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Labored Breaths

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Day 10 - Hanahaki 

 

It hurt, every breath hurt. 

He reached into the pond and picked up one of the withering flowers. 

He remembered what they were supposed to look like. He remembers what they looked like the day he got married, oh they were so beautiful. They sparkled in the sunlight and glowed in the moonlight. They were her favorite shade of pink, of course they were, the flowers she had for him were his favorite shade of blue. It had been a beautiful day, one that left everyone who came with full hearts. 

Another difference between the flowers was where they came from. These flowers didn’t come from the Hanahaki pond, no these came from his lungs. 

Another fit of coughs, a gag, and more flowers falling from his mouth. They still smelled so pretty, and it only made him angrier. 

He slapped at the water, blurring his reflection, the reflection of a broken man. 

Another fit of coughs, they didn’t seem to stop, the flowers just kept coming, fully stemmed now, that wasn’t good, and yet Lance let it keep taking over. 

 

“Where is Lance? He didn’t answer any of my texts yesterday or today, I need to kick some sense into him,” Pidge said, Veronica laughing mildly at her, but she wasn’t in the mood to laugh, and neither were the people she dragged with her. Everyone knew Lance was going through a hard time, but he would always answer their texts and phone calls. 

Shiro and Hunk both got the day off to come with Pidge to check on him, Pidge made her own schedule, so it didn’t matter for her. 

“Oh relax you three, you know where he is, he doesn’t leave the greenhouse anymore,” Veronica said grabbing a set of keys before guiding the group towards the beautiful towering glass greenhouse. 

When they entered they all took to calling Lance’s name, but it was Pidge who found him, he was leaning over the hanahaki pond, his favorite part of the greenhouse. 

“Lance! Lance there you are, you had all of us worried sick you asshol-,” the rest of her sentence was lost to screams as she approached Lance and realized he was unconscious. The others came running, Veronica reached down and touched one of the withering flowers in the pond. 

“Shiro get my father now,” Veronica said, her voice tight, but she gave no indication as to what was happening. She didn’t have too, Hunk and Pidge were long time friends of Lance, they knew very well what the Hanahaki disease was, it was one of Lance’s favorite stories. They just never imagined it being true. 

 

Shiro was cradling Lance close to his chest as he followed Papa McClain to the main house. He also knew what the hanahaki disease was, Lance told it to him when Keith up and left, leaving a hole in the hearts of many. Shiro lost a brother that day. Acxa lost her only blood family left. Lance lost a best friend, possibly a soulmate. 

“Lance you will get through this, you better get through this, I can’t lose anymore of you,” Shiro whispered letting his tears flow freely. 

Papa McClain led him into a bedroom and pulled out a medical bag, Mama McClain came in with surgical tools lots of towels and sheets. She gestured for Shiro to set him down on the sheets. 

“Go, go be with the others,” she said, there was no ‘he will be alright’ or ‘have hope’ because Mama McClain had never been one for saying things she didn’t know to be true. 

 

Hunk was trembling, he should have known. He should have been more observant. He should have paid more attention. 

“Hunk, you and Shay just had a child, stop beating yourself up, if anyone should feel like shit it should be me. My job is to make observations and notice things, and I let him get there. I don’t have a life like you or Shiro. I don’t have an excuse,” Pidge said teary eyed and hiding her face into Hunk’s shirt. 

“Pidge if I hear you blame yourself again… I don’t even know but I can’t handle anymore of this, we will remain hopeful, and we will not blame each other. You know Lance wouldn’t want that,” Shiro said walking into the room, and taking a seat next to them. 

“Why didn’t he tell any of us, he must have known, he had to have known. He was going to let himself die,” Hunk said his voice shaky and unsteady, the thought of Lance dying suddenly had him breaking down. Shiro reached over and gripped his shoulder. 

“He’s been through so much, we can’t even imagine,” Shiro said, and Hunk could only nod. Someone with a heart as big as Lance’s shouldn’t have to go through what he has. He has had his heart broken time after time. 

 

Veronica was waiting outside the room, she could hear rushed whispers of her parents on the other side of the door, her siblings had joined her, the commotion bringing them out of hiding. They were all supposed to be watching over Lance, trying to support and help him get through this, looks like they were all completely useless considering they let him nearly die. 

Luis brought her into a hug, Marco and Rachel following shortly after. 

“Of course, out of all of us the one to get hanahaki it would be Lance,” Marco said, his voice choked. 

Rachel snorted at that, “We always knew he loved too much, too deeply.” 

“He couldn’t hurt a damn fly because they had their own families and people they loved,” Luis commented, his voice heavy in Veronica’s ear. 

