Keith narrowly dodged an energy blast from a Galran droid and absently thought that his day could have been going a little better.
He threw himself behind a rocky outcrop, pressed his back flat against it as he breathed hard and readjusted his grip on his bayard. There was red dust kicked up in the air, making it difficult to see or inhale without coughing, and he resisted the urge to shut his helmet. He had lived in the desert for a year, was definitely used to the sting of sand in his eyes, but almost wished that this Galran prison facility could have been located on another, nicer, greener planet.
Not that he would voice that to anyone – much unlike a certain paladin who all but collapsed next to him, having sprinted over and dived for cover.
“This dust fucking sucks, man,” Lance whined, trying to rub at his eyes beneath the helmet. “Do ya’ think Allura will be mad if I shut my helmet?”
Keith rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. “Yes. The helmet is for space, not you getting something in your eye. Did you plant the charges?”
“Yup,” he grinned, popping the p, irritated frown disappearing within the blink of an eye. He held up a small detonator, thumb hovering eagerly over the button, and Keith rolled his eyes at how excited he looked. But, he did have to admit, he kind of was as well. It wasn't every day that Allura instructed Pidge to rig up a small explosive to try and collapse the main entrance to the prison, then begrudgingly gave the job to the most irresponsible team member. But Lance had managed to pull it off pretty well; that was, no soldiers had come chasing after him, so he must have done something right.
It was really a two in one tactic: it wouldn’t be able to block the entire entrance, but it would slow the droids down and make it easier for him and Lance to handle; it would also provide an excellent distraction so that Shiro, Hunk and Pidge could rescue as many prisoners as possible. So while the others were tasked with extraction, their job was to make sure that the enemy was too preoccupied with them to notice the three partially cloaked lions sneaking in.
Easier said than done.
He spared a glance out at the enemy over their hiding spot, but ducked down just as fast as an energy bolt cleaved the air where his head had been. The droids were starting to regroup, the damage that Keith had done earlier apparently not enough to dissuade them from attacking, and seemed to be planning to circle around and trap them. He gave a silent scoff. Like hell he was going to let them get away with that.
“Lance,” he said with a pointed look, “now.”
The brunet gave a wicked grin and didn’t hesitate in pressing the button.
Nothing happened at first, and Lance muttered his breath and smacked the detonator against his knee, and Keith was about to tell him to be a bit more patient when –
A muffled boom, a beat of silence, and then the unmistakable noise of something large collapsing. The ground trembled and Keith took that as his cue.
He got to his feet and vaulted over the rock, ignoring Lance’s sputtering protests, and charged towards the droids while they were confused and unaware. With a shout he activated his shield and used it to knock one aside, then slashed at another’s chest, spun round and cleaved one down the middle. He was aware of Lance following him, saying something about warning a guy before doing something stupid, expertly picking off droids that got too close to Keith.
He blocked an energy blast, barely registering the impact, and relieved a droids shoulders of its head. He leant back almost lazily to avoid a punch, then stabbed the offending attacker and planted his foot on its chest to tug out the blade. He cut through another’s legs and blocked a barrage of shots before disposing of three droids in quick succession.
“Keith!” shouted Lance in warning, and he just managed to duck under – under an electrified spear?
Okay, that wasn’t fair.
“Cover me!” he called to Lance, trusting his friend to keep the remaining droids busy, while he back-pedalled furiously and found himself locked in a fast paced duel with the seemingly better programmed droid. It was quicker, stronger, equipped with a better weapon, and he growled in frustration as he stumbled over the uneven ground and struggled to match its jarring blows. The weapon spat and crackled as it glanced off his bayard, and he deflected heavy strikes with a snarl, spinning and dodging as he tried to land ones of his own.
Lance seemed to get a moment of respite with his own attackers, because he shot at its left shoulder, which deadened the arm but unfortunately didn’t slow it down.
He pressed his attack, feinted low then tried to swipe at its neck, but had been so intent on landing a fatal blow that he left his guard open. He realised his mistake a fraction of a tick too late.
