my third entry for klanceweek! this time, for prompt #3: scars
still debating whether or not to cross-post these entries on ao3 so let me know what you think. again, you can also find these short ficlets on twitter!
Twenty years of protecting the universe can really take a toll on someone.
Two long decades of travelling through space, fighting a tyrannical empire, saving innocent lives, and piloting giant mechanical lions that can only do so much to protect the pilot within. Of course, taking on missions and fighting in hand-to-hand combat is dangerous; there’s no doubt about it. And with great power, comes great responsibility.
Or something along those lines. Lance stares out at the waves, lapping lazily at the shore. The sand glistens, a muted orange under the light of the star duo overhead, like a couple of miniature suns. Although it isn’t exactly like Varadero beach, Lance can’t help but take some comfort from the familiar sounds of the ocean.
At his side, Keith has yet to say a word. He sits a bit hunched over, naked from the waist up. They wear a matching set of red and blue swim trunks that have, according to Coran, been worn by the paladins for centuries. A faint sheen of sweat covers his body, and Lance finds himself mesmerized.
Carefully, Lance closes the gap between them and situates Keith between his legs. He goes willingly, and Lance can’t help but snicker at what his younger self would say if he knew Keith Kogane let him maneuver his body like this.
Well, there are a lot of things young Lance wouldn’t believe about their current relationship.
“Easy, Lance,” Keith warns but his words don’t have much bite. Lance has learned over the years that the heat turns Keith into a pile of moldable mush. “My back is sore.”
“Don’t worry, samurai, I’m just going to reapply some sunscreen so you don’t turn into a lobster. Again.”
“Hey, I didn’t get that red last time.”
“Sure you didn’t,” Lance drawls. He squeezes a generous amount of the Altean equivalent of sunscreen into his palm. “Maybe it’s a Galran thing. I’ve never seen one of those guys hanging out at the beach.”
Keith clicks his tongue but doesn’t protest further. Muscles twitch beneath Lance’s hands as he slowly spreads the crème across Keith’s back. Miles of pale skin stretch out before him, begging to be appreciated. Lance maps out Keith’s body with his fingertips, places he’s touched hundreds of times before. There doesn’t seem to be a single spot Lance doesn’t have committed to memory.
Lance’s fingers skitter up Keith’s spine, brushing over each vertebrae along the way. Once he reaches the base of Keith’s neck, he sweeps his palms down and across his shoulder blades. A mole here and, oh, a birthmark there. And, almost as numerous as the moles, are scars.
Tiny patches where puckered skin hints at past battles. Purple tinges each mark, just slightly off from Keith’s natural skin tone. One jagged scar stretches from the top of Keith’s right shoulder down to the middle of his spine. Another sits at his lower back, a rectangle-shaped mark Lance speculates has been there the longest.
Scars cover Keith’s body, and Lance knows them all by heart.
Lance kneads, pinches, and rubs as he works. His hands settle on Keith’s shoulders, trying to ease every bit of muscle tension. A minute or two of massaging is all it takes to draw pleased sighs and moans from Keith. Lance grins contentedly, glad to know he hasn’t lost his touch.
“Pretty sure I won’t get a sunburn now,” Keith jokes, tone soft and breathy. Lance stops for a moment, and Keith outright whines. “Lance, c’mon.”
This man will be the death of me, Lance decides with a mock exasperated sigh. “Yeah, yeah…”
Lance skims a diamond-shaped scar with his pinky, one he can only ever see at times like this when Keith’s chest is bare and hair tied back. Keith flinches at the contact, as he always does. The origin of this scar is… terrible, to say the least.
About ten years ago, Keith had been kidnapped by Galran soldiers. The skeevy Prince Lotor planned everything, capturing both the red lion and its pilot. His main focus, however, had been Keith. The only paladin with Galra in his blood—Lotor wanted to ensure Keith didn’t have any secret information about the empire tucked inside his brain.
So, until the other paladins could rescue him, Keith was trapped. He rarely discusses it, but, from what Lance has heard, it involved torture.
Lance shudders at the mere thought of Keith being battered and manhandled. Mental scars certainly require greater care—and more time—to mend. And Lance had been there every step of the way to help Keith heal. The scar is a hideous reminder of the torment Keith had experienced but also symbolizes how the two finally came together, gradually progressing from friends to something more.
“Hey… Keith?” Lance worries at his bottom lip.
“I don’t think I say it enough so… you know that I, uh. That I love you. Right?” Lance’s mouth struggles like it’s stuffed with cotton. This is nothing like when he first confessed his feelings to Keith and yet that’s how it feels. That’s how it always feels.
“What’s gotten into you?” Keith tenses, and Lance draws his arms back against his chest. “Oh.”
“I sometimes forget it’s there.” Lance lightly presses a finger to the lavender little triangle. “But I don’t know how I could forget about…”
“It’s alright. That happened years ago.”
“You know how scared I was,” Lance mumbles. “And you—you weren’t you.”
Don’t cry, Lance silently begs. Please don’t.
“Well, I’m definitely myself now.” As if sensing the tears threatening to spill over, Keith looks over his shoulder. A small smile takes shape on his lips. The skin around his mouth wrinkles, as well as around his eyes, from many hours spent grinning and laughing at Lance’s nonsense. “That’s what matters.”
A weak laugh wrenches its way up Lance’s throat. “Yeah, but…”
“No ‘buts,’” Keith scolds. “You helped me back then. I wouldn’t be here right now if you hadn’t.”
“I’m serious. I could hardly sleep, and I felt like I was going crazy. You were the only one who knew what I needed.” Keith pauses, brow furrowing. “At first, I didn’t care about whether I got any better. But then you… you were doing so much.”
Lance shakes his head; words have totally escaped him. The telltale warmth of a tear gliding down his cheek forces him to curse. Stupid, stupid tear ducts.
“Lance, I— Shit.”
Keith turns all the way around and practically throws himself at Lance. Caught off guard, Lance falls backward, landing with Keith pressed against his chest. For a moment, their eyes meet, and Lance sees the entire universe reflected back at him. Then, just like that, Keith is groaning in embarrassment and burying his face in Lance’s neck.
“I love you so much,” Keith whispers against his skin. “So fucking much.”
Lance wraps his arms around Keith, savoring the vulnerable truth in those words. He never gets tired of this—of having Keith at his side. I love you, too. A memory flickers to life in Lance’s mind, of their first kiss, of the time Keith first thanked him for everything he had done. Keith had been a quivering mess back then, clutching at Lance like a lifeline. More than you’ll ever know.
So Lance holds Keith close, like he never plans to let him go.