A spike of ice leaps from Lance’s fingertips, dashing across the room in a blur and freezing in place by the door. He kicks his leg and a sheet of ice spreads across the floor. Hail pours out of the ceiling with a wave of his hand and cracks against the layer of ice covering everything.
Lance is winter – ice and snow and rain – and he can freeze air with a single touch. His breath comes in clouds and his eyes are as blue as the water he ices over. He can’t freeze his memories though. He can’t hold onto the things that matter and bury the rest under avalanches. His mind is a snow drift but only the worst parts stick out.
Summer. Sun and warmth and fireworks. Summer melts the snow in Lance’s mind and burns brighter than anything else. He sees red skin and red lips and bright red eyes.
Keith leaves scorch trails on everything he touches. He lights fires in draughty rooms and pulls sunshine out of the sky and melts the ice in Lance’s heart. Keith’s fingers wrap around the icicle hanging in the doorway, threatening everyone who approaches. It turns to water under his touch and pools around Lance’s ankles.
“Stop wearing yourself out. You know you don’t need to work this hard.”
Keith lazily brings out sunshine to evaporate the water in the room and waves a fire into the fireplace. Everything is cast in a red-tinted glow. Lance feels colder than he ever has before.
“I have to improve. I can’t let the team down.” Lance’s voice leaves a trail of frozen air despite the warmth settling over the room. Without realising he starts to cake ice around his feet and trail snowflakes with the swing of his arm. A dusting of snow lands across his cheeks, contrasting with his dark skin and bringing out the blue of his eyes. Keith sighs and nudges his sunshine towards Lance. It envelops him in rays of light and he shakes away the flakes nestled in his hair.
“I’ll tell Shiro you’re overworking yourself again,” Keith warns, skirting carefully around Lance as he makes sure the rest of the room is neatened up. Lance leans against the wall and closes his eyes for a brief moment. It’s a mistake because as soon as Keith notices he starts complaining about Lance being too tired for this shit. He can’t physically drag Lance out of the room but his words do enough and Lance stumbles his way behind Keith. He hadn’t realised the extent of his exhaustion and it takes every effort left in his body to stay awake long enough to shoo Keith away from his bedside.
Keith looks as though he wants to climb in next to Lance and run his burning palms up and down his arms, breathing fire onto the back of Lance’s neck. It’s wishful thinking and they both know it.
Lance falls asleep alone, blanketed by the snow he forms in his dreams. He wakes up with an icicle hanging from the end of his nose and the skin around his eyes blue from lack of heat. He shivers his way through to the dining hall and is not surprised to find everyone else already seated at the table. Keith yelps when he sees the state Lance is in and starts fussing immediately. The fire burning low in the grate is suddenly roaring and it feels as if the roof opens up and lets the sun fall right through. Keith buzzes in circles around Lance and clouds flicker back and forth in front of the sun, in beat with the wringing of Keith’s hands.
“Stop it, Keith. You’re giving everyone a headache.” Shiro beckons Keith away, trying to settle him down without placing his hands comfortingly on Keith’s shoulders. It’s obvious he has to fight the natural impulse.
“He’s frozen, Shiro. This isn’t okay. He’s overdoing it just like he always does. I told him, didn’t I? I told you, Lance, and you didn’t listen. Pidge, help him.”
Keith waves wildly at the only paladin equipped to be Lance’s physical support. Pidge rolls their eyes but they take a blanket from the back of one of the chairs and drape it around Lance’s shoulders. They steer him gently to sit down, rubbing his arms soothingly the whole time. Lance doesn’t feel any warmer but he appreciates the effort.
It takes a lot of energy to convince everyone he’s okay to be left by himself. Lance has built himself a skin of ice to stay safe from the world. He feels at home with the cold numbing his senses. It blocks memories and pain and the emptiness of never touching the things that mean the most to him. Lance feels more alone with his team crowding him than he does when they leave him to eat his breakfast in peace.
Keith, of course, is the first to return. He’s antsy and impatient as he hovers at Lance’s shoulder, soft heat radiation the closest Lance will ever get to feeling Keith’s skin pressed against his. He doesn’t speak until Lance has cleared his plate and dropped his spoon to clatter against the ceramic.
“This stops now. You have to let yourself rest sometimes.” Keith sounds desperate, like he’s fighting battles Lance can only dream of in between each word. Lance wishes he knew how to help, but making promises is not his style.
“I’m the weak link. We all know it. I have to train harder than the rest of you to make up for it.”
Fire leaps into Keith’s eyes and Lance can tell he wants to argue. Lance braces himself for words that burn, leaving scars on soft skin. He is prepared for anger and heat and fire spilling out of Keith in words Lance has heard far too many times. What he gets instead is everything but.
“Please take care of yourself because I can’t.”
Keith swings on his heel and stalks out of the room, extinguishing the fire in his wake and leaving Lance in darkness. A crack appears in the ice sculpture Lance surrounds himself with and everything crumbles.