The spear caught him in the side, didn’t stab so much as slash, but in the brief second that its electrified tip met his flesh, he couldn’t move. His bayard and shield retracted and he opened his mouth to yell, but all that came was a strangled noise as his muscles seized up and he could only feel pain, horrible and sharp, like his entire body was on fire –
And then the spear was gone but he could still feel it, and he fell to the ground, curled in on himself as spasms racked his body. He could hear muffled shouting, someone calling his name, a gun firing, and… beeping. Like in movies, when a bomb was about to go off.
He blinked, tried to breathe past the horribly tight feeling in his chest, looked up at the droid that was towering over him. It wasn’t moving, and he would have thought it deactivated if not for the flashing red lights on its helm.
His body was screaming at him, limbs wracked with violent trembling spasms, dirt in his lungs and sweat trickling down his brow and an aching soreness invading every single part of his body; but through the cloud of confusion and pain he realised that it was a countdown.
He scrambled to his feet and ran, adrenaline forcing everything else from his mind, focusing him on the fact that he had to get as far away as possible. He stumbled and time was slowing to a sluggish crawl, he knew that he might not make it, he was acutely aware of the red dirt colouring the air around him, the warm blood soaking his left side, the shrill beeping.
The droid exploded and he threw himself forward, felt heat on his back and indescribable, searing agony, before everything went black.
He dipped in and out of consciousness, darkness and blinding light and the sounds of fighting and his own rattling breathes all melding into a groggy blur. Hours could have passed before he was next aware of his body, numb and unfeeling, and someone spitting a string of curse words and his name over and over again. Arms gently rolled him onto his side and he moaned in pain, and he wanted to protest because it hurt so bad but there were warm arms around him and he was being pulled into someone's lap.
He breathed heavily, focused on that until the other noises started to make sense. Everything sounded muffled and distant, as if he were underwater. There was ringing in his ears. Was that normal? Surely not.
His name. Someone was saying his name again. He cracked his eyes open, looked up blearily at Lance, saw his mouth moving and finally put two and two together.
“Keith,” he was saying, “dios mío, I thought you were dead. I thought you were fucking dead. Are you okay? Please say something. Keith?”
“Ouch,” he whispered, and Lance gave a weak, breathless laugh. There was dirt and blood smeared across his face, a nasty looking wound at his temple, a frown creasing his brow and his eyes lacking their usual glint of amusement. He looked so different when he was serious, and although he regularly complained about Lance’s inability to shut up and stop joking around, Keith would much rather he crack a dumb joke than look down on him with that overwhelming worry.
“Allura,” he said tersely, obviously now speaking through the comm, “he’s really bad. I’m gonna get us back to the lions and then up to you. Have a healing pod ready.” A pause. “Yeah, I handled the rest of the droids, but there are reinforcements clearing a way through the collapsed entrance.” His gaze flickered away, seemed to be intently listening for something before he spoke again. “Shiro, Pidge, Hunk, you guys don’t have long before they realise we were a distraction. Make the most of it.”
And then he was looking back down at Keith, eyes flashing with concern and mouth set with determination. “Buddy, can you walk?”
He gave a stiff nod, his reply more of a breathless gasp than an actual word. “Yeah.”
Lance carefully shifted him into a sitting position, and he bit his tongue to ward off the whimper of pain. His back hurt more than anything, the slightest movement causing him to gasp, and he tried his best to keep it ramrod straight as Lance helped him to his feet. His legs wobbled beneath him, struggling to support his weight, but he finally found himself standing.
Well, heavily leaning against his friend was more like it, but at least he wasn’t lying on the ground anymore.
“Alright, put some pressure on your side so you don’t lose any more blood,” Lance instructed, and he complied, hissing in pain but pressing down as hard as his shaking hand could manage. “We’ll take it slow, okay?”
He squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment, tried to ignore how clammy his skin was, how dizzy he felt, and didn't bother nodding. The first few steps made him want to drop to his knees and throw up, but he sucked in cool air between his teeth and held onto to Lance tighter, for fear that he would do just that, and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.
Dark spots danced at the edges of his vision and he blinked them away, ignored the sharp jabs of pain that accompanied each footfall, and stared hard at the ground in front of them. Lance mumbled encouragement under his breath, told him that they didn’t have far to go, that he was going to be okay, that he just needed to keep his eyes open; and when they finally reached their lions, hidden from sight behind a craggy shelf of rock, Keith felt him sag with relief.
