If you’ll only hold me tight…. Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart. Once upon a time there was light in my life, now there’s only love in the dark. There’s nothing I can do- a total eclipse of the heart.
August 20th, 2017
According to the watch Pidge had, that was date. And according to her research, there would be an eclipse on Earth the next day. The first total eclipse in 99 years. If things went well, they could portal close enough to see it from the castle.
And after dinner, Lance was trying to psyche himself up to finally tell Keith how he felt. He was tired of holding in the emotions especially when Keith gave him such reassuring, soft smiles anytime Lance needed them most. Keith was a person who always had a scowl on his face if it was completely devoid of emotion. He was a person who only cared for people at a distance. He didn’t hug, he didn’t vocalize it, he didn’t show it.
But with Lance, he was different. Maybe it was in his head, maybe it was stupid, naïve optimism. But Keith had given him gentle smiles, offered comfort in the way he knew how, and protected him each time they had to fight. He was Keith’s right hand man, and his Korean crush didn’t seem to mind. He listened to Lance. He made sure Lance knew he was needed.
Ever since that talk in his room, Keith had been so different with Lance. Then Lance recognized the butterflies in his stomach when he heard Shiro telling Allura that Keith had offered to stay behind, returning the Black Lion, to help Coran. Lance knew Keith wasn’t close to Coran. Keith had done that for him. So he wouldn’t be the extra paladin. So he would still be needed. Keith lived for battle and he had offered to stay behind.
Ever since then, Lance only felt these emotions growing. With each smile that seemed especially for him, with each encouraging comment during training and after, with each chuckle and eye roll after Lance teased him lightly if only to keep up the familiar banter. He didn’t want to feed more hope into these feelings if Keith didn’t actually mean anything in those gestures. He had to at least let Keith know what he was beginning to feel before it caused problems instead of flowery, floaty feelings.
He kept pacing back and forth in the hallway trying to gather the courage to knock on his door. He fought fleets of Galra warriors, he fought mutated monsters sent after them, he defended the freaking universe. He could do this.
He couldn’t do this. He was a coward when it came to cute boys with galaxies for eyes and smiles that could melt icebergs as quickly as their glares could.
He shook his head, feeling a mixture of relief and disappointment, and he started walking away. Then he heard that familiar low voice with that pleasing rasp.
“Lance?” He froze and turned to face Keith. His hair was sticking to his forehead, his shirt different shades of black where the sweat soaked through it, and he was sporting a few new bruises. He had been training. “You okay?” Lance cleared his throat. There were too many ways to answer that question. “Hey. Seriously, what wrong?”
His dark eyebrows were furrowed, his eyes worried and a bright, beautiful violet color, surrounded by eyelashes that curled so elegantly it was unfair.
It was now or never.
“Could we talk?” Keith’s eyebrows twitched lower, and he nodded, gesturing to his room. “Um, actually, can we take a walk?” Keith stopped and stared at him before nodding again and turning, waiting for him to lead the way.
Lance started walking and swallowed the nausea building in his throat. He wasn’t sure how to start. He kept opening his mouth to talk only to completely hate the way whatever he was going to say would sound.
Once they’d reached the end of the hallway and turned, Keith spoke. “You’re freaking me out, Lance. Are you okay?”
“Don’t freak out,” he said, his voice shaking. “It’s nothing serious. And I don’t think it’s bad, I guess that up for interpretation, really. I just dunno where to start or how to say it without sounding stupid, you know and I-”
“Lance, you’re not stupid,” he interrupted with that gentle voice. Lance called it his serious voice. Keith had different tones for anything he said and Lance had managed to name each of them. His angry voice, his frustrated voice, his complacent voice, his tired voice, his sad voice-which was the same low voice but with a specific expression- and this one: his serious voice. A voice he’d started using with Lance more and more in place of angry or frustrated. It was his favorite.
“Lance, what is it?”
Lance blinked and brought himself back to reality, heaving a sigh. “I’m sorry, I’m probably making this out to be way more than it is. Just give me a moment, yeah?” Keith frowned and nodded.
They walked around, feet almost automatically walking toward the training room and past it to the hangar. Keith stayed quiet, waiting on Lance.
“Um. So first, I want to say thank you. Thank you for helping me especially when I feel like I’m not good enough or I don’t belong. I never really thought you’d be someone to help me with that, but… I mean I never thought I’d be flying a giant metal lion either.” He chuckled nervously and Keith’s lip quirked up slightly in that small, sweet smile that gave Lance butterflies. He cleared his throat and tried to use that smile to ground himself. “I really appreciate all of it.” They came to a stop in front of the lions. Lance looked at Blue sadly before turning to Red. Keith was looking at her too, but there wasn’t really any specific emotion in his face.
