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Paper Cuts

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Lance closed his eyes, letting the shower water drown out his thoughts. All he could think of was how useless he felt.
Earlier that day the paladins had attempted to come up with another plan to get information about the galra's activity. Lance had tried to pitch in, but found himself pushed aside.
Lance had stayed quiet the rest of the day. He didn't make any usual jokes. There was only a few times that he had to say something quick.
"Hey Lance, where are you going?"
"To my room."
"Hey Lance, your food is getting cold."
"I know."
Everyone had carried on like it was nothing.
Except Keith.
Keith had noticed Lance's change in attitude over the past few weeks. Lance had gotten quieter. His jokes sounded hollow, and his smile looked forced. Keith didn't say anything.

He wished he did.

Now Lance stood, water soaking his hair. He hadn't bothered changing from his clothes, and was in the shower with a drenching wet shirt and shorts.
He looked down at his wrists.
Pale, horizontal scars were visible, covering his arms. Thank god he wore long sleeves. Lance's heart felt heavy as he stared.
He willed it to stop beating.
Lance took a blade in his hand, feeling the cold metal touch his fingers. His mind felt blank and empty, and his whole body was numb. With a shaky breath, Lance drew the blade to his wrist.
1 cut. 2 cuts. 3 cuts. 4.
Lance watched as the cuts changed from a pale pink to an angry red. He washed his arm, ignoring the sting. Lance then continued, closing his eyes again. All he could hear was his own breath, and the faint fall of the shower water.

The first time he cut, Hunk had noticed. His sleeves were rolled up as the two were training, revealing one long slice.
Lance said that he had gotten a paper cut.
Hunk surprisingly believed him.
There was no excuse for it anymore. There were too many paper cuts to count.

Lance let his mind trail back to just the other day. Keith and him were having a heated argument, and Keith had screamed, "You're so useless!" Lance had never shown any emotions to anyone. But when Keith said that - Lance started crying. He was on a breaking point. He was held together by a thread, ready to fall apart. Lance had smiled, but his face was dark with sadness. "I know." He had responded in a toneless voice.
He believed it himself.
Keith had looked equally shocked and guilty, because he had ran up to Lance, tugging at Lance's arm as he was getting ready to leave. "Lance... I'm so sorry... I didn't mean it." Lance had turned to Keith, pain flashing in his deep blue eyes. "I understand, Keith." "No... Lance...." Keith had implored as Lance wrenched his arm away from Keith. "Leave me alone." Lance had said in irritation. Keith had stood there speechless, unsure of what to do. Lance walked away, back to his room.
Back to the dark void of thoughts.
Back to his paper cuts.

Lance felt his breath shift. His once calm demeanor changed into fear as he stared down at his wrists. He hadn't realized how deep he had gone. Scarlet blood stained his arm, dripping onto the shower floor. Lance felt panic rise in him, the razor dropping to the floor. Realization had hit him like a truck. The shower water had gone cold long ago, though he just registered it. Lance's head began to spin, and soon enough his body fell back, hitting the wall. He slid down, slowly losing consciousness. The razor lay next to him, the shower still running.
Screw up.
Stupid, stupid, stupid Lance.
Stupid paper cuts.

Hunk had been eating a bowl of food-goo in his seat at the bridge, Pidge on her laptop, Keith fiddling with his gloves. Allura, Coran, and Shiro were speaking about the plan discussed earlier that morning, until Hunk spoke up. "Hey guys, has anyone seen Lance?" There was silence for a moment, before Pidge asked, "Didn't he go take a shower after the meeting?"
Hunk remembered how Lance had been especially quiet during the meeting, quickly sulking off to his room. "Wouldn't he be out by now, though? It's been at least and hour and a half." That really woke everyone up. Keith looked especially uneasy and concerned. "Why doesn't someone try to contact him through his helmet?" Shiro suggested, looking at Allura. "I will do that, and call him from the speakers in his room." Allura did as she said, yet there was no replies. "How about the castle alarms? That will get him up." Shiro encouraged, though his voice quivered with doubt. It wasn't normal for Lance not to respond to his coms. Allura nodded, pressing the alarm button. The loud sirens boomed around the castle. After a few useless minutes, Shiro signaled Allura to turn the alarms off. "This is weird. We should look for him." Pidge said with uncertainty.