Blue dropped the ramp, and the ground beneath them changed from hardened earth to flat metal as they walked up it and into the blissfully cool lion. He found himself being lowered onto something soft, the small bed at the back of all the lions in case of emergencies such as this, and he collapsed onto it without a moment’s hesitation.
He stared up at the ceiling and breathed hard, the adrenaline beginning to fade away, and tried to ignore the screaming agony of his back and the fact that his hand was slippery with his own blood. Lance was digging through cupboards, pulling out medical supplies at random, and he couldn’t tell whether not Blue had taken off yet because the room was spinning and pain had blurred his senses.
Lance pressed a wad of cloth gently to his side, his helmet gone, hair mussed and forehead beaded with sweat. He didn’t know why he was so worried; Keith always got injured on missions. Granted, never as serious as this, but still.
“Yeah, peachy,” he muttered, hoping that the sarcasm would put Lance at ease. It seemingly did, for a brief moment, but then he was back to chewing on his bottom lip and frowning.
“Red is gonna follow us back to the castle. We’ll get there in a few ticks. I just need you to not fall asleep, okay? Keith?”
He made a noise of assent, but everything was going blurry again. He barely registered the throbbing pain when Lance pressed the cloth more firmly against his side. His mind was struggling between blank fuzziness and the sudden, horribly sharpened thought that he might die.
It was an irrational thought, but now a very real one in his mind, and it made his breath catch in his throat.
“Lance,” he whispered urgently, and the other boy immediately stilled, obviously alarmed by his tone of voice. “Lance, I have to tell you something.”
If it took nearly dying for him to admit it, then so fucking be it.
Confused eyes blinked down at him that then widened in horrified realisation. “Oh, fuck no, no you don’t,” he said in a shaky, insistent voice. “Tell me later. You’re gonna be fine. Don’t talk like you’re about to die.”
"Keith, you’re gonna be fine, please, just –” his voice cracked, panic rising quickly in his tone. “Just don’t close your eyes, yeah? Stay awake. Please.”
He tried to mumble out an apology, tried to say those words that were resting on the tip of his tongue, but his lips wouldn’t move and his eyes were fluttering shut even though he was screaming at them not to. Was he dying? No, that couldn’t be right. He couldn’t. He hadn’t said it. He hadn’t told him. He hadn’t told –
And then there was darkness, heavy and impenetrable and suffocating. Pain and pain and pain. The sharp tang of chemicals. A dull ache followed by blissful respite. Distant, faint voices. Soft, blue light. A detached sense of serenity.
When Keith next opened his eyes, it was to find himself toppling out of a healing pod.
He didn’t even have a millisecond to register surprise, nor get his unstable and uncooperative legs beneath him, and he was sure he was going to crash into the ground – but then there were warm arms around him, steadying him on his feet, a familiar voice sighing his name in relief.
He blinked up at the person, saw dark hair and tired eyes and brown skin, and tightened his grip on their arms.
“Lance,” he murmured, a statement of fact as his mind began to process where he was and what was happening. He was with Lance. That was good. He was with Lance and he wasn’t dead.
“Yeah, Keith, it’s okay.” There was a smile on his face, reassuring and comforting. “I’m here. You’re okay.”
He nodded absently, as if agreeing made it more real. His mouth tasted weird, like copper and acrid chemicals, and he swallowed past it as he glanced around. They were in the med bay, of course, and he was wearing the white outfit that tightly hugged his body that seemed to be necessary when entering a healing pod. The soft blue and white lighting of the castle was much nicer compared to the painful orange-red of the planet they had been on, and he felt… better. Much better. His back wasn’t on fire anymore and he could breathe properly, although there was still a deep and weary ache in his bones that he supposed he would just have to sleep off.
A sudden wave of dizziness washed over him and he mumbled a few choice words in Korean, and Lance took the cue to gently guide him to sit on the raised step by the healing pod. Keith groaned and rested his head on his knees whilst a thumb absently rubbed circles on his shoulder, and after a few minutes of deep breathing he looked up.
Lance was kneeling in front of him, wearing that same look of concern from before – brow creased in a frown, lips pressed together tightly, gaze searching his face for a sign that he was okay. Whilst Keith had been in the healing pod he must have at least left to go and shower, because he was back in normal clothes and the blood was gone from his face, but there were dark shadows under his eyes and he looked exhausted.
