motioned for Lance to step inside first. Lance side eyed him with a smile, but stepped inside and glanced around in the darkness. Shiro entered the observatory and made his way to Pidge’s dimly glowing laptop. The lights to the observatory were temporarily controlled by the laptop, thanks to Pidge’s genius, and he slid the bar on the laptop screen up until the lights were glowing at a dim, warm ambiance. Blankets were piled up on the observatory couch, which had been turned to face the far wall. To the couch’s right, the wide, tall windows displayed the black and silvery vastness of space, barely creeping past them as the castleship floated without much direction. A small tray of sweet tea and two cups were positioned on the table near the laptop. The projector was mounted on the ceiling and there were speakers fixed in the corners of the room. Shiro looked up at Lance, who had stalled in the middle of the room and was staring at Shiro with that unreadable expression on his face again.
“Come on, sit down,” Shiro said, gesturing to the couch. Lance moved around and sat, pulling a blanket around and hugging it to his chest, his feet restless on the ground.
“What is all this?” he asked quietly, his eyes darting from the pitcher of tea to the laptop to Shiro.
“Just something I thought you’d enjoy,” Shiro answered, pouring two glasses of tea. He pressed a button on the laptop, then stepped around the table, handing one to Lance and settling down beside him. The projector flickered to life, and before the image displayed on the wall, the sounds of a seagull screeched through the speakers.
Lance startled, glancing around, eyes wide, grasping his glass of tea. A video slowly began to fade into view on the wall in front of them, and Lance’s gaze snapped to it immediately.
“Oh my god,” he murmured, sitting forward. “Is that-”
“I don’t know if it’s your Varadaro Beach, but it’s a beach,” Shiro said. He took a sip of tea, settling back on the couch to better watch Lance’s reaction. The video looked as though it had been taken on a camera track, like they used at football games. It moved slowly and stopped intermittently, going up and down a white coastline with foamy blue waves crashing upon it. Gulls dipped and screamed in and out of the picture, and the sounds of the waves ebbed and flowed with their image on the wall. In the far distance, a sailboat bobbed along, a speck of white on the horizon line. The sky was blue, barely broken by pale, wispy white clouds floating high in the sky. The video was picturesque, and between the video and the accompanying sounds, he could almost smell the salty sea air. He fixed his gaze on Lance, and was surprised to see the young man’s jaw clenched tightly, the skin by his temple rippling as he ground his teeth. A tear slipped down his cheek, racing toward his chin and then falling onto the blanket.
Shiro sat forward and gently touched his fingers to Lance’s back. “Lance, what’s wrong?”
The blue paladin didn’t answer immediately; he took a deep breath, inhaling shakily as he brought a hand up and swiped at his tears. He turned to face Shiro, his face still fixed with that unreadable expression that perplexed the hell out of Shiro.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice quiet but firm. Shiro furrowed his brow.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “I thought you’d like this.” He tried to hide the hurt in his voice. Lance gestured, almost accusingly, at the projected video.
“You do realize what this all looks like, right?” he demanded. Shiro glanced at the video, but Lance huffed in annoyance. “Not just the video, Shiro. The tea, the blankets, the lights. This looks like a date!” He hissed the last word, his voice dropping low. Shiro sat further forward quickly, his eyes wide and hopeful.
“You - you think this is a date?” he asked, praying to every god he could think of that his words didn’t sound like he was mocking. Lance crossed his arms and frowned at Shiro.
“If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck,” he snapped. Shiro’s face split into a grin and he scooted closer to Lance, feeling like he was about to float right off the couch in happiness. This is where it should be going. He could finally tell Lance that he’d been trying to court him, that he wanted to be with him.
