Shadows in the Ocean
"Coran, look out!" The last thing Lance saw before the world became nothing more than heat, smoke, and pain was the sight of his own hands as he desperately pushed the Altean advisor, who did not have protective armor like him, who was one of the only people of his kind left, who had just been there for him mere moments as they bonded over their homesickness, out of the direct line of fire.
Coran was just becoming his friend and maybe even his family, so there was really no other choice for Lance than to protect him.
Then there was nothing.
Well, not nothing necessarily.
It was like Lance was drowning in the ocean almost. Except there was no way that he would ever actually drown.
Are you sure this little guy isn't really a mermaid that you picked up in a sea shell? His older sister had once asked their parents as she had tried to stop the excited little 4-year-old Lance from diving back into the water as the entire family gathered at the beach.
His mother had supposedly laughed along with his father and the rest of his siblings. I'm sure he's ours, but who knows? Perhaps the ocean calls to him.
And it was true that he loved the ocean. Swimming was something he had always excelled at, comparisons to the Little Mermaid or fish coming from the lips of teasing siblings. However, even stronger than the ocean's call had been the one he had felt as he had looked up at the endless sky of stars that reflected upon the equally endless ocean.
The unknown shores of space had a tighter hold of his heart than his favorite beaches of Cuba, and he had known that he would one day travel among the stars.
The ocean was still in his veins though. It was no wonder that he was the Guardian of Water.
However, the ocean he found himself drowning in was nothing like the calming, sparkling waters of his home. This was a dangerous sea, dark and heavy like the waves during a hurricane. It was water that one should never venture out into.
And he was drowning in it.
He couldn't move, he couldn't really think. Pain throbbed throughout his whole being, ebbing in and out like the tides. Occasionally, he heard muffled voices or it felt like he was being moved, but it was all far away. He just let himself be buffeted by the currents of the water that he was sinking in.
At some point, something changed.
It was a distant sound, almost like screaming. Lance took a moment to place the voice.
Then he remembered. They were in outer space, fighting the Galra; something had happened, but Lance couldn't remember what.
What he did know was that he couldn't stay floating here if his friends were in trouble.
So he did what he did best in water. He swam. He swam through the darkness, not even knowing which way was up, trying to find a way to the surface. Lance tried to follow the voices, realizing they were getting louder and louder.
His fingers breached the surface of the dark waters he'd been trapped in.
Lance's eyes slowly dragged open. Everything hurt and pain sizzled through his veins and threatened to drag him under once more. He struggled to keep his head above water and kept his eyes open. Flicking them around, he noticed that he was on the bridge, but the lighting was different. Next to him, Shiro was looking off at something in front of them, though he himself was kneeling and handcuffed and looked like he was in pain. Lance dragged his gaze in the same direction.
Pidge was held in the gigantic gauntlet of a Galra. Lance felt like he should know the name of this adversary, but frankly, all of his focus centered on his captured friend.
Help her, him, them. His mind was so frazzled he couldn't remember Pidge's pronouns. But that didn't matter. His response was immediate.
Ignoring his screaming body, Lance summoned his bayard, brought it up, took aim, and fired.
He felt a slight thrill as he saw it hit perfectly, forcing the Galra to drop Pidge. But it seemed like that took everything he had as he began to slip under the water once more. His bayard deactivated as he collapsed, his eyes falling shut. He was just barely aware of Shiro and Keith rushing forward towards the Galra.
No, no, no! They're in danger. He couldn't tell what exactly was going, but he could hear that the battle was still continuing. He couldn't just – he couldn't –
Lance knew the surface was in his reach and if he could make it, he could help, but he wasn't able to get there.
"Lance, are you okay?" A hand pulled his reaching one up, anchoring him and bringing him to the surface. Lance's eyes fluttered open to meet Keith's worried ones.
A glance around showed the Galra on the ground. Lance looked over at Keith and felt a smile tugging on his lips.
"We did it." And he couldn't help but think that his voice sounded like complete crap, even though he knew he was barely treading water. He kept his focus on Keith though. "We are a good team." He managed to form the smile that had been waiting to grow.
And Lance saw something that he never thought he'd see.
Keith smiled back.
It wasn't one of those confident smirks he could get, like when they drove right off a cliff to avoid the Garrison, but it was small, genuine, and with a quiet happiness. It unfurled like a flower opening to the morning sun.