“How long was I out?” he asked, voice croaky with disuse, mostly to ease the sense of disorientation that was still clouding his mind, but also because Lance had undoubtedly spent most of that time by his unconscious side. He didn’t look like he had slept at all.
“About a day. Are you… how are you feeling?”
“Better.” He would have lied if it still hurt badly, but thankfully, it was the truth. “Much better.”
Lance nodded, almost distractedly, and ran a hand through his hair. “I should, uh… I should call the others. Coran needs to make sure you’re okay.”
Keith almost opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it and simply nodded. Lance went to the control panel on the opposite wall and spoke over the announcement system, telling everyone that Keith had just woken up and that they should get their asses over here pronto.
The next twenty odd minutes were spent with the rest of the team expressing their relief that he was okay, letting him know that the mission had been an absolute success and their distraction had worked perfectly. Hunk convinced him to eat a few mouthfuls of green goo, Allura fussed over how he looked even more pale than usual, and Coran ran a few tests that involved confusing Altean jargon that he couldn’t even begin to understand. Lance hovered anxiously by his side the entire time, oddly quiet, and Keith kept trying to catch his gaze but his eyes were resolutely glued on some far off point. He wasn’t sure if the others noticed, but he certainly did, and it was worrying to say in the least. He wanted to ask if he was okay, but it felt wrong to do so surrounded by so many people.
So when Coran finally straightened up, peering down at a strange handheld device with a satisfied nod, he was somewhat relieved. “I think we’re done here. The scarring should completely disappear within a few days. Right now, you just need to sleep.”
Keith mumbled out a thanks and smiled tiredly at everyone, and again felt the muted shock that came when he thought about how he finally had a family. A childhood filled with orphanages and foster homes had left him accustomed to loneliness, a year in the desert further only serving to solidify that. So while it had taken him a while to get used to living in close quarters with six other people, he now had people who actually cared about him, were worried, concerned with his wellbeing – and he wouldn’t give them up for the universe.
“Alright,” Shiro said, putting on his trademark parent voice, “everybody get some rest. Lance, take Keith back to his room. Make sure he gets to sleep okay.” He paused, gave a small smile. “You all did great today.”
Everyone slowly filed out, mumbling goodnights and wishes for Keith to feel better in the morning, until finally it was just him and Lance. There was a brief silence, till he got slowly to his feet and there was immediately an anxious hand at his elbow.
“Can you walk okay?” Lance’s voice was soft, cautious, a little raspy after being silent for an uncharacteristically long amount of time.
“Yeah,” he said, looking at Lance with a slightly tilted head. He had never seen him look so on edge before, and the fact that he wasn’t cracking jokes wasn’t really doing much to put him at ease. “I’m good.”
Which was a bit of a lie, because he had barely made it into the corridor when Lance noticed that he was dragging his feet, and promptly slung Keith’s arm round his neck. He started at the contact, his cheeks warming noticeably, but mumbled out a thanks and tried to ignore how close they were.
Which, as they walked the cold corridors, his room suddenly feeling a lot further away than it normally did, proved to be a little more difficult than he’d thought. They were pressed close, Lance’s hand was firm on his side, the other holding the wrist of the arm that was around his neck, and although Keith was exhausted, he apparently wasn’t too exhausted to feel flustered.
When they finally reached his room, Lance let him stand on his own, and he opened the door and the two entered. It was exactly as Keith had left it a day and a half ago, if Lance’s estimate was correct; the bed unmade, knife peeking out from underneath the pillow, odds and ends strewn about on the floor. His room had never looked so inviting, nor his bed so comfortable.
But sleep, surprisingly, wasn’t really his top priority right now. He turned to Lance, who was standing awkwardly near the doorway, and waved him in.
“Make yourself at home,” he said with a tired smile, and Lance complied with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, ran his fingers through his hair, and again stared resolutely at the ground.
Keith sat down next to him with a huff of pain and looked across at him. This different side of Lance, quiet and brooding and definitely unhappy, did not suit him. It tugged the corners of his mouth down, made his eyes look lifeless, put about him an air of flatness that was so drastically different to his usually demeanour that it was like talking to an entirely different person.
