Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron or its characters. If I did, we'd end up with stuff like this in canon.
Mullets and Lost Minds
It was just one of those days where everything went wrong.
For Keith, it had started with getting back at the base in the early hours of the morning from a mission, so he had gotten a lot less sleep than he generally preferred before being woken up by a message from Kolivan to report to the bridge. After struggling to put on the few pieces of armor that he'd managed to take off, he'd gotten to the bridge and discovered that Voltron needed back-up so they needed to hurry to their location. He barely managed to push down his panic at this and quickly got in his ship.
Apparently, a trap had been set while Voltron was trying to liberate the planet Mnentis from the Galra. The enemy had anticipated them coming as they had been in the system and made it seem like their defenses were weak enough for them to sneak into their base. And his old team had fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker.
The bad day had continued when Keith had shown up. He'd plunged into the fight as per usual but got separated from the others. He'd lost sight of them while they were fighting their way through the main base and he figured he took a wrong turn at some point.
Galra surrounded him now and Keith wildly looked around trying to find a way out.
There wasn't one. Or at least, not one that wasn't blocked by at least ten sentries and the occasional Galra foot soldier.
Keith growled and held his sword at the ready.
No back-up from the Blades, no clue where the rest of Team Voltron was, and the certainty that no one probably knew where he was or even that he wasn't with the main group. The anonymity that came with being a Blade could be quite a hindrance at times.
Well, he'd been in worse situations.
So Keith struck out. He'd fight his way out if he had to.
He hadn't anticipated how hard it was to fight so many opponents without anyone else there. Even during training, he had never faced so many. He dodged as best as he could but there were so many and he knew he would eventually slip up.
Which he did as Keith's body reflexively tensed up at the sight of the sword swinging right at his face. He couldn't block it as he was blocking two sentries already. He knew this was the end.
Part of him regretted that he didn't have the opportunity to say goodbye to his friends.
Suddenly, the approaching sentry's head exploded in a shower of sparks before collapsing to the ground.
Keith started a bit at it, but he quickly took advantage of it to destroy the two that were pressed against his defenses. And then he just kept cutting through those around him. It was getting incredibly easier to fight off the Galra sentries and soldiers as shots rained down from above, taking out half of the enemies before Keith could even try getting close to them.
When he had a second to breath, Keith looked up, searching for the figure he knew was protecting his six.
There! A flash of red and blue. The barrel of a sniper rifle.
Keith couldn't hold back a grin, glad that his mask was up.
He could always count on Lance to have his back.
With Lance's assistance, it didn't take long to finish off the sentries and Galra in the room. Lance used his jets as he leapt down to Keith's level, a matching grin on his face. "Hey, Keith, looked like you could use some help there. I hope you don't mind me stepping in?" Lance gave a jaunty little wave and made his way over, his bayard still out in its blaster form just in case.
Keith deactivated his Blade mask, so he could at least pretend to look annoyed and have Lance see it. "How'd you know it was me?"
Lance snorted. "Dude, all the other Marmorites have like, at least a foot and a half on you. You're so short."
"I'm only two inches smaller than you!" Keith scowled, but he relished falling into old habits and arguments with Lance again.
"But oh, how those two inches count so much." Lance grinned, eyes sparkling and obviously as happy as Keith secretly was. "Anyway, the rest of your buddies already met up with the others and noticed you were missing, so I volunteered to come find you. I should probably..." He paused and activated his comm, "Oh, hey guys, I found Keith. We're gonna make our way out."
"What about the mission?" Keith couldn't help but ask, but he followed Lance as he made his way over to the far door. Finally, it looked like things were taking a turn for the better.
"All done for the most part. We just have to destroy the base to the foundations, and we can do that in the Lions." Lance said, looking back over his shoulder to talk with Keith. "So you can - " His eyes abruptly widened. "Keith, look out!"
Without further ado, Lance's arm shot out and shoved Keith to the side while his other hand raised his blaster. Getting into firing position in a split second, he shot at something, the sound of two blasts ringing through the air.
Keith stumbled back a bit, momentarily confused as Lance generally wasn't a pushy person, at least in the physical sense. His gaze followed where Lance had been glancing, and he was just in time to see a Galra soldier, slash marks showing that he had been the one to take him down, falling down from Lance's blast hitting him in the chest. His own gun fell out of his hand to the floor and the Galra salute was dying on his lips even as he crumpled.
It was pretty clear what had happened and Keith silently berated himself for not making sure all his opponents were down for the count. It was downright sloppy of him. Good thing Lance had...
Then it fully hit Keith that he had heard two shots. But, like usual, Lance had only used one.
Lance made a small choking noise, practically non-existent.
Keith whirled to face him and felt his eyes widen in horror that mirrored Lance's own. Lance's left hand fluttered at his side and both of them looked down at the growing patch of red on his suit. Lance pressed against it and flinched in pain.
