They met for the first time in the terminal, sitting on hard plastic chairs and surrounded by their families. Five young men, some with hard eyes, some with easy smiles. All of them paying little attention to admonishments to write often and stay warm and spending more time eyeing each other. Each knew the other by reputation, each had read the other fours dossiers. But black words and white paper were never to be trusted. Only time and blood could give a true sense of a person. Keith, who had no family, was the only one more concerned with the space and sky than the earth. He spent most of his time at the window, staring at the ship that would take him to the stars ignoring the eyes that tried to burn through him.

Let them stare.

Then, suddenly, the goodbyes were over and these five strangers, five strange boys with wild hair and white teeth and more degrees than a MENSA gathering, were herded out onto the cracked tarmac by men with grey in their hair and resentment in their eyes. And then they were in the small, white changing room and were stripping out of their Civvies and into flight suits and Pidge was blushing because he had never left the ground before and was a little excited. But the rest of them were old hands at this whole process and made the clothing change with little embarrassment. Lance openly stared at the bodies of the others, smiling in a sultry manner when his roving eyes were noticed. Keith frowned, knowing that this one was going to be trouble, but he could do nothing about it now for the doors on the other end of the changing room were opening and there was nothing left to think about but the mission.

The elevator creaked as it brought them to the top and, even if they wanted to talk, the noise drowned out any attempt at conversation. Then they were at the top and it wasn't right to speak. The only thing they could do was get into their seats and then it was the typical flurry of last minute checks and preparations and then the countdown and Keith was tensing and he thought Hunk was too because he could hear the cracking of another armrest as someone clenched the soft padding hard.

And then they were off and the world was far behind.

There was pain, certainly, as gravity tried to reclaim their bodies, but Keith kept his eyes open. He always kept his eyes open for as long as he could, so he could see the stars through the clear pane that tipped the nose of the rocket. He watched as the clouds disappeared and then there was just the sky, a pale, eggshell blue. And then even that disappeared as they reached the upper levels of the atmosphere and Keith had to close his eyes because his chest hurt so much. After all this time, and all these flights, decades since the first time man had gone into space, and they still couldn't figure out a way to make it stop hurting. Keith bit his tongue and blood flooded his mouth, and he focused on the taste and the feel instead of the way his heart burned.

At last, the pain disappeared and Keith could open his eyes. There was a burn of disappointment deep in his stomach as he realized that he had once again missed the transition between earth and sky. But he couldn't stay disappointed for too long because suddenly the whole universe was right there waiting for him. The stars were hard and bright, and Keith couldn't help but sigh.



A hand touched his shoulder and Keith tore his eyes away from the stars to look behind at his new team. They were all staring with the same wide eyed wonder at the emptiness before them, the same awe and reverence that filled Keith. And he smiled.

They would work out just fine.