“Lance,” he said finally, “I always get hurt on missions. I know this one was bad, but you’re… you’re really…”
He trailed off uncertainly, unsure of how to proceed because Lance was looking at him like he might be sick.
“It’s, uh…” Lance shrugged, swallowed thickly, gave a humourless laugh. “It’s never been that bad. I thought you were actually gonna die, Keith. There was blood everywhere and you kept on passing out, and I… I thought I wasn’t going to get back to the castle in time.”
He stilled, almost seemed to regret sharing the words that were pouring out of his mouth, but didn’t stop, just continued in a weaker voice. “I had to hold you still while they pulled all the shrapnel out of your back. It was horrible. You were barely breathing and it was… I…” He swallowed, finally met his gaze, jaw clenched as if he were trying not to cry. “You could’ve died.”
Keith blinked, drew in a shaky breath. “I didn’t, though. I’m right here.”
“Yeah, but what if you had? It would have been my fault.”
Lance blamed himself, Keith realised belatedly. He blamed himself for not doing more in the fight, for not destroying the droids faster, for not getting to his aid before the explosion. He thought all of this was his fault.
Keith got to his feet suddenly, wobbling slightly but determined to stay upright. He paced frustratedly for a brief moment, then spun on his heel and jabbed an accusatory finger in his direction. “None of this is your fault.”
The other boy simply averted his gaze, picked at the sleeve of his jacket.
“Lance, you couldn’t have done anything. It was my own stupid mistake. I let the droid get the upper hand. None of it was your fault.”
Lance chewed on his bottom lip, which drew Keith’s gaze to his mouth, which almost distracted him from his concerned frustration. He chided himself silently and let a few ticks pass, and the other boy met his gaze.
They stared at each other, a silent argument taking place, before Lance sighed in defeat and sat back. “Fine.”
Lance stuck out his tongue, and he almost looked back to his normal self. “You should clean up. You kind of look like shit.”
Keith was so shocked at the jibe that he laughed, and Lance’s smile finally returned (and it was such a relief to his see his face lighting up, to watch his mouth curling into a grin instead of a taut and concerned line). “Yeah, I bet. Don’t go anywhere.” He added the last part almost as an afterthought, grabbed some clean clothes to change into it, and disappeared into the connected bathroom.
He shut the door behind him, looked hard at his reflection which bore flushed cheeks and the remnants laughter round his mouth, and shook his head. He stripped off the white suit with some difficulty, steadying himself against the bench, and examined his body under the light.
There was an angry looking scar where the spear had caught him, red and raised, sitting just above his hip and curving round the side of his body. He ran tentative fingers along it, relieved when it didn’t sting, and swallowed hard before turning round to look at his back in the mirror, thinking about what Lance had said about the shrapnel.
It was decorated with dozens of scars, looking much the same as the one on his side, each no more than a few centimetres long. His back was a mess of angry looking lines, marring the pale skin dusted with freckles, but he didn’t want to know what it looked like before the healing pod. He could almost feel the horrible burns again, recall what must have been his armour melting to his skin, and he shuddered and stepped away from the mirror quickly.
He could imagine Lance standing by his side, gripping his shoulders, pressing him flat as wickedly sharp pieces of metal were tugged from his flesh.
Or was that a memory?
He shook his head as if to clear it, his mind still a foggy mess, and stepped into the shower. He let the hot water cascade over his aching body, let it wash away the grime and weariness, watched it spiral down the drain, and didn’t think about anything. He would have spent longer in there but it was too exhausting to stand, so he dried himself off slowly, trying not to make any sudden movements, and pulled on a shirt and sweatpants were infinitely more comfortable than the skin tight suit.
He opened the door to find Lance sitting on the bed, knees pulled up to his chest and back against the wall, holding one of the many photos Keith had pinned up above the bed. It was of the two of them, handcuffed together and looking outraged, the unfortunate victims of one of Pidge’s pranks. Lance looked up from it, like he had been caught doing something embarrassing, and sheepishly put the picture back.
“That was pretty cruel of Pidge,” Keith said with a tired grin, carding his fingers through his damp hair, and Lance shrugged.
“Being handcuffed to you wasn’t too bad.”
Everything stilled, the air was tense for a brief second, and then Lance was crossing his legs and shifting uncomfortably, looking as if he were searching for words. Keith knew what he was going to bring up before he even opened his mouth.
