Something about the way Keith screams settles like a stone in the pit of Lance's stomach. His alarmed voice is the very last thing Lance hears before the air is knocked from his lungs, the world turns upside down, and the ground raises to meet him full force.
The air is sharp and silent when Lance opens his eyes again. He lies on his stomach, face first in the ashy gray dirt of the stupid, barren planet they'd been fighting on. His ears are ringing and it feels like a plume of harsh smoke insulates him from the outside world. The cold air on his cheeks suggests his helmet is gone, to where he has no idea, but the atmosphere is fortuitously breathable.
What an anticlimactic end that could have been.
And beneath the throbbing in his head, the world flickers back to him in pieces. The sound of his name manages to make it through the pounding of his skull - Keith's voice, he realizes - and it sounds panicked rather than annoyed and patronizing.
That seems out of place.
Lance grits his teeth trying to recall where he is and why. The ground is uneven beneath him, raised up all around, so it was an explosion of some sort. Why does he always have to be the one to get blown up anyway? He remembers, then.
Go in. Take out Galra supply outpost. Get out. That’s what it was.
Something had gone wrong but that wasn’t anything new. Things were rarely as simple as they seemed and ninety percent of the time, Team Voltron was just a huge magnet for all kinds of trouble. That's not to imply he and Keith couldn't handle it - they did it all the time - and from the quieting battlefield around him, he assumes they already did.
So everything is fine. He is alive. He is breathing. Nothing a cryopod won't fix.
With a groan, he rolls over and sucks in a clean breath of air despite the burning of his parched lungs. His ribs ache and his the muscles in his back feel as though they are lit on fire, but that’s better than being numb. On the scale of stupid-crap-Lance-does this isn’t even top ten. He’s certainly taken harder hits and he’ll be damned if he lets Keith give him any crap over this.
In the lingering haze he makes a strangled sound in hopes Keith can hear him wherever he is, even without the intercom. The quiet is odd, he thinks, but the approaching footfalls bring him comfort. When did they stop fighting again? Things were heating up before Lance was struck. Why is it so quiet? They were just under attack.
In the back of his mind it then dawns on Lance that Keith finished the job without him. He finished the job without even checking on Lance. He finished the job without even knowing if Lance was a alive or not. The thought leaves Lance both relieved and annoyed.
Keith. A true and unflappable professional to Lance’s hypothetical bitter end, it would seem.
What an ass.
Lance has something to say on the tip of his tongue, something accordingly dismissive and sardonic, but his throat goes dry the second he looks up.
Keith is looking down at him, jaw slack, eyes wide, and gripping his bayard so hard the fabric of his flight suit is stretched thin over his knuckles. There’s something in his face that sends a chill down Lance’s spine, the way he flounders for a second, clear fear settling into relief.
And Lance is confused. He’s seen that look on Keith’s face exactly two times before now. It’s a look that places that heavy unforgiving stone right back in the bottom of Lance’s belly. It’s a look Lance was previously certain was reserved only for Shiro. Under such scrutiny, Lance snaps.
“What was that?! I thought you had my back!” He runs his mouth to dispel the acrid taste of guilt, always his lifeline. He doesn’t like Keith looking at him like that. He didn’t ask for that and he doesn’t want it. What the heck anyway.
But Keith doesn’t take the bait. He doesn’t even recoil. He takes one heavy step forward, then another. Then he falls to his knees, crouches down, and gives a quick look over Lance’s body for any trace of blood. (Surely, that’s what Lance thinks). His hands grapple at Lance's arms and then his legs, roughly moving him to make sure all the joints still work. The battlefield around them stays quiet - yes they’re fine, they won - but something is off.
And then Keith pulls off his helmet and tosses it aside.
“What gives?” Lance taunts, the words coming off with less bite than he intends, wincing again at the pain around his chest. Keith’s eyes flash to his side and Lance tastes bile. “D'ya not want the others to hear how badly you screwed-”
There are certain circumstances in his life when Lance knows it’s time to stop prodding. For all the blunders he’s made, Lance does recognize when to listen, be quiet, and not cross that line. Here, in pain and with the residuals of white hot fear still cooling beneath his skin, Keith’s tone brokers no misunderstanding. So Lance does what years of military school ingrained on him. He defers, slack and quiet, watching Keith with a docile curiosity.
It’s then that the bottom falls out. Keith’s face is eerily blank, skin pale and eyes wide, with lips parted. He is afraid, Lance realizes. Scared. Scared. Scared.
Before Lance can even process the abrupt change in events, Keith’s gloved fingers are pressing hard against either side on either side of Lance’s warm cheeks and in the next second his mouth is hot against Lance’s lips. On the scale of weird-crap-Keith-does, this is definitely top five.
And this. It wasn’t that tragic, Lance thinks, wondering why Keith would care quite so much. One day, when Lance truly is gone, Keith will still move on to bigger and better things. Their meeting was nothing more than a brief stop out of orbit. And this makes no sense.
Keith isn’t even a good kisser, Lance wants to say. He’s half teeth and all raw energy with no patience. There is grime and dirt on his mouth, a little blood from Lance’s busted lip, and from the day of fighting they both smell awful. But it’s warm and safe and Lance, half out of his right mind, realizes he rather likes it. In the end, they part and Lance says nothing.
It’s a new quiet that fades around them and they both stare at each other in mutual confusion. They need to get back out and get back to their lions before the others come down looking for them.
But neither of them move.
“I- I thought you were dead,” Keith murmurs, like that explains anything at all. He looks Lance straight in the eye and that cute little line draws between his brows. It’s a challenge, maybe even a threat.
Dead serious, this one.
And no, Lance thinks, he’s as far from dead as he’s ever been.