Lance gulped and licked his lips. “Look, we’re going to be out here for who knows how long. And we’re a team. So there shouldn’t be secrets right? I… I have to tell you something. I really don’t know how you’ll take it, okay? And I’m not expecting anything specific, I just have to tell you. I don’t want you to be angry, but… I guess I understand if you do get angry so-”
“Lance,” Keith said with a hand on his arm. “Breathe,” he encouraged. “What is it?”
He looked at him with concern, and Lance could feel the soft humming purr of his new lion in his head. He wondered if Keith could still hear her too. He couldn’t hear Blue. But Red seemed to be gently encouraging him. The purr was comforting, and Lance was filled with a distant calming emotion. It would be okay.
Lance took a breath, looked Keith in the eyes, and clenched his jaw. Then, in a single breath, he said, “I think I like you.”
There was no explosion. No burst of realization. No gasp, no look of disgust or joy. The only change on Keith’s face was a slight eyebrow raise, and the subtle parting of his lips. He never broke the eye contact.
“You're… not joking.” Lance pressed his lips together and shook his head slowly. “When you say ‘like,’ you mean….”
“A crush. Feelings. Romantic ones. Yeah,” he answered not really sure how to respond to this… unresponsive reaction.
“Oh.” He kept staring at Lance and the blush that spread across his cheeks spread so slowly, Lance almost didn’t notice. “That's… new. I’m not usually… um, likable I guess.” He finally looked away and Lance realized he could breathe. “Um… since when? Why?” He seemed so genuinely confused. Like the idea that Lance liked him wasn’t bizarre, but the fact that someone could was.
Lance felt a little less horrible and shrugged. “I can’t say for sure when. But… because of how much you care. Even if not in the most obvious ways, you just… you managed to make me feel like I mattered. And you’re inspiring. You’re dedicated and determined and you don’t just brush me off you know? Keith… I really admire you. From the way you’re ridiculously fearless and the way you stepped up to lead Voltron. It’s just…. I don’t know I just started getting all of these giddy feelings when I’d see you or when you’d smile at me the way do. I feel like I think clearer around you, I'm… better around you. But I’m also a mess.” He chuckled and shrugged. “I just really like being around you and the fact that I can talk to you without feeling stupid because you make sure I don't… feel that way.”
He looked up and saw Keith’s red face and wide eyes looking at him. “O-oh. Oh. Oh.” Lance gulped. Red, I might have broken him. He heard the low rumble of laughter in his head. Keith finally took a breath and managed to stammer out actual sentences. “I’ve kind of never been good with people. Relationships and stuff… it’s weird. Friendships, I mean. I just… I don’t really get the dynamic, you know, I’m used to being alone.”
Lance felt his heart sink, but he smiled and nudged him gently. “Hey. I told you; it’s cool, I don’t expect anything, I just wanted to tell you. Don’t think I’m trying to-”
“No, no, no,” Keith interrupted, waving his hands frantically. “I’m not saying…. I just mean…. I don’t think I’m the best person to get a crush on. But… this idea is… it feels, um, right? It just… makes sense.” Lance tilted his head in confusion and Keith gulped. “I mean… maybe I can learn. And maybe….”
Lance took a sudden breath, realizing what he meant. There was a chance? A possibility? Did Keith feel the same way? Could he?
Keith groaned and ran a hand through his hair. “Just give me a tick to string my thoughts into coherent sentences, okay? Here, come on.” He sat by Red’s paw and started chewing his nails. Lance sat in front of him awkwardly. “None of what I wanted to say came out right,” he breathed. He cleared his throat and sighed. “I’m still learning to take social cues and… I’m still learning to trust friends, and getting used to what it’s like to have friends. So it’s surprising to me that someone like you would like me.”
Lance frowned and scooted away slightly. “Someone like me?” he repeated.
Keith nodded. “Lance, you’re way more level-headed than me. You’re in touch with your emotions. You wear your heart on your sleeve and I… well I build walls around mine. I-I should be the one admiring you. And… um. Well I never really… thought about letting myself be interested in someone but maybe… I guess it kind of just clicked when the possibility of liking a guy came up. I…. Maybe with a little time or something, I-”
Lance placed a hand on his arm. “Hey Keith. Breathe,” he said with a smile. Keith smiled back at him, his cheeks dusted with red. “We’ll figure it out together, yeah?”
“That’d be nice,” he answered softly. “Thank you.”
