In his defence, he only did it once, and he didn’t mean to.
He was exhausted, in a lot of pain, and just dealt with a big fucking battle, one where they all almost died, him and Lance more than the others, and he’s aching all over- his head and ribs especially, that’s gonna be fun- and he just wants to fucking sleep- he doesn’t have time for Lance’s annoying, pointless banter. Other days he might love it, but not so much right now.
”Keith!” The sound startled him enough to whip around, diss raised defensively. He might still be a little on edge. A Galra had managed to board Red, one of Lotor’s generals, to be specific (the biggest one, to be even more specific), and he hasn’t found out until she had him pinned against the floor, head caught between her hand and the metal surface, arms pulled painfully right behind his back. Red had warned him- he knows that now, but he’d been too caught up in the battle to notice, and Red couldn’t do anything on the inside except open her hatch, and then she would lose him, too. He turned around, whipping a fist at the person behind him- but it’s just Lance. Lance is safe.
It’s too late to stop now.
Lance hardly has a chance to register the first before it’s colliding with his cheek, knocking him back a few steps.
“Oh-“ Keith lowers his fist, wincing when he sees Lance cupping his injured cheek, a halfhearted glare thrown in his direction. “S-sorry.”
Lance opens his mouth, probably to insult him, but he scans Keith’s face- so quick Keith almost doesn’t notice- and closes his mouth, shoulder slumping, a small smile on his face. “‘s just a bruise. I’ll be fine.”
And Keith, still paranoid over what happened in Red, nods at him, once, returning the smile, and leaves the hangar.
And collapses to his knees, exhaustion and pain overtaking him.
What the hell was that, Keith?
Keith ignores Red in his head, continuing to shoot at the Galra tailing Lance.
He whips her around, too distracted to notice her speaking to him.
He manages to shoot another Galra who had snuck up on Pidge, seconds before it rammed into her.
He’s being pulled up by the hair on his neck.
His fight or flight responses are kicking in, screaming at him to fight.
He throws a punch, missing the person- the purple cat-like person- by at least a foot.
The alien- one of Lotor’s Generals, he realizes- is throwing him against the wall, and he’s falling- falling and he can’t stop-
Keith wakes up with a gasp, bolting up and knocking his already throbbing head against something hard and flat.
He groans, falling back down, arms covering his eyes so he doesn’t have to see the bright, bright Castle lights.
Something- someone- above him groans as well, and then- then he realizes he’s in said someone’s lap.
He scrambles away, head aching at each movement, tripping over his own feet as he tries to stand. He lands on his ass with a muffled bang, and turns to face the person who was holding him.
Just what he needs.
”Wh-“ he clears his throat, blinking away the blur that came with sleep. “What happened?”
Lance shifts where he is, getting to his feet and offering Keith a hand, a frown on his face. “I don’t know,” Keith takes the hand, steadying himself with a hand on the wall- is the world tilting?- and wobbly feet. “I heard a crash, I came out, and you were just,” He’s offering Keith his arm, something to steady himself with. Keith looks at it, then looks back at the wall, taking a step forwards. He doesn’t fall. “On the ground. Unconscious.”
Keith hums, watching the world slowly tilt to the left- it’s really fascinating-
“W-woah,” There’s an arm wrapping around him, taking away the tilt to the world. Keith frowns. He liked that tilt... “Hold on, buddy. We’ll get’cha to a pod in no time.”
What’s a pod?
Who’s holding him?
”Lance,” He’s being pulled upwards, an arm being wrapped around his waist while another is being dragged across someone’s shoulders. “And they heal you, remember? You’ve gone in one at least four times now.”
Keith’s frown grows wider.
”Okay- yeah, you’ve got a concussion-“
Is the only thing Keith can make out before he’s passing out again.
A cold, clawed hand grabs the back of his neck, lifting him out of the pilots seat and into a wall instead.
Before he has the chance to recover, the same person grabs his arm and twists it painfully behind his back, kicks in the back of his knees and lets him fall. They straddle him from being, keeping a clawed hand tight against his head and slamming it against the metal floor. He groans through grit teeth, jerking in the person’s grasp, but the arms only tighten and Keith is pretty sure his arm is going to break if he keeps struggling.
