Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron or its characters. If I did, Lance, Hunk, and Keith would have official last names.
Everybody Needs Somebody
It was, of course, that terrible mullet that first drew his eyes to him.
Lance was a mix of anxiety and excitement, his nerves creating a buzz beneath his skin and making him practically vibrate. He had done it! He'd gotten into the Galaxy Garrison and he was going to reach the stars!
But at the same time, Lance had never been so far from home. The ocean was so far away, leaving him in the middle of the dusty, dry desert without a single drop of water. His family was just as far and it wasn't like he knew anyone here yet. He prayed that his roommate that he'd get later that day would be nice, that he'd make a friend, that he'd be able to find a place for himself here.
And that was when a flash of black came from the corner of his eye and he'd looked over to see a freaking mullet. In this day and age.
Lance blinked, taking in the whole person. It was a boy, about his age and probably a first year like him. He was looking around like the other cadets, but his shoulders were hunched, his stance guarded. He kind of reminded Lance of one of the feral cats he occasionally fed.
The boy looked as lonely as Lance felt.
Maybe he could use a friend too.
Lance clutched the strap of his bag and took a deep breath before walking over to the other boy. As he got closer, he smiled and extended his hand to him, looking right at him. "Hey, the name's Lance!" He introduced himself.
He felt a flicker of pride. His American accent was perfect, just like his sister had coached him before coming here.
For a moment, the boy looked at him, confusion painting his face as he checked behind him. Then he just…
He just walked right by Lance, not even giving him a second glance.
He'd ignored him.
Lance's heart dropped and he dropped his hand along with it. The boy had just… straight up ignored him. He tried to control his trembling bottom lip as he stood tall and readjusted his bag again, turning back towards the front. He wasn't going to get upset just because some boy ignored him.
Hopefully, he'd have better luck with his roommate.
Lance noticed him again in the cafeteria during lunch a few days later. There was just something about that awful haircut that drew in the eye.
The boy was holding his tray with one hand and frowning down at his phone in the other. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was just standing in the middle of the walkway, forcing other people to part and walk around him to get to the tables.
Lance wondered if he had someone to sit with. He was pretty sure Hunk wouldn't mind if he invited another person to join them and so far it didn't look like the boy had anyone else to hang with. The last time he had tried to talking to him, things hadn't gone that well, but they had both been nervous at being at a new place. Considering that they were starting to settle in here, maybe the boy would be more open to talking this time.
"Hey," Lance said as he walked up to him, "you got anywhere to sit? My roommate and I…"
His voice trailed off as the boy shoved his phone into his pocket and walked away into the cafeteria. Lance watched as he settled in a corner at a table by himself and frowned.
Well, that was rude. He could have at least said he didn't want to join them.
The boy's name was Keith and he was kind of amazing.
For all of the potential pilots, the teachers were giving them their first go-through on the simulator. It was just to give them a taste of what to expect and to begin the process of sorting them into the cargo and fighter pilot categories. The top five at the end of the semester would be the fighter pilots; everyone else would be assigned to cargo. There would be no changes of placement afterward unless someone dropped out.
The moment Lance saw that boy in the simulator, he knew that he was going to be one of the top five. He himself was beside himself in excitement and anticipation for his own turn, but Lance found himself stunned at Keith's run.
The boy, Keith according to the roster, flew the simulator like he was born to fly. His movements were sharp and precise, going around the curves that popped up easily. It was almost supernaturally good; Lance couldn't find a single flaw in his flying. He couldn't believe that this was Keith's first time in the simulator.
Lance was surprised at how Keith didn't look the least bit ruffled when he emerged from the simulator. He was just so cool.
Lance couldn't help but bounce up to Keith as his assessment wrapped up and he returned to the waiting area.
"Holy crow!" Lance gushed. "That was amazing! The way you took that turn and avoided the asteroid was totally awesome! You're going to get into fighter for sure! Have you ever done this sort of thing before? I can't wait for my turn! Got any tips?"
Now Lance knew that he tended to talk a mile a minute, but he didn't think he warranted the confused look that Keith was now giving him.
"Ah, right…" Keith avoided his gaze and quickly brushed past him and walked away, leaving Lance behind.