“Yeah. Yeah, of course. Um…. Well, for now, I’m your right-hand man. You know that, right?”
Keith smiled and nodded. “Perfect. I’m going to go ahead and go to bed. I’m really tired,” he said with a light laugh.
Lance nodded and gestured for them to leave the hangar.
They’d barely made it one step out when the castle jostled, toppling them over and sirens rang in their ears. “What the-?”
“We’re getting attacked,” Keith realized, his voice dropping lower, his laughter gone. In its place a determined, angry expression. “Get your armor and your lion.” Lance nodded and raced off to tug on his armor. The original paladins really should have thought about making them a little more efficient.
He went to the red lion who had lost all the playful purrs and replaced with vicious, menacing growls. Lance went in, sitting at his pilot’s seat before flying her out of the castle. The black and blue lions were already out. Pidge and Hunk followed quickly after, and the particle barrier flew up around the castle, flickering after the damage it took to the system.
There were several Galra planes with ion blasters aimed toward them.
“We don’t have time to form Voltron,” Keith growled. “We have to knock out most of the defenses. If we can, try to pinpoint Lotor’s. If not, at least get rid of enough so Coran and Shiro can distract them long enough for us to form,” Keith commanded. His voice was certain, level, no rush, only determination.
“Sounds like a plan.”
“You got it.”
The lions spread out and a variety of colors began to paint the small part of the universe they were in. Blue, red, yellow, green, dark and light purple, white. All the beams and weapons shot across the sky creating a beautifully terrifying picture. The sounds of crashing metal, explosions, and weapons filled the silence. It was incredible to think that this was happening while the rest of the universe remained oblivious.
Pidge had taken a particularly hard hit, and Hunk spent half the time acting as her second armor while fending off his own Galran ships. Allura and Lance managed to work together to shoot down some of the Galras, but more took their place. Shiro and Coran were sending their own hits from the castle but it wouldn’t be long before the castle was surrounded by ion blasters and shot down if the paladins could make them retreat soon.
Of course, Keith had noticed and apparently decided to dive headfirst. Lance saw his lion speeding toward Lotor’s main battleship, the jaw blade slicing through any ship that came toward him and ducking any blasts shot his way.
“Keith! What are you doing?” Lance shouted into the comm.
“I’m cutting the head off this hydra,” he answered, his voice tight and angry.
“It’s dangerous to go al-”
“I’m already here, Lance,” Keith interrupted. “Keep fighting. All of you.”
Lance could barely keep himself focused knowing Keith was heading right into the belly of the beast. Suddenly he was knocked aside and Allura shot an ice ray at two enemy ships that had aimed at Lance. “Focus, Lance,” she chided.
“Someone has to help Keith,” he said.
“What?” she nearly shrieked. But Lance was already starting for Lotor and the black lion.
Come on, Red. I know you can do this.
Red seemed to snarl in response, moving quicker and smoother, dodging blasts, nearly controlling Lance’s body as he shot his magma beam until they reached the platform of Lotor’s ship. He was horrified to see Keith wasn’t even in his lion anymore.
“Keith what are you doing?” he shouted, not bothering to be subtle. “Get in your lion!”
“I’m in,” he answered softly. He was sneaking in. But did he really think Lotor wouldn’t know he was there? “He’s in range…. It would help if I had my sharpshooter, you know?”
Lance felt terror grip his throat. Too close, he was too close to danger. “Keith,” he said firmly. “Don’t do this. Get back in the lion.”
“Lance, I have a chance to end this. I’m taking it. Are you helping or-” There was a series of noises that none of the paladins knew what to make of.
“Keith?” Pidge shouted. “You there?”
“Are you okay, Keith?” Allura asked, her voice calm, but Lance knew her well enough to know her face would be panicked.
“Coran, Shiro, can you pick up his vitals?” Lance asked in a panic.
“He’s there. They must have knocked the helmet off, but he’s okay. I got his heartbeat on the system,” Shiro said.
“He’s surrounded by five Galra,” Coran added.
Lance growled under his breath and grit his teeth. “I told him,” he muttered as he left his lion.
“Lance what are you doing, dude?” Hunk shouted. “We can’t have you in danger too, get back in!”
“Sorry, big guy. He’d do the same if I was in there. I’m pulling him out by the ear,” he promised.
“Be careful, Lance,” Pidge warned before grunting, possibly in response to another attack. “Hunk!”
Lance shut them out and dipped into the ship, noting that there was a severe lack of security. He slinked through hallways, heart pounding like hummingbird wings. “Guys, can I get a location?” he whispered into his comm.
