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Bitter, Black, and Blue

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Keith’s always had this plan, in case he was in a situation he couldn’t get out of or already at death’s door and couldn’t bear to suffer any longer, and it’s with cold fingers he digs through a nearly empty bag for the bitter, black berries he’d stored away so long ago. There’s a cold kind of numbness seeping through Keith’s veins as he scoops up the berries, a solemn acceptance. He’s had this plan for ages. He always knew there was a chance he’d have to use it and now’s the perfect time. To at least end this goddamn horror show, these goddamn Games, with some kind of dignity. He stands up, turns to Lance, and opens his palm.

“So that’s it,” Lance says quietly. This is it, Keith echoes silently. Nightlock. Pretty dark berries that grew on low bushes, that looked like a sweet temptation - until you bit into one. They tasted horrible, or so people say, because finding people who had eaten one and survived were far and few in between. Keith had only heard about the berries in whispers, in old folk tales passed along about tragic lovers and twisted fates but -- there they were. Here they are. The two of them stare locked on Keith’s hand for way too long, until Lance swears under his breath and mutters, “The cameras”.

Right. It may as well be a running joke at this point - Keith will never remember that they’re being filmed until someone reminds him, or he’ll let his memory just long enough. When he spotted the berries, the first thing he thought about were the cameras. Of dying in a blaze of emotion and desperation but at his own hand, at least. The feeling had passed, but he still plucked those berries - just in case, he had told himself- and now he’s staring down at them, the proverbial flint to spark the flame.

Keith makes quick work counting out the berries evenly. This many for Lance, that many for him, dropping Lance’s in his hand and watching the hand quietly close around them. He feels like he should say something, some kind of rallying speech, some kind of final words of defiance to the all-seeing eye of the Capitol - but he can’t. He looks into Lance’s eyes and can’t. Lance’s eyes are pools of every kind of emotion imaginable, changing with every new emotion that surfaced and every old one that drowned. Keith doesn’t know what Lance is thinking right now, but Keith doesn’t know what he’s broadcasting in his eyes, either. It’s probably just as much of a mess. He feels like just as much of a mess. These entire last few days have been a mess, a mess, a mess. Of blood and gore, death and fear, and at this point - he’s just exhausted.

So Keith takes all his unsaid words and swallows them instead, with a chaser of bitter, black berries.

And God, are they. Keith’s eaten some awful things in his life but never has anything made him double over so quickly, trying not to retch. Hell. Taking these things is clearly a choice , one that Keith second-guesses with every movement his mouth makes. All he can taste is bitter, bitter, bitter. It’s searing itself onto his tongue like a brand; he’s going to die with the ghost of this taste coating his mouth and clogging his throat and suddenly all Keith can feel is regret. Maybe he should have stabbed himself instead. In the heart? In the neck. Something quicker. Five minutes of this is far, far too much.

“L-Lance?” Keith wheezes, squeezing his eyes shut and swallowing just one last time (and it’s already starting to hurt, help).  “How are you --” Keith straightens up finally, opens his eyes again halfway through the sentence and finds Lance peering at him. That same hurricane of emotions is still swirling in his gaze. Lance is closer now, close enough for Keith to make out the faint assortment of freckles he’s come to quietly love.

“I’m fine,” Lance says, and his voice is so calm compared to Keith’s stuttering rasp that Keith almost recoils. Lance is stronger than me , Keith’s already noted, but staring at Lance’s poise and calm and unshakable resolve makes old insecurities bubble up in his chest. Hard. His heart’s already thrumming like a drum. Keith pulls in a breath (it’s getting harder to, help ) and reaches a hand out for the one clenched up at Lance’s side. Well, he thinks. If I’m going to die, at least I’m not alone. But as Keith’s hand brushes up against Lance’s and threads through familiar fingers, Lance yelps and tries to yank his hand away. His hand opens, Keith’s nails pierce into something that pops, and there’s the nearly silent thuds of little objects hitting the ground.

Keith draws his hand back, and stares blankly at the nightlock berry stuck to his nail, dripping blue down his finger.