Lance took the hint and halted in place, staring after him.
Had… had he done something wrong? He didn't think he'd said anything wrong. They were classmates, and he'd just thought that Keith seemed pretty cool, so why shouldn't he know it? And yet, Keith had just acted like it was nothing, like he hadn't even been paying attention to what he'd been saying.
But he had to admit that the clear dismissal did sting a bit. His excitement dimmed just a bit and Lance stayed in place until his name was finally called.
The sting returned once more when at the end of the day their ranks were displayed and Lance frowned at his own spot in sixth place, just ten points below Keith's score. Though this time it held a bit of bitterness.
Things weren't final yet, he could still get into the fighter pilot class before the end of the semester.
One of the surefire ways to attract a crowd was to start a fight.
Lance and Hunk had just been passing through the hall back to the dorms when the sounds of fighting had reached them. You couldn't blame them for being curious and following the noise. They found a loose ring of students, some already running off to grab an instructor, surrounding two students shoving and punching each other.
Lance recognized Keith by his hair and glaring eyes in only a glance. Unfortunately, he also recognized the other student as well. Richard Carlton from Communications wasn't like Lance. Lance had managed to get into the Garrison through hard work and a scholarship. Carlton made it clear that he'd mostly gotten in due to his parents paying through the nose, and he was a big jerk in general as well. He was the sort of person Lance made a point to avoid, one who had never had to work hard or could just ask his parents for whatever he wanted. It was easy to see why he could have riled Keith up into getting into an actual fight.
And though Keith seemed to be pretty scrappy, eyes blazing and fists raised, he was also the one getting the most bruises between the two of them.
Well, Lance wasn't just going to stand to the side when someone needed help, even if Keith had been a jerk before. "We have to break it up." He muttered to Hunk, before he started to move to the front of the crowd.
"Lance!" Hunk hissed. "We shouldn't - "
Whatever he was about to say got cut off as a particularly hard shove slammed Keith into the wall and he slid down to the ground. Carlton smirked, assured of his victory even as Keith scowled up at him. Keith was obviously readying himself, prepared to spring back up to fight, but luckily, a teacher showed up just at that moment.
"Break it up, break it up." Commander Dos Santos waded through the crowd, pushing students aside and leveling an annoyed look at the two combatants. "Alright, you two, to the office." He turned on his heel just as abruptly as he arrived, but Carlton followed willingly. Lance could already hear him complaining about how it wasn't his fault, but he sincerely doubted that.
The other students had quickly dispersed at the arrival of their teacher, but Lance hung back and hovered over Keith for a second. Keith remained slumped against the wall, catching his breath.
"Hey, man," Lance extended his hand to help him up, "are you okay? That looked pretty rough."
His hand jerked back reflexively just a bit as he was met by a hard glare. Lance could feel the anger burning in Keith's eyes and though the anger wasn't directed at him, probably, it still felt like the time he'd accidentally put his hand on the hot stove.
Dos Santos commanded jerked both of them out of their stare off, and Keith swiftly got up, completely ignoring Lance's offered hand. He nudged his way past Lance to follow their instructor, his shoulders meeting his ears as he crossed his arms defensively.
Lance found himself staring after him, even as Hunk came to stand next to him.
"What's that kid's problem? All you were trying to do was help." Hunk asked, mostly to himself.
Lance frowned. "I don't know."
Lance tapped his pen against his notebook as he frowned at his homework. Hunk had pretty much taken up their dorm room for a project in his engineering courses, so Lance had retreated to the library to do his own work.
It was a frustrated growl that made him look up.
Keith was seated at a nearby table and the look he was giving the papers in front of him should have set them on fire. From the way he was fidgeting with his book and his eyes flicked from page to paper, it was pretty clear what the problem was here.
He looked like he could use some help.
Lance hesitated for just a moment, before he gathered up his things and made his way over to Keith's table. Sure, none of his efforts to really talk to Keith or get to know him so far had worked, but figuring out the homework with him was better than trying it alone. And maybe they'd even become friends.