“Two more hallways down, turn right, second opening. It’s the control room,” Coran answered. “Have your shield up, my boy.”
“Got it,” Lance answered, sprinting closer. There were no guards. No cameras. No trip wires or booby traps.
Then he heard it. The fighting, the lack of mercy, the painful screams that made Lance’s blood freeze. He raced into the room, in time to shoot at a large Galra with tufts on the side of her head before she could get a hold of Keith. Keith looked over in surprise and seemed relieved when he saw Lance.
“I told you-!” Lance cut off when he saw another Galra, this one cloaked, coming toward him. There were no facial features- no eyes, no mouth, no nose. He stepped back and tripped over something. He felt a gentle pressure on his chest and opened his eyes. A cat. It was a cat.
Before he could shove it off, the blank faced Galra leapt onto him, hand clutching his throat without mercy.
He heard a growl, and he could see Keith in his peripheral vision. His blade was a blur, his body agile, moving where it had to, light as he jumped and turned and kicked. Lance gripped the Galra’s wrist and thrust his elbow up to hit her in the chin, causing her to jump back. Lance aimed his blaster at her, scowling as sher tilted her head, and the cat hissed and flicked its tail.
“Move!” Keith shouted, gripping his arm and dragging him back as a beam blasted the ground where he’d been standing.
“If you’d listened to me, this wouldn’t be happening!”
“But I didn’t and it is, you really want to have this argument now?” he snapped, as he stood back to back with him, eyeing the Galra generals. There was a pink one with colorful markings and a childish smile standing in front of Lance. She didn’t look Galran at all. Not like the others. In fact, Lance could imagine himself trying to hit on to her if they’d met on a different planet.
“They brought two of the kitties!” she said happily. As if there wasn’t a full-blown battle underway.
“I thought so,” a deep, musical voice purred. Lance let his eyes drift where he saw movement, his hand tensing around the trigger of his blaster. He saw a Galran with stark white hair and yellow eyes with purple irises like Keith’s and an angular face. Lotor.
He seemed so calm, so at ease.
“Can we kill them yet?” the one with tufts growled. “I want the tall one,” she snarled, baring her teeth.
“Patience,” Lotor said almost lazily. “Narti. Bring the lions aboard.” The cloaked one slinked away.
“You take two I take two?” Lance whispered. He heard Keith huff in response. Then he heard an angry shriek as Keith lunged forward and brought his blade down on a human-esque Galra. The only thing that showed she was Galra was her skin tone and the ridges on her head. The violent one lunged at Lance, but he managed to duck and roll out of the way, coming up on one knee to shoot, the force of the blow throwing her against Lotor.
“Oh, you’re cute!” the pink one said, flipping him upside down with the strange tail growing out of her head like a fleshy ponytail. Then she threw him against the wall.
“Lance!” Keith shouted. He shoved the Galra aside and started for the pink one who danced around him with a musical laugh, moving as quickly as Keith. Lance pulled himself up and shot at the other Galra. Lotor scowled as the taller one blocked the hits with a large piece of metal.
“Let’s go!” he snapped. “We have the lions. These two are useless.” The pink one managed a graceful backflip back towards Lotor, leaving Keith breathless as he glared. “Acxa. Make sure the fleets pull back. We can get the other lions another day.” The humanoid one nodded and slipped away, casting a final glare at them, reminding Lance of Keith.
As the metal started coming down, Lance shot again, shoving the unsuspecting Galra back. She growled, but Lance kept his blaster levelled with his eyes, ready to shoot again.
Lotor scowled and looked at them with contempt. “I’m feeling generous, paladins. Leave. Your services are no longer needed.” He smirked and turned away as if the fact that both Lance and Keith had weapons meant nothing to him. The other two followed.
As much as Lance wanted to go after them, he knew it would be futile. They could barely fight them off last time when they were all together and now Lotor was there too. He gripped Keith’s arm and tugged him. “Let’s go. We’ll figure out how to get the lions back,” he said. He had to call for one of the others to come get them and take them back to the Castle of Lions.
Then Lotor’s voice echoed through the control room. “Oh, and Zethrid? Get the bayards.”
Just like that the Galra was on them, all growls and angry hits, tossing Lance aside like a rag doll as she wretched the blaster from his hands. He saw spots in his vision for a few seconds before he could process Keith shouting his name again.
When his sight refocused, he saw Keith slicing his blade down, pushing Zethrid’s growling figure back, back, back. She lifted the blaster, but that was a long range weapon. Keith was fighting too close, moving too quickly.