“Then it’s a duck,” he finished for Lance. “Or, a date. But yes.” Shiro tilted his head back and let out a sigh of relief, one he’d been waiting to release for nearly a year. “God, I’m so glad you knew what this was right away. I’ve been trying to get your attention for months, if I’d known this is what it would take, I’d have-”
Lance’s voice was hardly a whisper, and even then it wavered pitifully. Shiro ceased his victory immediately upon hearing those shattered words leave Lance’s mouth. Lance looked like he’d been stabbed by Shiro instead of courted by him. His blue eyes were wide and glassy with unshed tears, and his breath came shallowly and raggedly. His arms had unfolded and fallen to his sides, limp and completely without any of the energy that Shiro was so often used to seeing in him. Shiro reached for one of Lance’s hands but stopped when he saw him flinch. He sighed.
“Of course I have, Lance. I’ve - I mean, I’ve been trying, anyway. I’m not very.. not very good at this whole dating thing, but I’ve been trying to show you how much you mean to me,” he confessed, feeling stupid. “I guess I wasn’t being romantic enough before, which is why I had Pidge help me go all out with this.” He waved a hand about, indicating the entire observatory setup. Lance’s expression didn’t change, and his gaze didn’t leave Shiro’s face.
“You.” The fracturing Lance’s voice cut into Shiro as deeply as any blade might. “You did... this? You - you like me?” he gasped out. Shiro grabbed at Lance’s hands, taking them both into his before he could pull away.
“Lance, I - what did you think I’d been trying these past several months, singling you out, following you around like you’re the only lifeboat on board?” he asked gently.
“I thought you were being nice!” Lance gasped. His hands tightened into fists in Shiro’s grasp, and his eyes began to stutter back and forth, as if he were looking for an exit in a burning building. Shiro felt his heart breaking, and he did his best to soothe Lance by rubbing at the calloused skin of his hands with his own calloused thumb.
“You - Lance, you love romance. You’ve said you’ve watched every corny rom-com there was before we came out to space. And you - you’re not stupid, Lance,” he murmured. “Why wouldn’t you.. why wouldn’t you assume that I was trying to - to ask you out, or something?” He hoped he wasn’t making Lance feel like a fool, but he thought he’d been rather obvious. Lance finally managed to focus his gaze back on Shiro’s face, and he looked like he was fighting hard to keep his countenance from falling apart. He sighed, his head tilting just slightly to the side and his eyes falling out of focus again.
“I noticed the extra attention, but I didn’t think that you’d ever like someone like me, so I convinced myself that there was nothing else behind it,” he whispered. Shiro’s breath hitched, then paused in his chest.
“What do you mean ‘someone like you’?” he asked quietly, though he felt that he’d figured out the answer, and it was sitting heavy in his gut.
“I’m not anything special. I mean, sure, I pilot Blue, but anyone can do that - Allura could take my place any time,” Lance said. “And you,” he said emphatically, looking back to Shiro and cracking a weak, broken smile. “I’ve been in love with you for so long, but what chance did I have? What could you possibly see in a mediocre cargo pilot like me?”
Shiro’s breath left his lungs, his stomach churning violently and his throat tight with emotion. He released Lance’s hands and reached up with his left hand to cradle his cheek. Lance clenched his eyes shut, a few more tears escaping.
“You are a thousand times the man any cargo pilot could ever hope to be,” Shiro whispered. Lance’s face finally crumpled, and he grasped at Shiro’s wrist, flexing his fingers around it. “And even if you were a cargo pilot, how could that ever take away from everything else that you are?” Lance snorted, a fresh wave of tears falling.
“Passionate,” Shiro interrupted.
“You find positivity in every situation.”
“I never know when to shut up-”
“Your mind never stops working.”
“And I can’t stop fucking crying when I’m trying to talk!”
“Feeling is hardly a flaw, Lance,” Shiro chastised gently, a smile creeping onto his face. Lance shook his head.
“I have nothing to offer you, Shiro!” He sounded like he was trying to be firm, but his voice simply cracked again. He pulled Shiro’s hand away from his face. “You are so - so you, and you could do so much better than a skinny little nobody from Cuba,” he sobbed. Shiro breathed in deeply, a small, patient smile on his face.
