“Why is it always the air lock?!” Lance grumbled from the corner. He pulled his jacket tightly around him in an attempt to stop the violent shivers that racked his body.
“Relax,” Keith brushed him off, “Coran and Pidge will have us out in no time.”
Lance nodded. He knew that, realistically, but it didn’t stop him from wanting out now. He was cold, tired, and had a monster of a headache–it had been a long day.
“I know,” Lance muttered. “I’ll feel better when we can get out of here and warm up,” he admitted. “Sorry for complaining.”
“You’re cold?” Keith asked.
“No,” he replied, “I’m actually a little toasty. Here,” he shrugged off his jacket and put it around Lance’s shoulders. Lance wanted to protest, but it was warm from Keith’s body heat, and felt so nice on his back…
“Thanks,” he said tiredly. “If you get cold, though, take it back. I don’t want to be the reason you freeze to death in this ice box of an air lock.”
“Are you seriously that cold?” Keith asked, sounding surprised. He studied Lance’s features and noticed the slight pallor of his skin, and the slight slick of sweat on his forehead. Lance was also shivering fiercely. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Fine,” Lance shrugged, “A bit of a headache,” he admitted, “but I’m good.”
Keith let the subject drop, for now. However, now that it was silent, he noticed something else about the blue paladin: his breathing was off. There was a slight congested crackling in the bottoms of his lungs when he breathed, and Keith hadn’t noticed Lance trying to nonchalantly clear it away until the air lock had fell silent. Now, however, he could hear the stifled coughs that Lance was fighting with. His mouth was closed, and the sound his lungs were making with each heave of breath was alarmingly wet.
“You’re sick,” Keith asserted. There was no hiding it now.
“It’s just a little cough, Keith,” Lance argued. His voice sounded raspy and painful.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I was just going to try to sleep it off,” Lance admitted. “Then we got stuck in here, and I figured you had bigger things to worry about.”
“I really don’t,” Keith objected. He reached out to Lance’s huddled, still-shivering frame and rested the backs of his hand on his cheek, then migrated to the back of his neck, and finally resting on his forehead. Warm, maybe too warm, but not hot.
“I think you’ve got a fever, but I can’t really tell.”
“I’m fine,” Lance argued again. “I just want to sleep.” He coughed once more with a closed mouth, and Keith could see what a strain it was.
“Don’t do that,” Keith scolded, “You’re gonna hurt yourself.”
“I don’t want to get you sick,” Lance pointed out.
“We’re stuck in an air lock breathing the same air, and you’ve probably got a fever. I think it’s safe to say I’ve already been exposed.”
“Well, I don’t want to increase the risk.” Lane coughed a few more times, still stifling them as best he could, but he was getting a bit desperate for oxygen, if he was being honest. He couldn’t properly clear his lungs this way, and the more he coughed, the more fluid seemed to bubble in to fill up his chest. The coughing got more desperate, and he turned away from Keith to cover his face with his sleeve. He was barely getting in a breath between hacks.
“Hey, you need to breathe,” Keith commented worriedly, moving closer to the ill paladin and resting a hand on his shoulder. Lance wasn’t listening. His face was turning red with the lack of air. “Lance, can you hear me? You need to get air,” he instructed. Lance blindly shoved Keith off him, Keith fought back, straightening Lance out of his doubled over position to sit up propped against Keith. Lance didn’t put up much of a fight, and as the coughing finally began to subside, Keith felt him go slack so completely that he had to lean over to make sure he was still awake.
“Is this better?” Keith asked. “Can you breathe like this?”
Lance nodded weakly. Keith could feel the congestion rattling around in his lungs through every short, rapid breath.
“How are you two doing?” Shiro’s voice asked through the air lock window.
“Shiro, thank God,” Keith almost laughed with relief.
“What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, but Lance is sick.” He once more reached around the boy to feel his forehead, alarmed to find how much his temperature had risen in such a short time.
“Hey, Shiro,” Lance smiled, “How close are we to getting out of here?”
“Pretty close, buddy,” Shiro reassured him. “How’re you feeling?”
“I’m okay,” Lance lied.
“He’s burning up,” Keith informed. Shiro’s eyebrows furrowed in concern.
“Aw, Shiro, don’t look like that. It’s just a cold,” Lance assured, but found himself thrown into another fit of deep coughing.
“That sounds bad,” Shiro worried. After spending so long in a Galra prison, he knew pneumonia when he heard it. “Like, really bad. We need to get him out of there as soon as possible.” Lance’s breaths were shallow, and Shiro could tell that it hurt to take in much air.
“Will you go tell them to hurry?” Keith asked.
“They’re working as fast as they can, but I think it would only distract them to be worrying about Lance right now,” Shiro admitted. “We’re just going to have to sit tight for a while.
Lance was still trying to stifle his coughing as much as he possibly could.
“He’s afraid of infecting me,” Keith said. “I tried to tell him not to worry about it, but you know Lance.”
“Yeah,” Shiro smiled. “Lance, listen, you’re not going to get Keith sick; I don’t think what you have is contagious,” Shiro informed, “So I want your only focus to be on breathing, okay? Feel Keith’s breaths and try to match them.” Lance winced.
“I can’t,” he strained weakly, “My chest.”
“Don’t push it. Just do your best. I don’t like how grey your complexion is turning.”
Keith was sweating in the heat of the air lock and underneath Lance’s fever-hot body. Lance, on the other hand, was shaking like a leaf. His teeth were chattering against the cold, which Keith was sure wasn’t helping his breathing. After a few minutes, he seemed to fall into an uneasy sleep.
“I don’t know how to help him, Shiro,” Keith admitted.
“You’re doing fine,” he promised. “I didn’t want to freak him out, but I think he’s got pneumonia. The door should be open soon, I’m sure of it.”
And sure enough, it was only a few more minutes before the air lock slid open and Shiro and Keith were able to scoop Lance up and take him to the castle’s infirmary to pump him full of antibiotics.
“You going to bed?” Shiro asked on his way out the door. “You’ve had a rough day.”
“I just don’t want him to wake up here alone,” Keith replied. “He was so feverish when we pulled him out of the air lock, I doubt he’ll remember anything. I don’t want him to freak out.”
Shiro smiled proudly. “I’ll stay with you, then,” he said, pulling up a chair next to Keith’s. “You did a good job with him.”
Keith laughed out loud. “I had no idea what I was supposed to do.”
“I think that just having you there was enough.” Keith nodded and allowed his eyes to slip closed. As long as he was there, Lance would be fine.