Lance heard more commotion, heard more fighting. Had the others come to help? One had called back the other fleets. The paladins were free to help. Maybe they could still win.
Lance saw the blue blast fill the room before he heard it. He turned, shrieking for Keith in a panic, stumbling forward to find him. Then he heard a defiant yell and the sound of a blade being impaled. There was an angry roar and Lance saw Keith’s blade shoved into Zethrid’s side. She shoved him back, hitting him with the butt of the blaster before stumbling away, panting for breath.
“Keith? Keith!” Lance shouted. Half of him wanted to hug Keith, and half of him wanted to yank him by the ear. But the second he saw him still standing, he decided to go with the former. He struggle to get onto his feet and threw his arms around Keith, pulling him in tightly as he was flooded with relief. His limbs began to shake from the adrenaline coursing through him. “Oh thank God you’re okay.”
“L-Lance?” he croaked.
“I’m right here,” he said. Keith’s arms came around him, then he slumped, and Lance staggered before he could regain his grip. “Keith?”
“That blaster hurts so quiznacking much,” he wheezed. His eyes were glazed over, struggling to focus on Lance. Lance’s eyes went wide and he let them trail down. The white armor at his chest was smeared with crimson blood. Blood that kept flowing out from the the black nylon just under the slope of the armor, glistening in the most sickening way as it pulsed out of him. He had been hit too close.
Lance fell to his knees, cradling Keith gently and shook his head. “No, no, no. You’re gonna be okay, okay? Focus on me. Look at me. Look at me.” Keith’s violet eyes flickered to him, blinking rapidly. Lance was vaguely aware of the fighting happening outside the room. “The others are here. They’ll be here soon okay, just hold on. Keith, talk to me. Please.”
“It- hurts,” he choked, his face contorting, his body spasming in Lance’s arms. His eyes stayed on him. “Ev-everything hurts.” He gasped for air and coughed, causing blood to sputter out and dribble down the corner of his mouth. “I-I should’ve… li-listened to you.”
“Yeah, you think so?” Lance answered, his voice weak and breaking as he held Keith. “It’s okay. We’ll patch you up and put you in a healing pod and then when you’re out, I’m going to hound you for this. I’ll put you in time out and everything. You’re officially grounded.” Keith’s mouth quirked, but instead of sending butterflies through Lance, it caused terrified goosebumps. His eyes were too distant. The blood was bright against his pale, sweaty face. Lance gulped and held him tighter. “Then we’ll go see the eclipse. We can sit together. Drink space juice and watch and pretend none of this ever happened,” he continued with a soft, weak voice. He wasn’t sure he believed himself.
“Sounds… like… a date,” he breathed. His breaths were short and his grip was losing strength as he clung to Lance. The words made a half sob, half laugh bubble up in Lance and he pressed his forehead to Keith’s. “Take care of Red for me,” he mumbled.
“W-what? Keith? No, no, no, Keith, wake up,” Lance said, shaking him. Keith winced, but his eyes fluttered open. “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t you dare, Mullet. We’re in the middle of battle, you can’t fall asleep. I swear I’ll start calling you Sleeping Beauty if you dare fall asleep on me.”
Keith smiled weakly, his fingers twitching as they gripped Lance’s arm. “As long as you wake me up,” he whispered, shutting his eyes.
“No, Keith. Open your eyes. Open your eyes, come on,” he insisted. Keith did, but it was obvious he was struggling. His gaze focused on the ceiling as his eyes watered and more blood seeped from his mouth. “Keith, come on,” Lance moaned.
“I-I don’t… I don’t feel anything any-anymore,” he gasped.
“Keith, stay with me. Stay awake, okay?” Lance whimpered. Keith’s breaths slowed, his eyes fluttering before they turned blank, slightly cross-eyed as his head lolled to the side.
He shook Keith almost violently. “Come back! Come back, come back, come back!” he pleaded. “No, no, no!” he wailed, pulling Keith closer, sobbing into his hair as his limp body rested against him. Lance placed his lips to his icy, sweaty forehead, sobbing, hands shaking as he caressed him, begging him to wake up, to come back.
He heard the rush of footsteps, heard the gasps, the shriek that must have come from Pidge, but he couldn’t bring himself to lift his head from where it remained buried in the crook of his neck, covered by that stupid, adorable mullet. Keith had been his rival. Then he became his leader. Then his friend. He became one of the few friends Lance could trust completely. And now he was gone.
No more smiles. No more varying tones of voice. No more galaxy eyes reading him like an open book. No more maybes, no more hope, no more….