Lance wondered exactly how hard he had hit his head, because surely this was a hallucination. The black dots swarming the edge of his vision seemed to support this theory.
As Keith seemed to readjust his hold on him, bringing his arm around him to half-cradle him and keep him upright better, Lance took the opportunity to look around at the others while he was still above the water. Pidge was helping Shiro, both looking exhausted. Allura seemed to be tying up the Galra. Coran and Hunk…
That made Lance shove his ever approaching unconsciousness back like nothing else could.
"Hunk? Coran?" His eyes darted around but there were no signs of them. He wrenched his gaze back to Keith, who was looking at him worriedly. "Hey, where are…? Are they…?"
"They're fine." Keith reassured him. "Coran and Hunk just had to get a new crystal for the castle."
"Oh." The adrenaline spike faded as quickly as it had come. Memories of what he had been doing before all this prickled his mind and he couldn't help but ask, "So Coran…was fine?"
Keith let an exasperated huff. "Yeah. You protected him."
"Good." Lance could feel the waves dragging him under again. Didn't his dad used to say that you shouldn't try to tread water for too long? It would just exhaust you and leave you unable to even float before long.
His mind was getting too fuzzy to remember.
"Hey!" Someone was shaking him. Lance slowly opened his eyes – he couldn't even remember closing them – and looked up into Keith's face that was flickering between concern and panic. "Don't fall asleep! You were unconscious for a while, and you can't – Just don't close your eyes!" Keith pleaded.
"Awww, you do…care." Lance couldn't help but try chuckling at the thought. He was only able to do it because he suddenly couldn't feel any pain.
There was a voice in the back of his mind saying that wasn't a good sign.
"Of course I care! I – " Lance's eyes slipped shut just as Keith's voice cut off. He wondered why he stopped talking. "Hey, I'm not joking! Keep your eyes open!" Keith sounded like he was full blown panicking now.
But Lance was tired and he didn't think he could tread in these waters anymore. It was getting dark in any case, clearly time for bed. "Nighty night…" He mumbled.
"Lance!" The arms around him shifted and he felt himself being lifted. Was Keith seriously doing a princess carry? They had a perfectly good princess right there. Shouldn't he be doing this with her? "Shiro! Lance, he – "
The voices slowly faded away, even as he heard them gaining in pitch and frequency. Lance didn't have the energy to get invested.
Lance went under.
Several days later, Lance wasn't lying when he said he didn't remember.
Personally, he thinks this is well within his rights as he apparently got blown up, was unconscious for a lot longer than is really healthy, emerged from a coma to help save the day, and quickly fell back into unconsciousness.
Still, he did feel a twinge of guilt at Keith's betrayed expression. Lance had just wanted to brush it off and get things back to normal, but apparently whatever had happened had mattered to Keith.
And really, he wasn't lying.
All he had in his memory banks were… incomplete.
An echo of screaming, the weight of the trigger on his finger, a flash of red, a glimpse of one of the softest, nicest smiles he'd ever seen, the sensation of arms tenderly cradling him close.
Nothing solid or whole, and when he reached for these moments, they slipped through his fingers as easily as shadows in the ocean.
No matter how much he wanted to remember.
AN: I know some people think Lance is just being facetious here, trying to counter Keith forgetting him back at the Garrison, but let's be real. Lance was unconscious for a long time. Probably at least an hour or even more depending how long it took Pidge and the mice to Home Alone the Galra after they took over the castle. During said initial unconsciousness, he was moved multiple times (Shiro taking him towards the doors, the Galra jerking him around, being taken back to the control room, and then he and Shiro were in a different position there when Pidge finally got there), and he showed no signs of waking during any of this. That's pretty bad. Makes you wonder what sort of spidey sense managed to get him up to shoot Sendak. Then passed out again after shooting the guy but managed to rouse himself enough to talk to Keith. He probably wasn't awake for much longer. So really, who can blame him for forgetting?
Mainly, I wrote this because I wanted some actual cradling. In canon, we only saw him and Keith holding hands but Keith utter look of betrayal says that there was some cradling going on and we were robbed. Also, I wanted to try writing all this from Lance's perspective and I had some really good swimming analogies in mind.
BTW, I personally ship Klance (or Laith or whatever), but at this point, it's totally platonic. This is a turning point in their relationship, and while I may personally hope they get together eventually, I'm fine with them just becoming super good friends. So you can consider this as pre-Klance or just becoming closer friends, kudos to you either way.