"Ow." Lance softly said before his knees buckled and his bayard clattered to the ground beside him.
"Lance!" Keith caught him before he fully collapsed. He leaned him back in his arms, practically cradling him, and took a closer look at the wound that Lance was trying to do his best to stem. It was on his left side, right where there was a disturbing absence of real armor and only the flight suit was exposed. He lifted Lance's hand for a moment and then he slammed it back down, adding his own hand to the pressure despite Lance's cry at the sensation.
Lance had been shot.
His mind could barely register that, even as he pressed harder.
Shouts were coming through Lance's comm. In particular, Keith could make out Hunk's shrieks asking if Lance was okay.
Before Keith could reply, knowing he was close enough that the comms would pick up his voice, Lance tried to reply first, "I'm… I… I'm okay." He gave a weak smile as if that would somehow make his words true.
Keith stared at him incredulously. "Lance, you've been shot!" He tried to ignore the way his voice cracked at that.
"He's been what?!" Only Pidge's voice could get that high of a screech.
Lance winced. "I've had worse."
"Yeah, when you got blown up!" Hunk yelled. "As if that's any…as if that's…oh god…" He sounded like he was on the verge of tears.
Lance closed his eyes as if fortifying himself. Keith personally found himself floundering a bit. He knew he had to keep pressure on the wound because it clearly was not going to stop bleeding any time soon. But he and Lance also had to get out of here before reinforcements arrived. He was torn between what he should do: help stop the bleeding and request an evac, which the Blade would strongly disapprove of, or just leave Lance to do his best stopping it and getting them out of there. His instincts weren't helping for once as they were just shouting at him that LANCE HAD BEEN SHOT!
He jerked at the sound of Lance's voice and his eyes whipped around to meet Lance's steady gaze. For a second, he admired how Lance was keeping a level head about all of this, but then he quickly refocused on the objective. "Yeah?"
"I've got… bandages and stuff. In my pouch." He gestured towards the pouch on his right side as he shakily picked up his bayard and returned it to his thigh holster.
"Gotcha." Keith nodded, and he took the lead, reaching into the pouch and pulling out some gauze and bandages. There were a few other things in there, but it didn't look like medical supplies so he left it alone.
There wasn't much time, so Keith lifted Lance's hand again and slapped down the gauze before quickly wrapping the bandages around his torso. With a jerk of his hands, he tore the bandage and tied it off as tight as he could before moving Lance's hand back to it. "Keep that there." He ordered.
Lance grunted in reply. "And now the hard part." He lifted up his right hand and when Keith just stared blankly at it, he wiggled his fingers. "Keith… help me up."
"What?" Keith asked, and he heard the question echoing from the others through the comm.
"We need to get out of here and you helping me walk is the fastest way." Ignoring Keith's incredulous expression, Lance grabbed his hand anyway and upon his tugging at it, Keith automatically pulled him up so they were standing side by side. Lance leaned his weight against him and took some large breaths as he blinked his eyes rapidly. "Besides, you probably can't carry me." Lance flashed Keith a weak smile.
Keith opened his mouth to protest. He had, in fact, carried Lance before. And almost unbidden images from the last time came to mind: Lance smiling and talking to him before his eyes rolled up and his weight fell heavy into Keith's arms; Keith insisting on carrying him to the medbay since Shiro was slightly injured himself; Allura's worried expression because despite his brief return to consciousness, if Hunk and Coran didn't return soon with a crystal to power the cryopods, Lance would…
However, Keith shut his mouth just as quickly, because the longer they stayed here, the more Lance would bleed out. And Lance was clearly not taking no for an answer.
Instead, Keith just slung Lance's arm over his shoulder, carefully placed his own hand above where the wound was, and started walking back towards the entrance. Luckily, Lance was awake enough to remember which way that was because Keith didn't have a clue.
To Keith's surprise they didn't encounter anyone else on their way out of the base. Of course, between the team and the Blades, the place was mostly cleared out, but Keith expected that there would be more alarms going and reinforcements filling the halls. Still, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth, considering Lance's injury.
As they walked as quick as they could Lance was slowly leaning more and more into Keith, but Keith didn't draw attention to it. Especially since Lance was still talking softly into the comm, trying to reassure Pidge and Hunk that he was fine and they were on their way.
However, it still came as a bit of a shock when Lance suddenly collapsed again, his dead weight making Keith stumbled.
"Lance?" He glanced down at Lance's face while sliding his hand down to where Lance's hand appeared to have slipped from staunching the wound. He froze.
Lance's eyes had fallen shut and the bandages were soaked through already.
"Quiznak!" Keith swore and tried to gently brace Lance against the wall before guiding him down into a sitting position. "Lance. Hey, hey, look at me!" He tugged Lance's helmet off and tapped his face. "Open your eyes!"