“You, were…” He sounded hesitant, nervous, and there was pink tinging his cheeks. “You were going to say something before you passed out, in the lion.”
Keith nodded slowly, came to sit next to him again, but left more space between them than before. He had been bleeding out and panicking, but… if it meant that he finally had an excuse to come clean about it, then he wasn’t going to argue. “Yeah.”
Keith flicked his gaze away, trying to think of the right words, and went to lean his back against the wall like Lance – but when he noticeably grimaced and sat up straight again, the other boy seemed to forget about his enquiry, instead leaning close and letting a hand rest on his shoulder.
“Does it hurt?”
“Not really, just –”
“Can I look?”
Keith blinked across at him, and Lance floundered for a few seconds before finding his voice. “I, uh, I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
Keith gave a half-hearted shrug, hoping that the red flush to his cheeks wasn’t too obvious. “Yeah, sure.”
Lance’s hand moved from his shoulder down to the hem of shirt and hesitantly lifted it halfway up his back. Keith tugged it off the rest of the way, wincing slightly, figuring that it would be easier for him to see the full extent of his injuries – but then he fully realised what he was doing and tried not to go into shock.
Because he was now sitting bare chested next to Lance, and Lance was staring very obviously at the dips and planes of his back and arms and chest.
Lance was already sitting slightly behind him, and so didn’t have to adjust his position to let a tentative finger trace one of the raised scars on his back. Keith shivered slightly and tucked his knees up to his chest, twisting his head slightly to watch the other boy out of the corner of his eye. He looked so intent, brow furrowed as he examined the wounds, and Keith knew he was thinking about what he could have done to prevent it.
“Stop thinking so hard,” Keith murmured, and Lance jolted back as if he had been shocked.
“I can’t,” came his low reply a few moments later. “I hate it when you get hurt, which is dumb because you’re always getting hurt, but that just makes it worse. You’ve got a stupid death wish and I should be doing more to keep you safe.”
Lance took a steadying breath and Keith thought he sounded like he might tear up. He hated seeing Lance cry – like seeing him serious, or worried, it just didn’t feel right. If he wasn’t cracking stupid jokes and trying to make everyone laugh, then everything felt off. Keith almost wished he would say something dumb now, just so he could laugh and shove at his shoulder and tell him to piss off, pretending to be annoyed but secretly enamoured with the delighted grin on Lance’s face.
“I’m still here,” was all he said, and Lance was silent.
But then there was a brush of lips, chaste and gentle, against one of the topmost scars on his shoulder blade. He stilled, turned to look at Lance questioningly, but the other boy’s brain seemed to have short circuited. His eyes were wide and hands fidgety as he rushed to explain himself.
“Sorry, I just – in my family – it’s a thing – just… when somebody gets hurt, you kiss it better, and I –”
“Do it again.”
“I thought th– what?”
Keith turned to him slightly, electing to completely ignore the nervousness that was knotting in his stomach, tone slightly breathy but insistent. “Do it again.”
Lance’s breath hitched in his throat as he searched Keith’s eyes for any signs of trickery. A few moments passed, unabashedly staring at each other, but it would seem that he didn’t find any because hesitant, trembling fingers absently brushed away the hair at the nape of his neck and Lance mouthed another kiss to another scar.
Keith hummed in quiet satisfaction, skin tingling pleasantly after each lingering touch, and they continued in that fashion for what felt like hours but could have only been minutes – Lance kissing the scars on his back and Keith melting against him, eyes fluttering shut, edging closer and closer till there was a knee pressed against his lower back.
But Keith’s heart stuttered, drawing him from his reverie, when gentle fingers danced over the scar on his side and Lance, apparently feeling less nervous and more adventurous, kissed his neck. It sent a thrill throughout his entire body and he wanted to feel it again, every day, forever.
Now he just had to translate that sentiment into actual words that Lance could understand, which seemed to be a little more difficult than previously anticipated, because his heart was threatening to burst out of his chest and he had suddenly forgotten how to speak.
“Do you wanna know what I was gonna say before I passed out?” he asked finally, breaking the comfortable silence, and Lance stilled against him, lips brushing his neck as he spoke.
“I think I can take a guess.”