Lance makes a strangled sound in his throat, before it bursts out of him - a laugh. He’s laughing . It’s a strange sound, hollower than the cans Keith strung up along his wall filled with little lights, but he’s laughing. Wheezing out words laced with sobs that fall on deafening ears, with little fragments like “I’m sorry” slipping through. “I’m sorry !” Lance finally manages to say, and he’s crying now, sucking in deep gulps of air that Keith already knows he’s lost the ability to take. “I - I can’t . I have -”

“A family,” Keith chokes out. Every word hurts to form - fuck, these things work quickly, why couldn’t he have more time? “Friends. Must be nice.” He’s already tired, just saying that is tiring and he wants to lie down and everything aches something fierce but - oh no. Oh no . Lance told him he would die for him, Lance stroked his face and kissed away his tears and told him that they were going to make it through this together because Lance had no faith in returning home alive. If he died for Keith, fine, if Keith died for him, he’d follow, and here’s Keith, with a locking throat and blurring vision, dying for Lance, and Lance is just. fucking. fine.


“Of course you wouldn’t get it!” Lance says, bordering on hysterics. He drags a hand down his face and - dark, everything goes dark for a second and Keith can’t breathe - Lance suddenly has his arms around him in a vice grip, wailing into his shoulder as the two of them crumple awkwardly to the ground together (but not together just, together). “Of course you wouldn’t fucking get it , you don’t have anything you want to go back to! You’d be okay just dying here, I can’t just die here!”

Keith wants to scream. He does. He would if he could. If his body didn’t feel like an earthquake was going off inside it, if every muscle wasn’t screaming something’s not right, something’s not right at him, he would reach for his bag and stab Lance in the heart. In the neck? In the stomach. Something longer. Let him bleed out. Let him live for a final few moments with the knowledge and his final site being this, being Keith, being what he’s done.

But Keith can’t, because he trusted Lance. He cut out his heart and dropped it in Lance’s hands and thought that Lance would carry it throughout whatever time they had left and Lance, instead, doesn’t, at the very last second.

Keith hates him for it. But he understands.

Lance leans in then and presses one last, desperate kiss to Keith’s forehead. “I’ll never forget you,” Lance whispers against his skin, and Keith can’t even cry , his throat aches and his stomach aches and his eyes just want to close - all he manages is a pathetic little sound and Lance starts wailing anew. “I - I promise! I promise, Keith, I’m - I’m sorry, I’ll  -- I’m sorry . Y-You went where I can’t follow.” But you promised to follow me anywhere. If I died for you, you’d follow. “We’re right there. It’s right there. I - I ca - don’t… don’t go…”

And Keith’s sympathy is set to a flame. It starts to burn away because -- don’t go?

Don’t go , says the boy who let him kill himself, with the berries clutched in his own hand. Don’t go , says the boy who maybe went through the motions but stopped, or maybe never went through them at all. Don’t go , says Lance, Lance who promised and promised and made grand sweeping statements about their success, grandiose in the face of death, and when Keith gave him the keys to make those pretty words of revenge - revenge together - come true, Lance turns his back of them. He drops them.

And he asks Keith not to go.

Keith’s on the ground in Lance’s arms, a quivering mess of spasms and last-ditch attempts to keep the world in focus but - Keith doesn’t have much of a choice, now, does he?

Lance gave him everything he thought he could never have - someone who didn’t cast dour looks at him for being a Career, someone who didn’t see him as just an unwanted limb on a dying family tree, someone who saw him as a person, a friend, maybe even someone to love. Lance was everything, wrapped up in a beautiful package of sun-tanned skin and enchanting blue eyes.

But, Keith thinks among dying gasps, blue is a damning color, it seems. Blue is the color of the steel in Shiro’s arm and in Shiro’s eyes, blue is the color of the sky that hangs above them like a temptation they can never have, blue is the color that Lance loves, blue is the color that dries on his fingers.

Blue is the color that steals his last breath. Blue is the last color he sees before he sees black.