"Keith, what's going on?" Hunk's worried voice came through the comms, but he was cut off by Shiro.
"Keith, status report."
"Lance is bleeding through the bandages we put on his injury. It's pretty bad, and Lance collapsed." Keith chewed on his lip. "I'm… not sure if we can make it out by ourselves." He didn't want to admit that they needed help, but looking over Lance, he knew things were not looking good.
Lance's face was scrunching up from the repeated tapping, clearly aware of things on some level, but that was the best thing Keith could probably report. Lance's skin was paler than normal and his breaths came out in labored pants. As he pushed both his and Lance's dangling hand back on the wound, Keith slipped his finger over Lance's wrist and noted how fast his heartbeat was.
This was not good.
The clicking of Pidge's keyboard sounded through the line. "You guys aren't too far from the entrance…" She sounded a bit unsure at how they should proceed. "And we took care of most of the troops in there. They're mostly heading towards where the rest of us left in the opposite direction."
"How about I just go pick them up?" Hunk asked. "It wouldn't take that - "
"Noooooooooooo." The word was more of a groan than anything else, but it startled Keith and from the sounds of it, everyone else jumped as well.
Keith glanced down to see blurry blue eyes were open and Lance was practically pouting at his helmet. "Hunk, you don't…have to come. Keith and I - " Lance hissed in pain and Keith could feel him finally getting a grip on his wound again. "We got this."
Keith stared at him, incredulous. "I don't think we got this." He flatly said.
"Shhh." Lance's other hand clumsily waved in front of Keith's face, making him jerk back. "Look, we…shouldn't separate anymore. We just…we just have to stay together and…"
Lance quieted for a moment, appearing to struggle with consciousness. "Stay…together and…" He repeated before his voice trailed off.
Keith gave him a second but he didn't seem to be recovering this time. "And what?" His patience was rapidly fading as much as Lance was. He shook his shoulder a bit to try to rouse him as Lance blinked more and more slowly. "Stay together and what?!" He snapped.
Lance's eyes meet his and he didn't dare look away. Lance blearily blinked again. "Keith…you know... you actually make a mullet look good..."
Keith could only stare at Lance, eyes widening in horror. "He's lost his mind!" He pretty much yelped. At this point, he didn't care if the Galra heard him.
Lance had lost enough blood to be delirious.
"Oh my god…" Pidge muttered and distantly, Keith heard Hunk practically whimpering. He put that to the side though because with one final blink, Lance's eyes fell shut and didn't reopen. He slumped back against the wall and that's what really let Keith know that he was out of it.
This was reminding him more and more of the last time Lance had fallen unconscious in his presence.
In any case, Keith was out of options.
"But seriously," Hunk spoke up, "I think I should really - "
"I got it." Keith huffed and then he reached out to Lance. If Lance didn't want any of them to split up even more, he could work with that. He shoved Lance's helmet back over his head just in case and got to work.
Ignoring Lance's previous wishes and cursing under his breath, Keith picked Lance up bridal-style. After adjusting Lance's position so at least some pressure was getting on the wound, Keith started a light jog towards the entrance.
"Pidge, am I going the right way?" He checked to make sure.
"Uh, yep." Pidge confirmed and then gave him directions the rest of the way.
As he finally got to the entrance, he found Red already waiting for them. He paused for a moment before his former Lion. Red's eyes bore into him, assessing him.
He squirmed a bit. "Red, we don't have time for this." Keith adjusted his arms to hold Lance more comfortably. Lance's head fell upon his chest. "Please. For him."
Red's familiar heat filled his mind.
Red popped his jaw open, allowing Keith to enter. He quickly settled Lance on the floor and took the controls. Red responded immediately and he used his speed to race to the Castle, dodging the few Galra fighters that were in the air. As soon as they were in the hangar, Keith rose from his seat and scooped Lance up again.
Hunk or one of the others must have called ahead, because Coran was already waiting for him in the medbay with a cryopod open and ready. Not even a minute later, Lance was inside and the cryopod was doing its job. Keith took a step back, not quite sure to do with his now empty hands, before he crossed his arms over his chest and stared into the pod.
Coran checked the readings and made a few adjustments. "Number 3 will be fine within a few quintants." He said into his own comm unit, and Keith relaxed a bit, not even realizing how tense he had been. Coran flashed Keith a smile before clapping him on his shoulder. "Excellent work getting him out, Number 4." And without further ado, Coran retreated back to the bridge.
Part of Keith reeled from the nickname. After all, he had left. He didn't think Coran would call him by his number when he was no longer part of the team. He shook it off though as he returned his gaze back to Lance. The fact that he was going to be fine was the important thing here.