The comms on his helmet suddenly burst to life, having been pretty quiet before, save for the occasional grunt or warning shout, and he’s pretty sure that if he’d been sitting down, they’d be freaking out over the screen.
”Keith, Keith, are you okay? Can you hear us?” Someone- he’s pretty sure it’s Lance- asks, worry and concern evident in his voice.
He opens his mouth to answer, but then the person straddling him leans down, whispering something in his ear, helmet be damned, claws pricking through the armour and undersuit, digging into his flesh. “Say a word about me, and we’ll blow the Green one to pieces.”
No- not Pidge.
Keith clenches his jaw, lips in a tight, thin line. He tries to twist his head to look at them, but they tighten the grip on his arm- Keith winces at the audible crack, slamming his head back onto the ground. “I-“ He shudders, licks his lips. He hopes they’ll understand. “I’m fine. J-just tripped.”
He hears Lance sigh, then the claws in his arm release. He bites his tongue to stop himself from making noise. “Are you sure?”
”Y-yeah,” Keith’s says, voice shaky. “I’m fine. Just a sec'.”
He hears Lance sigh, again, and even if he’s trying to make it sound relieved, it still sounds worried.
Does he understand?
They loosen their grip on his arm, and take their hand off his head.
He takes advantage.
He jerks backwards, sending the heavy person toppling to the side. He jumps to his feet, summoning his bayard. “Cover Pidge!” he yells, pulling up his shield to block a fist from the overly sized Galra.
Just as he says that, the ion cannon shoots at Green, a blast that can tear her apart, aimed directly for her head-
A flash of yellow and Hunk's Lion is there, back taking the brunt of the blast.
Keith lets out the breath he didn't know he was holding, relief taking over his body, guard lowering.
He let it down too soon.
The Galra smashes his head into the back of his chair, leaving him in a dazed heap on the floor. He's vaguely aware of hands grabbing his waist, then the hands are gone, and something's wrapping around his waist as Red's jaws open and his mask seals. The purple blur- Galra?- is sucked into space, screaming curses and for someone called Axca.
Wake up, Cub.
Keith wakes up with a gasp, freezing as his feet try to find ground underneath him. He trips over something, falling on top of that thing. He hears said thing grunt, but his head is colliding with the ground and his vision is going black.
There's hands on his face, touching his arms, going through his hair- it's too much- it's too much and he doesn't even know who's touching him but he doesn't care because he wants it to stop- he doesn't want to be touched-
He lashes his fist out, eyes snapping open, despite the small headache and exhausted body.
It connects with something- and now that he can see, he can see that this 'something' is Lance, and he's cradling his left arm to his chest, a pained expression on his face.
"S-sorry," Keith gets out, trying to push himself up from whatever he's lying on. His headache protests, and he falls back down with an exhausted groan.
"It's fine," Lance assures, letting go of his arm with a wince.
Keith frowns. He didn't hit that hard, did he?
Before he has the chance to ask, Lance is stepping out of the room with a 'goodnight'.
Keith falls back asleep, and the question escapes his mind.
Sometimes when Keith trains, he gets so far into it that he's hardly aware of anything around him, and when he's startled, he's startled.
It's like when his mom used to turn on the 1960's version television, listen to it for a few minutes, then grabs a pair of screwdrivers and works on something in their small kitchen in their RV. His mom would tune everything out, letting the sound lull her into a work coma- a sort of trance that takes her focus and shoves it onto the thing she's doing, in her words.
God, he misses her.
It might not be the smartest thing to do that, seeing as anyone could walk in at any point and say 'hi', and he'd freak, miss a dodge, and get a possibly-fatal blow, but it's not something he can stop.
He wouldn't stop it if he could, anyways.
Lance had done that once before, not on purpose, of course, and Keith had freaked out so badly he had a panic attack, along with a deep cut along his bicep that took weeks to heal.
So, really, he should've been expecting it when- "Hey, Keith!"
Keith yelps, sword falling from his grasp as he stumbles backwards, narrowly dodging a sword to the neck. The robot brings up a foot and buries it into his stomach, sending him back a few feet. He rolls to a stop a few feet away, throwing a glare at Lance, who has the audacity to laugh, even though he's the one to cause it. "End training simulation," he grumbles, flipping himself onto his back, a hand over his stomach. The robot collapses, lifeless, like it's strings were cut- which, technically, they were. He waits for Lance to stop laughing to speak up again. "What do you want?" He didn't mean to snap, not really, but he's exhausted, and Lance just made him get a nasty bruise along his entire stomach- one that will not be fun to walk and fight with.