He gave a quiet sigh of relief, a smile slowly lighting up his face because Lance wasn’t pushing him away or telling him that he was getting the wrong idea. “Good. I’m not great with words.”
Lance huffed a laugh and muttered an agreement, and Keith manoeuvred himself so that they were now face to face. The brunet’s brown complexion had an unmistakeable red tinge to it, his gaze was averted, and he distractedly ran his tongue along his bottom lip.
Keith felt a flush creep up his neck and found himself unable to drag his eyes away.
“You’re staring at my mouth,” Lance stated, smile curling the corners of his lips. The promise of familiar bickering eased the knot in Keith’s stomach and he lazily grinned, leaned in slightly.
“You’re staring at my chest.”
Lance huffed in mock frustration. “Well, what are you gonna do about it, cariño?”
Keith leant closer, swallowed past the nervous lump in his throat, till their warms breaths were mingling together. He reached up, caught his fingers in the front of his jacket, but didn’t have to pull him closer. Lance closed the distance between them, cupped his cheek with a gentle hand, and pressed their lips together.
It was gentle and chaste, noses bumping together slightly as they tried to find the right angle, a toe dipped cautiously into unfamiliar waters. He sighed against him and when Lance pulled back, as if to assess whether or not he had made a mistake, Keith pulled him back with an impatient noise and kissed him again.
He felt fingers tangling in his hair, and he was all too caught up in the taste of Lance’s lips and the feel of his collarbone beneath his absently wandering hands. His exhaustion had been silenced, pushed to the back of his mind. He just had to worry about the tongue darting over his bottom lip, a nonverbal question to deepen the kiss, and the fact that he was complying without a second thought.
His injuries were all but forgotten, and he found that Lance was the perfect painkiller.
The spell broke shortly after, however, when Lance pulled away to frown concernedly and brush his hair out his eyes, and Keith huffed a sigh.
“You… you should sleep.” His lips were swollen, still parted slightly, and he looked even more dishevelled than before.
Keith hummed in agreement, the mere mention of sleep enough to make him yawn widely, and Lance went to get up from the bed.
He caught his wrist and frowned. “Where are you going?”
“Uh…” Lance said, blinking owlishly, “my room?”
Keith rolled his eyes, pulled him back down onto the bed and kicked back the disarrayed covers. “Yeah, dumbass. Your tongue was in my mouth three seconds ago. I think that’s permission to stay the night.”
Lance laughed, rubbed the back of his neck in a flustered gesture, and Keith pressed a quick kiss to the corner of his mouth before finding his shirt and pulling it back on. He carefully lay down on his side, hissing at the twinge of discomfort that came with movement, and Lance switched the lights off before lying beside him.
There were a fair few centimetres between them, though after a few moments Lance shifted closer till their foreheads were pressed together, legs tangled, arms wrapped around one another. The room was lit by a gentle blue glow from the panelling in the walls, by which Keith could see Lance’s still flushed cheeks, his eyes roaming his face, how he bit his bottom lip with a look of pleasant shock. Like he couldn’t believe who he was lying next to, only because it was too good to be true.
Keith had often thought about what it would be like to fall asleep next to Lance, wondered what it would be like to wake in the night and find his body pressed against another’s, wanted nothing more than to open his eyes in the morning and have those warm arms still round him.
He supposed that dream was now a reality, and he couldn’t help the small smile that spread across his face.
“This is nice,” Lance murmured, his breath tickling his nose. “Really nice. We should do this more often.”
“I’m okay with that.”
Content, peaceful silence lapsed again, and he listened to Lance’s slow breathing, felt the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest.
Lance brushed his fingers against his cheekbone, looking as if he were trying to find the words, pushed his hair out of his face, and his eyes were wide and earnest and pleading. “I was so worried about you, and I just – I’m really glad you’re okay. Please don’t ever do that again.”
Keith shifted closer and kissed him, a gentle brush of lips before he settled back down on the pillow and let his eyes flutter shut, a reassurance and a quiet promise. Lance traced absent patterns on the small of his back and his mind went fuzzy again – but this time it wasn’t the darkness of pained unconsciousness that reached for him, but the welcoming lull of sleep, and he let it wash over him. He was warm and safe and happy, held fast by arms he had often dreamed about, and everything was okay.
“Night, mi amor.”
Everything was okay.