Lance's face was entirely too still. Lance was always so animated that for him to not move for longer than five minutes was jarring in and of itself. Plus, it didn't help that the blue light of the pod cast a pallor on Lance's skin that almost made him look…
Keith's hands tightened around his elbows. No, Coran had said that Lance would be fine. And when it came to stuff like this, Coran was usually right.
Still, the whole incident was reminding him more and more of the first time Lance had been put into the pod.
Keith couldn't help reaching out and placing his hand upon the glass-like forcefield that kept Lance contained. He still couldn't read Altean but he knew that the one pulsing line on the screen was Lance's heartbeat. He shut his eyes and just listened to it for a moment.
"I wonder if you'll remember this time…"
Keith stood in front of the cryopod several days later. He could hear Pidge and Hunk behind him fiddling with some sort of tech. They'd tried to explain it to him, but honestly, he hadn't been paying attention. Allura popped in now and then, but she kept getting called away for Coalition duties. Keith assumed Shiro joined in for those meetings, which was why he wasn't here.
He glared at the pod and resisted the urge to poke at it. He just knew that the moment he tried Coran would appear from nowhere to slap his hand down. He really wished he had taken the opportunity to learn Altean because he wanted to know exactly when Lance would emerge, not Coran's vague "within the next few vargas."
Though Keith counted himself lucky that he could be there at all. Kolivan had wanted to call him back immediately, but Keith had argued that Voltron would need him at least until Lance was better and fully functional. Kolivan hadn't looked pleased, but he did seem to marginally prefer Lance over the others after they had worked together freeing planets, so he allowed Keith to stay.
Admittedly, he'd spent most of his time here, in front of Lance's cryopod, rather than checking on the Coalition or assisting with any other Paladin-type duties.
He wasn't going to make the same mistake as last time where he had turned around for just a few ticks (or had it been a few seconds?) and as a result Lance had wobbled out of the cryopod without anyone to catch him.
So Keith was more than ready when Coran returned to the medbay to check on things and within moments, the cryopod had spat Lance out in a puff of steam. Keith easily caught him, something in his chest settling as Lance groaned and Keith could literally feel that Lance was alright.
Lance blinked up at him, squinting slightly for a moment as the haze of the cryopod slowly left his eyes, and Keith again wondered if Lance would remember.
"Keith?" Lance fuzzily asked. "Wha - "
Keith tried to ignore the way his heart dropped. Well, that answered that -
Lance suddenly straightened up, eyes all too alert. He tried to lean away but the effects of the cryopod had reduced his legs to working like noodles so Keith had to catch him before he fell over. That wasn't what got Keith's attention though.
Lance's face had darkened with an overwhelming shade of red.
"Lance?" Keith tentatively pushed.
"He-hey, Keith," Lance clearly tried to appear nonchalant. He was failing miserably. "So, I - uh - I guess I owe you thanks for - uh - hauling me out of there, so - "
"You saved me first." Keith pointed out, frowning slightly as Lance's face got darker. He was as red as the Lion they shared. "I should be thanking you."
Lance stared at him in astonishment. "I…" He started. "You…" And now he was looking anywhere but Keith.
"Yes?" Keith raised an eyebrow.
Hunk took the opportunity to step in as he literally swooped Lance up into his arms. "Lance, buddy!" He squeezed Lance tight in one of his infamous hugs. "We were so worried!"
"Yeah." Pidge had walked up without Keith noticing as well. She adjusted her glasses a bit, and Keith thought he saw a slight glimmer of tears in the corner of her eyes. He wasn't able to confirm as the second Hunk put Lance down, she was burrowing into Lance's side for a hug.
Lance sighed. "Sorry for worrying you." He gently patted the top of her head.
Keith narrowed his eyes as he watched the trio as they all began to escort Lance back to his room to change clothes. There were still faint traces of red on Lance's cheeks, and despite seeming completely enthralled in Hunk's explanation of what he was making for supper, every now and then Lance glanced over at him. Whenever he did, his face temporarily flushed once more and he hurriedly glanced away.
He didn't know how long he could stay, after all he did have duties as a member of the Blade now, and he didn't know how long it would be until the next time he saw the others in person once he left again, but there was one thing that Keith did know.
Lance remembered this time.
And given how often Lance had made comments regarding his hair and the ammunition he now possessed, Keith couldn't help but think that things were starting to look up.
"I thought you hated mullets?"
"Shut up. Mullets are a crime against humanity."
"And yet you think mine looks good?"
AN: Y'know, I started writing this just wanting to make a reference to that one scene in Treasure Planet where Amelia's dealing with blood loss and drops the fact that she likes Doctor Doppler's eyes. Because it totally seems like something that would happen with Keith and Lance, especially on Lance's end. I probably could have just written that out as a drabble (and more simplified than this), but my brain wanted to give it context, build-up, and then a resolution. So have this story that, as usual ended up a lot longer than I anticipated.