Lance stopped just on the other side of the table across from Keith. "Hey, Keith, want to - "
Keith's phone pinged right at that moment. He snatched it up, and Lance blinked as his face brightened slightly at whatever message was there. It was probably the happiest Lance had ever seen him. Before Lance could say another word, Keith had picked up his stuff and was heading out the door to meet - was that Shiro? The Garrison's top pilot? Lance's hero?
Lance watched as Shiro tousled Keith's hair a bit as he came to his side and it reminded him of his own brothers back at home. Even when they were gone, he stood there for a moment as he fought the slight pang of jealousy mixed with a sudden longing for his siblings.
Then Lance sighed and got out his homework once more as he sat down. After all, regardless of Keith, he'd never get to Shiro's level if he didn't put in the work.
Lance knew he was pouting a bit, but hey, his homework was done so he could have some time to ponder on what was bugging him.
And as was steadily becoming apparent, Keith was still getting to him.
Lance had been watching the other pilot. It was kind of worrying. Keith was pretty much always on his own. He didn't really talk to any of his peers, and you'd think that he'd at least be trying to get to know the other pilots he'd be studying with or become familiar with the communications experts and engineers who would become his teammates. He only answered questions in class when the teacher called on him and most of time he only seemed engaged when it came time for the simulator runs. He didn't smile at all, though the closest he got seemed to be when he was near Shiro, who he somehow knew.
In other words, the only person Keith was close to was Shiro. And a person could not be sustained by a fellowship with a single person. People weren't meant to be as alone as Keith seemed to be.
Lance kept reaching out to him in big and small ways, from trying to offer help with homework to just trying to talk to him in class, but the repeated rejections were really getting to him. It was like Keith didn't even notice Lance when he was standing right in front of him. His eyes just went right past him no matter how hard he tried.
He just wanted Keith to at least acknowledge his existence at this point.
Lance sighed for probably the millionth time that evening, and apparently, Hunk had had enough.
"Dude," Hunk looked up from working on some thingamajig, "are you still thinking about Keith?"
"No." Lance immediately denied.
Hunk rolled his eyes. "Look, man, I know you're trying to be friendly with him and all, but maybe Keith doesn't want a friend. Maybe he just wants to be left alone. So you should probably back off a bit."
Lance gave him a flat look. "Everybody needs somebody, Hunk."
Sure, Lance was glad that Keith seemed to have Shiro by his side, but they seemed more like brothers from the little Lance had seen of the two together. Keith needed a friend more his own age.
However, moping wouldn't solve anything, so Lance grabbed his laptop and put on his headphones after hooking them up. Maybe watching some of his favorite cartoons or anime would help him relax. After all, he had an important -
As Lance looked at the titles of some of his favorite shows, a light bulb lit up.
Now that was an idea.
Lance held his head high as he walked to the simulators the next day. Hunk trailed after him, his engineering course having been cancelled at the last minute and he decided to watch the simulator runs.
Lance's scores kept on flipping with the students in the fourth and fifth places on the roster. All of their scores were very close at the top, though it was the ones at the end of the semester that would really matter. After that, even if Lance did get the top score, if he hadn't been in the top five at the end of this semester he would have to wait for someone to drop out to move into the fighter class. It made every practice run practically life or death even though the end wasn't near.
But the name at the top remained the same no matter how many runs they did.
Lance spotted that dreadful mullet. "Keith!" He yelled out, and he ignored everyone wheeling around to stare at him, only having eyes for Keith as he slowly turned and met his gaze.
Keith was looking at him. He was actually seeing him.
Lance's determined grin didn't falter as he pointed right at Keith's face. "You think you're good, hotshot? Well," his excitement grew as Keith's brow furrowed at him words, "from this day forward, we're rivals! Got it?"
His heart was pounding a staccato beat in his chest as Keith just stared at him for a moment.
And then, slowly, a smirk formed on Keith's lips and he raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah?" Keith replied. "Sure."
If possible, Lance's grin got wider. He didn't even mind that Commander Iverson entered a moment later and redirected Keith's attention away from him. He didn't mind that Hunk was staring at him like he'd lost his mind. He didn't mind the way the other students stared at him and whispered.
Keith had noticed him.
And while Keith didn't want a friend, maybe he could use a rival, someone who could help push him to be better. It was better than nothing.