Keith watches as Lance rubs his eyes, wiping away fake tears, and leans on the door frame, arms crossed and a lopsided smile on his face, one that sends butterflies soaring through his stomach. He wishes Red was in his stomach, burning all of those pesky bugs, so he wouldn't feel this way around Lance. "Shiro wanted me to get you for dinner," he says, voice still tinted with laughter.
"Tell him I'm not hungry," Keith replies, getting on one knee and pushing himself to his feet. He walks back to the center of the room, collecting his bayard as he goes, and activates it into his sword. He raises an eyebrow at Lance, who's still there, eyes downcast, a light pink dusting across his cheeks. "Lance?"
Lance startles almost as badly as he did, losing his balance and toppling sideways, onto the floor. Keith snorts, crossing his arms and deactivating his bayard. "Asshat," Lance grumbles, getting to his feet.
"What were you looking at?" Keith knows- wow, he knows where Lance was looking, he also knows that these pants frame his ass very well, even if he hates it. But Lance doesn't know he knows, so he's playing innocent.
Lance barks out a nervous laugh, rubbing the back of his neck, face flushing red. "The floor!"
"Yeah," Lance agrees, face a high shade of red, almost matching Keith's Lion.
Keith rolls his eyes, re-activating his sword and calling for level five to start back up. He gets into a defensive position, all too aware of how Lance's eyes trails his ass into a bending position. "Alright, pervert."
Lance squawks as Keith ducks away from the robot's sword, raising his own sword to get a blow on the robot's midsection. He hears Lance's fading footsteps with a grumble, just as his stomach screams in protest of his move, making him drop to one knee. His bayard falls from his hands as he gasps, arms wrapping around his stomach. He doesn't have time to end the simulation before it's sword is coming down again.
When he comes out of the healing pod, he's lectured on training alone, loses his training deck privileges for a week, unless it's group training.
He's upset about it, of course, but he learns to spend his time in other ways, like getting to know Lance.
He learns that Lance talks about his family all the time, which- don't get him wrong, he loves that, but he can never share his stories, only because he hardly remembers his parents-, he learns that Lance actually has really, really soft skin, he learns that Lance can be fiercely overprotective of the ones he loves if they hurt them, and he learned that Lance is a self sacrificing asshole. He also learns that Lance has just enough skinniness and fatness to be a sturdy, soft pillow, not one where you sink into it. Keith prefers those types of pillows, and he's glad to know that Lance is like that, because he may keep sitting beside him at movie night, now.
Keith also learned that the feeling he gets whenever he's around Lance- it's called love.
He learns that he's in love with Lance.
He doesn't know what went wrong.
This mission should have gone perfectly fine- no Galra for miles, peaceful locals, breathable air, and, to top it all off, it was a diplomatic mission.
Allura and Coran had automatically gone, dragging Keith and Lance with because they'd lost the nose goes- tied, even. They weren't allowed to land the Castle on their twin planets, Xynvia and Xynvio, so the Castle had to land on a moon nearby, the closest one being four hours away. They'd taken a pod instead of the Lions- it got too cramped with four people, even in Blue, and it would've been a three hour ride instead. Allura couldn't make a wormhole this close, something about tearing apart the planets if the destination was too close, so they're stuck in a pod for four hours, the only thing to keep them entertained is Corans weird stories.
Lance and Keith had been put in the back of the pod, while Coran steered and Allura shotgunned. Keith supposed it was fair, but he didn't really want to be stuck in the back of the pod with a headache and a loud Lance for four hours.
Lance, thankfully, seemed to notice that something was up twenty minutes in, and had stopped talking. He even offered to be a pillow for Keith, who was laying down on the cold metal bench. Keith reluctantly accepted, letting Lance scoot closer until Keith could lift up his head and drop it into Lance's lap.
Despite trying not to, Keith fell asleep.
When he woke up, they'd arrived at the planet, and Allura and Coran were leaving the pod. Lance grinned at him, a soft, small smile, waiting for Keith to slowly get up, before getting up himself.