“He doesn’t deserve any of this,” Veronica responded, she knew exactly why he didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t want to stop loving her. He would let himself die loving her. He also knew that if he did it he wouldn’t come back the same, his heart would be empty. She cried harder at the thought. Her brother who had so much love for everything and everyone around him was going to be just a tad bit more dull now. It made her sick. 

 

“Papa, no, no you can’t- you can’t take away my love, please, you always said you would never remove it if you had it, not even on your dying breath,” Lance pleaded, the words hard to push through his weak lungs. 

“Mijo, do not be foolish, this isn’t because you didn’t give her a chance, this isn’t because she doesn’t love you, this is because she loved you and the world took her from you. You cannot let this love kill you, she is gone, and you are not,”  his father tried to plead with him, hot tears blurring the room for both of them.

“Papa, if you take it away you will take away the love I have for my wife, don’t take away the love I have for my wife,” Lance cried harder. 

“It isn’t the same, do not do this to everyone left, not to everyone who loves you,” his father said.

He felt someone grab his hand on the other side, he looked over to his mama was holding his hand so tightly, “Mijo, for me, for me, por favor, don’t leave, let your father save you.” 

“It isn’t fair,” Lance cried, it wasn’t fair, his heart pounded in his chest, his lungs ached. He closed his eyes. 

It’s time , her voice sang in his head, and the tears came faster, he choked looking for air under his fast breath from crying. He didn’t want it to be time. It would never be time. It wasn’t fair.  

“It’s time,” Lance said bitterly, turning to his father and giving him a weak nod, if she said it was time, it was time. 

 

Keith stood nervously in front of the McClain household. Five years. It had been five years. Five years since James convinced him to live his life. To go on a limb and travel the entire world with him. 

Keith knew he should probably go visit Shiro or Acxa first, but he also knew that Lance would welcome him with open arms, no matter how long it had been. Pus Lance would help him make it up to the others.

Lance, the damn reason he leapt at the opportunity James gave him. Lance the person who Keith used to think about every time he closed his eyes. Fortunately, James finally cracked him. The second year into their travels, they had glorious and fantastic sex on a dingy, and when he woke up Keith thought of James, not of Lance. 

That was another reason he was visiting Lance, he needed advice for proposing and hopefully a fuck ton of flowers. 

He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. He could hear some voices from inside, and finally someone came and opened the door. It was the more elusive and protective sister, Rachel. Keith swore under his breath, Rachel never liked Keith. 

“What the fuck are you doing here?” she hissed quietly under her breath. He figured her quiet demeanor was to not notify Lance of his presence, fair enough. 

“I am here to see Lance,” he said, mustering up all the strength he could. 

“Who the hell invited you?” she snapped back. Invited him? Could he not just come and say hi to an old friend?

“Uh, no one, I just-” he started only to be cut off. 

“Exactly, no one, no one wants you here, get the fuck out of here,” she said before walking back inside and slamming the door in his face. 

He knew he shouldn’t be surprised, but he was. Perhaps his relaxed vacationing for the past five years let him forget how angry people tended to get. He reached out and knocked again. He wasn't going anywhere until he got an audience with Lance. 

The voices were louder this time, and the door opened again, Veronica and Luis stepping out onto the porch before pushing him towards the greenhouse. Completely wordless and silent. Fortunately, he knew that these two siblings liked him a bit better. 

“When did you get back?” Veronica asked, but Keith was noticing her tear stained face, as well as Luis’ red eyes. Why?

“Yesterday, my flight got in yesterday,” Keith responded without even thinking, his mind was so caught up in why they were crying. Had Rachel been crying too and he didn’t notice? 

“Of course it did,”  Veronica groaned. “Why are you here? Why didn’t you go find Acxa or Shiro?” 

“I wanted to see Lance,” Keith said with a shrug. 

“Why are you here,” Luis said stepping forward, pure dominance radiating from his voice. 

Keith trembled, and spat out the truth far faster than he meant to, “I knew Lance wouldn’t be mad at me, I knew he would help me explain to Shiro and the others, I knew he would help propose to James.” 

“You wanted to take advantage of him, that’s really fucking kind of you, you can get the fuck out of here. Maybe Rachel had always been right about you,” Veronica said getting up to go stand by Luis, he brought her into a hug. 

“I-I wasn’t- no, well...I wanted to see my friend, and I guess with that came using his kindness, but it’s not like that, I promise,” Keith said trying to establish some sort of defense for himself, but maybe he was unconsciously taking advantage of Lance. It wasn’t his fault that Lance was as nice as he was. 

“Look if you care for Lance at all you won’t ask him to help you with any of those things, and if you were still friends with Lance you would know why, now I highly recommend you get the hell out of here,” Luis said, the finality wrung in his voice. 