The six split up to search for Lance. Coran would check the training deck, Shiro would look in the kitchen, Pidge would check the Blue lion's hanger, and Allura would go to the shuttle bay. Hunk and Keith volunteered to check Lance's room.

Keith felt trepidation as he and Hunk made their way toward Lance's room.
It was so quiet.
Too quiet for Keith's liking.
Keith remembered how mute Lance had gotten over the past few weeks. "I'm not liking this," Hunk muttered. As the two got close to Lance's room, Keith detected the faint sound of water running. There was no way Lance should still be showering. He was fast at showering, he never took over 15 minutes. "This isn't right." Keith implored, slight panic rising in him. They reached Lance's door, and Hunk pounded on it. "Lance!"

No answer.

Keith didn't wait any longer. He let himself in, first noticing that Lance's room was completely dark. He then turned to the bathroom, the shower water clearly running. Hunk walked to the door, knocking loudly. "Lance! Lance, you better not be playing any kind of daft prank on us!"
There was no response, no sign that Lance was there. Keith felt too uneasy to wait. He clicked a few buttons on the controls to the door, and finally it slid open. Keith thanked Pidge silently for teaching him how to hijack door codes.
Keith stepped in, Hunk following. He turned the corner slowly. "Lance..?" Nothing prepared Keith for what he saw next.

The shower was running (as expected), water pooling around it. Inside the shower, a body was slumped against the wall.


The water around the blue paladin was a crimson color, and a razor glimmered close to Lance's side.

Keith shrieked, "LANCE!" And ran forward, throwing himself down next to his friend. "No no no.... Lance-" Keith choked out. He looked down at Lance's wrists in dismay. Blood was pooling out, staining Lance's shirt and shorts. Keith let his hand raise slowly to Lance's neck, checking vitals. He knew he didn't need to when his fingers touched cold skin. Lance's face was sickly pale, yet Keith could detect tear stains, even as the water hit his face. Keith hugged Lance, cradling the boy's head in his hands. Hunk had stood at the shower entrance, his face white in horror. Hunk finally let out a small whimper.
The intercoms were going wild.
"Keith, Hunk! What's happening!"
"Did you find Lance?"
Pidge was the first to reach Lance's room. "Guys wha-" She was saying as she ran into the bathroom. She stopped in her tracks when she saw Keith and Hunk, cradling Lance's lifeless body. She wailed, "Lance?!" The small paladin almost fell trying to reach her teammates. She was about to ask what happened when she saw the blade.
Keith's voice sounded choked when he said, "We need to get him out."
The three attempted to lift Lance, and Keith knew he would never unsee how Lance just... flopped over.
The boy who always was full of energy, who always cheered everyone up and cracked cheesy jokes, was just laying there.

Finally with much effort, Keith, Hunk, and Pidge brought Lance over to his bed. By that time, Shiro, Allura, and Coran were rushing in. Allura brought a hand to her mouth, shock painted across her face. Coran looked pained, and Keith wondered how he felt. He had already lost the original paladins once, and now... Shiro walked slowly over, and brought a hand to Lance's face. "Why did this have to happen..." Pidge whimpered, crying into Keith's shoulder. "How were we so blind!"
Keith was holding Lance's limp hand, and he felt something break within him. He remembered how broken Lance had been when they were arguing the other day. Keith felt more hot tears stream down his face.
Could he be the reason Lance wasn't alive?
He didn't hate Lance.
He never did.
He just used it as cover to hide his true emotions. His mother had left him when he was little, and because of that he was insecure. He didn't want to be rejected, so he never spoke up.
He wished he did now.
The last thing the two had said to each other was painful for Keith to think about.

"Lance, where are you going?"
"Why would you care?"
"I - I don't."

Keith did care. He cared so deeply about Lance. He always admired Lance's courage, even though he could be a real idiot at times. That's what kept Keith from falling apart.
He didn't realize it until now, but Lance was Keith's anchor.
Lance was the one person that Keith could listen to. He was almost all of Keith's impulse control, that was for sure.

But now? Lance was dead.
Never to come back.

Keith leaned forward, pressing his head against Lance's, and cupped Lance's pale cheeks.
"I'm so sorry Lance..." Keith choked out.
"I never got to tell you how much I- I love you... You're the best teammate in the world. You're not useless...."
He begged for Lance to come back, but deep down, Keith knew Lance was gone for good.

Lance had been dead inside ever since his first paper cut.

Those nasty things everyone dreaded.

The things that covered Lance's arms.

Those paper cuts...