“There’s one pretty cool thing about being me, though,” he said. “Know what that is?” Lance shook his head. “I’m the only one who gets to decide who’s good enough for me to love.” Lance’s eyes widened. “And I think I’d decided on you a long time before I even realized it.”
This time it was Lance’s hands that reached out and clasped at Shiro’s. They were shaking and clammy when they touched at Shiro’s, and Shiro held them fast, keeping them steady and still. He twisted his body so he faced Lance entirely, and gently tugged on Lance until he shifted as well.
“You love me?” Lance asked, his voice hardly even audible enough to be considered a whisper. Shiro brought Lance’s knuckles to his lips and kissed them, not breaking eye contact.
“If it’s not painfully obvious by now that I do, then I guess I’ve got the rest of our lives to prove it. If you’ll let me, I mean,” he amended hastily. Lance’s eyes were wide, his mouth having fallen open slightly.
“Yes, Lance, I am,” Shiro said, his face pulling into a grin. He released Lance’s hands to once more cup his face, and he gently guided his face closer. He watched Lance’s face filter through so many emotions; it was almost as if every single thing Shiro had done to try and get Lance’s attention was sinking in, moment by moment, month by month, smile by smile. Recognition clicked into place like cogs in a machine and Shiro relished in watching Lance come to the beautiful realization that he was so, so loved.
Without a sound, Lance fell forward against Shiro, his arms instantly wrapping around his neck. Shiro let his hand slide back into Lance’s hair and he guided their lips together. His grey eyes slid shut as he slanted his mouth against Lance’s and kissed him for all he was worth. Lance’s lips were soft and warm and a little wet with tears, and he thought briefly that maybe he should have been applying lip balm to ease how chapped his were from gnawing on them. Lance didn’t seem to care about the moisture of his lips, if his happy little sigh was any indication. Shiro dropped his hands to Lance’s waist and tugged him forward, encouraging Lance to move closer.
Lance took things a step further than Shiro imagined, but he certainly wasn’t complaining. The blue paladin crawled into his lap and wound his long legs around his waist, settling against him easily and comfortably. Shiro hummed contentedly into their kiss, wrapping his arms around Lance’s waist and holding him tight. Lance’s hands eventually found their way to the back of Shiro’s head, and he dug his long fingers into his short hair. Shiro chuckled into the kiss, and Lance followed suit until they broke apart, grinning widely at one another. Lance bent his head and touched his forehead to Shiro’s.
“I was so stupid,” Lance muttered. Shiro kissed him again, chaste and light.
“You’re hardly stupid, Lance. But you lack confidence,” he answered honestly. Lance flushed.
“I try not to bother anyone with it,” he mumbled. Shiro tightened his arms around Lance, pressing them closer together.
“First, you are never a bother. Not to me, not to anyone on this ship. Second,” he trailed off in order to kiss Lance again, deep and passionate. Lance hummed into the kiss, smiling against Shiro’s lips. “I get to help you work on it.” He kissed him again, quick but no less eager than before. “And I don’t care how many of these it takes-” he paused for another series of kisses, “or how often I have to tell you that you’re the most breathtaking person I’ve ever laid eyes on-”
Lance made a sound of embarrassment and buried his face into Shiro’s neck.
“-but I will do everything in my power to make sure you never forget that you are truly the most incredible person I’ve ever known,” Shiro finished in a whisper, his lips resting against the shell of Lance’s ear. He gently pulled back so he could look at Lance properly, framing his face with both of his hands. “Is that okay?” Tearfully, Lance nodded fervently. Shiro swiped at the tears with his thumbs and kissed Lance again, and again, and again.
The gulls screeched from the speakers, and the video had long since looped to the beginning again, trekking down an endless white beach. The waves crashed and receded from the shore, just as Shiro’s lips crashed and receded to and from Lance’s over and over again that night, until they were both too exhausted to do much else but rub noses and breathe each other in.