Keith got up, Luis’ words leaving him feeling awful. If you were still friends with Lance you would know why

 

Veronica and Luis left him in the greenhouse, telling him to grab whatever flowers he needed to propose to James. But Keith needed Lance. Some moral support. Even Allura would do. 

“Keith?” Pidge’s voice called, his head snapped up to look at the girl, he smiled faintly, she had changed so much. 

“Pidge,” he said with a smile getting up to hug her before she stuck a hand out. 

“Rachel told me you were here, why are you here? Shiro couldn’t have told you, was it Hunk?” she said, her arms crossed, her amber eyes staring him down. 

“What do you mean? I just got back and wanted to see a friend, why are you here?” Keith said, getting defensive. Honestly why was everyone being all dramatic about him being here? 

“You just got back? Classic, classic Keith. I think it’s time for you to leave.” 

“Look, I left because, I just- I needed something different for a while, and James gave me that, and I can’t say I am sorry in the slightest. I needed it and I feel a hundred times better now,” Keith said, probably a little too proudly as anger flared in their littlest friend, she rushed forward and pushed him. 

“I get it, I get needing to get away, but you did it in the most selfish way. We all needed you, and you didn’t bother saying anything. Everyone, everyone had to move on with their lives. You should have been Shiro’s best man, you should have walked Acxa down the aisle, you should have met Hunk’s kids, and most of all you should have been there for Lance.” 

Keith’s heart started to feel cold, all of those things, he never got an invite to any of them.

“Lotor even came, fucking stars Lance even invited Rolo adn Nyma and they showed, where were you?”

Silence hung in the air, suffocating, when the door opened, “Katie? Veronica said you came out here. What’s going on, last time we were at an eleven someone had died.”

Matt , Keith thought as the man came into view and stalled in front of him, “Is this the eleven, because you are right Shiro and Lance are going to kill him.” 

“No Matt, go inside, I’ll handle Keith. Shiro will tell you what’s going on,” Pidge said. An eleven? Like the scale that Lance came up with all those years ago for emergency meetings? And Shiro was here? Right now?

“Keith you need to go,” Pidge said grabbing his arm and leading him out of the greenhouse. 

“What’s going on? What did Matt mean by someone being dead? Why is Shiro here?-” 

“Guess what Keith it’s none of your business anymore, don’t make me find Marco,” she said, pushing him towards the bike in front of the house. It’s none of your business anymore . He sighed. This is why he wanted to talk to Lance first. 

 

“Hey,” James said opening the door of his old apartment. He recognized some of the faces on the couch, and they looked pretty pissed off. James may have been let back into his old home, but it didn’t look like he had better luck with his friends. 

They went to his bedroom before they threw themselves on the bed, “No luck on your end either?” 

“Nope. It’s ridiculous, I get it I  was gone for five years, but Pidge was going off on me for not showing up to weddings. Come on I never got an invite, I am not psychic,” Keith said groaning throwing his hands over his face. 

“Oh uh, you did get invitations, or I did. But those first few months every time you got a letter or whatever from your friends it would put you in the worst mood so I just started throwing them out,” James said. Keith sat up straight. 

“You what?” 

“I was just looking out for you, okay? Don’t be mad.” 

“Don’t be mad? Did you not hear what I said? I missed my brother and sister’s weddings!” 

“So what, you were happy? You missed more than that. There were other weddings, birth announcements, birthday cards, Lance set you a letter almost weekly, oh and the funeral invite, that was an easy one to toss.” 

Funeral? FUNERAL? Who the hell was dead?...It couldn’t be...no James would have told him...but why else was everyone being so weird about Lance.

“Who was the funeral for?” Keith said through gritted teeth. 

“Huh? Um, the white haired one, the girl who married Lance,” James said, still without a shred of apology, almost like none of it mattered. But Keith took in a breath, at least it wasn’t Lance…

Keith shook his head, Allura...Allura was gone? She had always tried to so hard to get to know Keith better, especially after she started dating Lance. Even at the wedding, she was so nice, it was stupid. She was so stupidly nice. Did she not see that she had taken his love from him? 

“How long ago?” 

“How long ago did she die? Um, I think like four months ago, we were in Korea at the time.” 

Four months. That must have been what Pidge was yelling about. Even Lotor, Rolo, and Nyma came, they all came to support Lance, and Keith was too busy strutting around Korea?
“I have to go,” Keith said standing up, he needed to see Lance for himself, apologize until his throat couldn’t take it anymore. 

“Seriously? They don’t want to see you right now Keith. She and him are the damn reason I brought you to travel the world with me. And now that she’s gone you are going to run back to him?” 

“It’s not like that...I just need to be there for him. He’s still my best friend.” 

“Keith!” 

Keith ignored all the voices and whispers. There was someone he needed to see.