Lance makes sure to stay by his side during the twenty minute walk (What is with the Xynvians and long travelling?), offering a steady support in case he stumbled. He couldn't tell why Lance was being so nice to him, but he didn't mind, either. He liked it.
By the time they'd gotten to the Castle, the day cycle on the planet had turned to night, revealing three moons; one blue, one red, one purple. It casts a beautiful reflection in the lake surrounding the castle, leaving Keith staring in awe as Lance nudges him forwards.
The diplomatic part of the mission is boring, to say the least, talk about alliances, how they can help each other with supplies, how this planet can aide in the war. Keith tunes it out for the most part, concentrating on forcing his headache away with thoughts.
"Hey," Lance whispers, careful not to let the Xynvians or Allura hear. “You okay?”
He removes his hand from his forehead, coming face to face with Lance’s perfect, tan face. “Yeah,” he lies, trying to reassure Lance. “Just a headache, it’ll pass.”
Lance, looking concerned, nods, moving to stand by Keith’s side again. He’s thankful Lance didn’t push.
He sighs, allowing himself to relax, knowing Lance will wake him if he starts to doze off.
“Please, if you will follow me,” The King says, directing his clawed hand towards a large, blue double door.
Allura nods politely, while Coran gives them a smile. Keith trails behind them, Lance by his side.
The walk to the doors, and down the hallway, is relatively silent, interrupted by the sounds of shoes on metal, armour clacking on armour.
The guards behind them stop abruptly, a native language escaping their lips.
The King nods, a grim smile on his face. He clasps his claws in front of him, backing to the side. “Through here, please.”
Allura, unlike Keith, doesn’t seem to notice anything suspicious, and smiles at the King, stepping through the red set of double doors.
As Lance and Keith go to follow, the King holds out a hand, and the door shuts, locking. The guards from behind grabs Keith’s wrists, securing them behind his back before Keith can react. “Kneel,” the guard orders. Keith refuses, trying to jerk his arms out of the cuffs. He kicked forwards, knocking one of the many guards in the chest and sending him to his knees. “Kneel!”
”No!” Keith snarled, elbowing the guard holding him. He whipped his head to the side, looking for Lance. He hadn’t heard from him-
Lance was on the ground, hands uncuffed, trying to force two of the guards off of him. He had a gag of sorts in his mouth, hands too preoccupied to take it out. "La-"
A scream found it's way past his lips as lightning engulfed him, erupting from his cuffs and travelling down his limbs. He distantly heard screams that were not his own, but his mind was going too fast to comprehend the words. As the lightning died down, his knees gave out, letting him fall to his knees, panting as he slumped over.
"Good," the same guard said smugly, louder than the ringing in his ears. "Sire-"
"Ik ben een coe," The King says, Lance's chin in his hand. Lance snarls, trying to jerk his head away, but the grip only tightens, droplets of blood escaping the skin the King broke. He's kneeling, wrist cuffs attached to ankle cuffs. Keith attempts to break free once more, movements much more sluggish and weak, and receives a blow to the head. He hits the ground with a thud, vision blacking out and head spinning. "Ego bos, maar ik loeit niet, obsecro, niet doen omnes reges universae me."
Lance screams, a sound Keith can hardly make out with his muddled brain, and watches him writhe in the King's hand with blurry vision. Keith continues his futile efforts in struggling, choking on his own breath as a guard steps on his back, pushing down with all of it's strength. Keith bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood, refusing to make a sound as the guard squeezes the air out of him.
As the foot is removed, he sucks in a breath, coughing while his lungs try to function properly again.
"Do that again," the guard hisses, twisting it's clawed hand into Keith's hair and yanking him to his knees, "And I'll break your spine."
Keith spits blood onto their face.
A split second of shock crosses over the guard's face, but is quickly replaced with anger, unending, forever burning. They let out a growl, lifting their foot and slamming it back down onto Keith's back. Keith gasps, white hot pain erupting from his back as they raise their foot again-
"Enough!" the King shouted, glaring at the guard that had been beating the shit out of him. Keith sighed in short relief, shoulders slumping. The guard backed away, a scowl still on it's face, but made no move to hurt him. "Blue Paladin," Keith raised his eyes to Lance's form, who was grinning, rifle resting against his shoulder, watching Keith's every movement. "Your destiny is to kill him."