Lance was willing to be Keith's friend, but he could probably use a rival just as much.
It wasn't anything big that led Lance to realize it.
It was pretty much just an average day for Team Voltron. They'd eaten breakfast, fended off the Galra in the morning on the latest planet, eaten lunch while recovering from the morning's efforts, and then they'd all gone off to do their own things until the next distress beacon or Galra attack.
Normally, Lance did some rounds around the castle. He checked in on how Shiro was doing, tried to get Allura to loosen up, assisted Coran with cleaning and listened to his stories, bugged Pidge until she told him what was up or played video games with him, cooked with Hunk or handed him his tools as he worked on a project. Surprisingly, Lance found himself hanging out a lot with Keith. Occasionally, he'd join Keith for training, but sometimes they'd just explore the castle or Lance would attempt to teach Keith the art of chilling.
This was one of those times as they sat in the lounge together. Through a successful bet, Lance had won the use of Pidge's laptop and she actually had a few movies on it. Lance was shocked by how many movies and franchises and cartoons Keith had never seen. It was a freaking tragedy.
Keith was actually laughing at something Lance had said, his head thrown back from the force of it, and that's when it hit Lance.
They were friends.
Lance couldn't help but stare at Keith, slightly in shock.
Keith wasn't that different from when they were at the Garrison in several ways. He still had that godawful mullet Lance would recognize anywhere. He was a hothead who would throw himself into the fight. He didn't speak much unless he actually had something to say. He gave as good as he got and participated in the rivalry between him and Lance. He was probably the best pilot on the team.
But in some ways, especially since the recent reveal of his Galra heritage, Keith was more open. He still tried to act like a lone wolf kind of guy, but he had Shiro, Lance, and the others right here so he wasn't alone.
Back at the Garrison, their rivalry hadn't stopped Lance from reaching out. After all, he needed his rival at his best even though his rank at the end of the first semester had left him in cargo and bringing up his scores to meet the other fighter pilots hadn't been enough until Keith had dropped out.
The day the news had broken out about the Kerberos mission, Lance had seen Keith and gone to comfort him, but he'd raced out of the room before he could get to him. He hadn't seen him the few days before break and when they'd gotten back he'd been excited to be in the fighter class and able to truly compete with Keith. Until he found out that Keith had been the price of admission. And then Keith hadn't really remembered him at all, which had compounded the hurt quite a bit.
Keith's laughter sputtered out and he finally noticed Lance's staring. He tilted his head to the side and quirked an eyebrow in a silent question. He was looking at Lance and Lance alone, clearly wondering what was up with him.
Lance smiled and chuckled a bit. "Figures it'd take an interstellar war for it to happen." He muttered mostly to himself.
"For what to happen?" Keith frowned a bit.
"Nothing, Keith." Lance set the laptop down so it was perched partly on both their laps. "Now, just watch; I think this movie is right up your alley."
And as Lilo & Stitch began to play on screen, Lance basked in the knowledge that the task that he had set out to do all those years ago, that he'd tried to substitute with pure rivalry, had finally been accomplished.
Lance and Keith were friends.
Keith, in the Quantum Abyss, seeing all this, his head in his hands: Why was I so oblivious and dumb? Noticing Lance would have prevented so many of the issues we had.
Krolia: Is this boy your friend? It seems you kept on ignoring him.
Keith: ... Well, now he is. Jeez, Hunk really wasn't lying.
So, Keith never intentionally ignored Lance, except after that fight because he really was not in the mood and thought he was being pitied. For the most part, Keith generally thought that Lance was talking to someone else, was distracted trying to talk to/contact Shiro, or was so caught up in his own thoughts that he didn't realize Lance was talking to him and didn't know how to respond. It didn't erase the hurt though. Still, this is kind of how I think things happened between them at the Garrison and how the infamous rivalry started.
But yeah, Lance thought he needed a friend and got upset that Keith didn't seem to like him and so decided that maybe he'd accept a rival instead. Or at least pay attention to him. Keith pretty much forgetting all this hurt a lot.
Thanks for reading and I hoped you enjoyed! This is my first thing for Julance. I'm hoping to have one completed one-shot for Lance each week.