"Of course," Lance replied, a small smirk smoothing his features as he prepared the blaster to fire. He marched over to Keith, dragging him up by the chin. Keith flinched as the cold barrel was pressed against his forehead, the only thing keeping him from falling from his kneeling position was Lance's hands. "Any last words?" Lance asked, so very Lance-like- Something flashed across Lance's face and he switched hands to hold his gun, a click, not audible to anyone but Keith, to be heard. If Keith were in his right state of mind, he might've acknowledged it.
"I love you," he whispers, knowing it won't make a difference, but he needs Lance to know.
Something flickers across Lance's face then, and his lips part-
Keith swore he saw tears in Lance's eyes as the trigger was pulled.
The next time he woke up, it felt like someone had split his head into two pieces, smashed all of the bones inside, put it in an oven for three hours, and put it back together.
Everything was fuzzy and out of focus, the ringing in his ears preventing him from hearing what was going on.
There was a lot of muffled shouting, a few screams, maybe, he couldn't be sure, but then someone- someone really, really familiar- with orange hair and an orange moustache was kneeling in front of him, placing something on his forehead. Keith recoiled in pain, a high pitched whimper escaping his lips. The man- Coran, that's who he is- removed his hand, saying something, but it was like he was underwater with headphones in.
"-ck you-" Keith blinked for a second, a second and the next thing he knew, he was being carried down hallways, head protesting and back groaning in pain, by Coran, who was missing his spark of energy and was frowning.
A comforting, worried growl echoed through his head, hurting it even more, and his vision blacked out.
Of course, of course, the second Keith comes out of the pod, Lance is in the bathroom. He'd been sitting outside of it for two weeks, tops, leaving every few hours for a bathroom break, and once, the other day, for a shower.
He noticed a lot of things in the mirror- like how his skin was ghostly pale, different to his usual dark, tanned skin, dark, purple bruises took the place of the skin around his eyes, and that his cheeks had tear tracks from three days ago, when he'd broken down in Coran's arms.
He scrubs them away with his sleeves, splashing water onto his face and wiping it away with one of the many towels.
He wanders back to the infirmary, repeating to himself over and over that Coran was right, he did the right thing by setting it to stun and- and letting the aliens believe-
When he enters the infirmary, he sees Keith, sitting on the ground, face pressed into Coran's chest as Coran rubs his back, whispering small reassurances. Keith's shoulders are shaking, along with the rest of him, and soft exhales, sounding close to sobs, escaped Keith.
"Coran?" Keith asks, and Lance, glued to the ground, strains to hear his quiet voice. "H-how am I n-not dead?"
Coran meets his eyes for a split second, tilting his head to the side as an indication for him to come over. Lance's legs before his brain does, moving him to Keith's side in a second, sitting down beside them. "His gun was set to stun," Coran explains, removing one arm from Keith and pulling away slightly. Keith removes his face from Coran's chest, sniffling and wiping at his eyes. "He broke out of it- the spell, the one the King put on him. He hoped to trick the King into thinking you were dead by setting the gun to stun, and, well, it worked. The King led him away from you and down another hall, where Allura went to get him after breaking down the doors, while I aided you. No guards were there; they all went with Lance," Coran folds his hands in front of him, letting Keith catch his breath and scrub away his tears before continuing. "I saw it all, and I must say, boys, I'm proud of both of you."
Keith's head snaps up at the mention of someone else, wet, teary, beautiful eyes meeting his. "I-" he clears his throat, rubbing his eyes once more. "Lance-"
Lance pulls Keith in for a hug, burying his face in the fabric of the healing suits, breathing in the fresh scent of Keith- wood shavings and vanilla, a scent that shouldn't mix, but does. Keith stiffens, but slowly relaxes into it, wrapping his arms around Lance's back and resting his head on Lance's shoulder.
"I'm so sorry-"
"It's fine," Keith says, though his voice is hoarse and rough, from the crying and disuse. "You saved me, right? It was either a major migraine or death," He feels Keith shrug against his face, prompting him to let out a wet laugh.
"Migraine, sure," Lance removes his head from Keith's shoulder, but not his arms. He tangles his fingers into Keith's hair, placing his head on Keith's. "Let's go with that."