five things that never happened to keith

1. broken wings

Allura never asked him to lie down upon a blood-soaked block and die, and in his saner moments Keith hates her. But he isn't sane very often and when a'Shteru takes control he howls his rage and chokes on the bleak emptiness and eternal horror of being forever grounded. He snarls at Lance and his son and calls upon the spirits to shatter the world that holds him here. But the spirits of this planet don't answer and he is impotent, unable to hurt his captors with anything except the strength of his body; he can only make dark red blood bloom in long stripes and though he enjoys Lance's face when he digs his talons in and twists, he still isn't free.

He will never be free.

Even his body fails him at times, the loss of his wings eating him away like a wasting disease. He can't even break free of these heavy chains that keep him locked away in this dungeon of Allura's, where even the wind is a stranger and the sky is farther away than it has ever been before.

He screams and tears at his hair, foaming at the mouth and he's not sure if he's begging to kill or to be killed.

Lance watches him from the other side of the bars, twisting his golden ring around until it rubs the skin on his finger raw. He wants to go inside and hold Keith, but he still bears the marks of the last time he was on the same side of the bars as Keith and he still can't believe that he almost died. Allura watches with him and her pretty face is lined and troubled.

"Was this right?" Allura murmurs. "Should I have let him die?"

"He's still Keith," Lance says. He grips the bars to Keith's cell with desperate strength and Keith finally notices him, lunges as far as his chains will let him. "Keith. I love you. Come back to me."

a'Shteru snarls back.

2. fascination

Keith stood above Pidge and tried not to think about what he was doing. He couldn't think about it, couldn't look too long at Pidge--sleeping so innocently, showing no signs of Zarkon's touch--or else he would lose his resolve and today would be repeated again and again.

He couldn't do that to Pidge--to any of them--again.

Behind him, the bodies of the others sprawled in various states of disbelief. Hunk had been the hardest to kill, waking up and struggling briefly against Keith. He almost managed to break free, but Keith had just tightened his grip and pressed down and Hunk died like the rest of them.

Keith knelt beside Pidge and used both hands, one to hold Pidge's nose, the other to make sure the boy didn't try to open his mouth. It didn't take long and when Keith was the only one left in the cell, he rocked back on his heels and stared at the results of his night's work.

He wanted to laugh, high and maniacal, but he bit down on his tongue instead. He ran his fingers through Pidge hair, smoothing the errant strains as if Pidge were still alive and having a bad dream. He swallowed Sven's cyanide capsule then lay down and closed his eyes. It was colder than it had been a moment ago, but he didn't know if that was because of the pill or because there was nobody left alive to keep him warm.

Keith smiled into the uncaring darkness.

They would never be hurt again.

3. happily ever after

Sometimes, Keith played a game with himself. He called it the 'never happened' game and it went like this:

He'd never been addicted.

He'd never lain on the floor of his room, dying and cold.

He'd never looked up into Lance's face as blackness closed in around him.

He 'd never lain in a hospital bed, staring for hours on end at a plain white ceiling, mind running down endless, twisting corridors as his body shivered and he begged for sweet release.

He'd never let Arus down.

He'd never been dishonorably discharged and ended up on the streets, hiding in the alleyways, seeking the drugs that had brought him to this empty life in the first place.

He'd never lost Lance.

He'd never been alone.

He'd never been afraid in his lucid moments. Afraid of who he was, afraid of what he could become, afraid of the man he used to be and the life he used to have but more of the mockery of life that he had now.

He'd never stood on the edge of a bridge, ignoring the cars as they whipped past him, and stared into the darkness of the water below him.

He'd never felt the wind whistle past his ears as he fell, feeling almost like he was flying in space again.

He'd never hit the water so hard it broke his ribs and punctured his lungs.

He'd never fallen so far down that he could never get back up.

4. devil!keith

Keith kissed Allura, and he made sure that Sven saw them. His horns tangled in Allura's hair and she made a noise somewhere between want and fear. He pressed against her, but focused all of his attention on Sven, who stood in the doorway as if turned to salt like Lot's wife. Keith drank in the shock, the pain, the confusion, the second-guessing that poured from Sven in beautiful, dark waves. His horns ached like his back teeth after something cold.

It was wonderful.

He almost came right there.

5. fool me once

Keith had woken in Lance's arms and the day had only gotten worse. He'd tried to explain that this wasn't the way life was supposed to be, that he was supposed to be with Allura. He'd tried being calm and he'd tried being angry and he'd tried to pretend that this was just one of Lance's crazy April Fools jokes, but at the end of the day it seemed like it was real and he was lost and somewhere out there in the vastness of logical space, there was another man sleeping with his wife.

He stared at the room that he, apparently, shared with Lance and as much as it pained him, it seemed to fit him perfectly. He could see himself scattered throughout, see how he and Lance somehow managed to weave together like he and Allura had back in his own reality. It was him and it wasn't and it just made for a very confusing sensation all together.

Keith gathered some clothes and headed for the door. He stopped when it opened with a gentle swoosh and Lance stepped through. He looked at the clothes in Keith's hands and then at Keith and then he stepped aside, tilting his head down so that his hair hid his expression.

"My old room is still unoccupied," he mumbled. "Or you could stay somewhere else."

Keith almost walked away but Lance was Lance across all dimensions and Keith wasn't entirely oblivious to the pain and grief that Lance was inexpertly hiding away. Keith tried to remind himself that this wasn't his Lance and this wasn't his life and it wouldn't be right anyway because he did love Allura.

But this was Lance and there was something between that was more than love or different from it, a lateral emotion that was somehow deeper and more painful. When he came close to Lance and Lance flinched away, hugging his arms tightly around his shoulders to keep them from encircling Keith, fingers clenching the soft, worn leather of his jacket so lightly that they turned white, Keith felt that pain himself. He'd always been able to touch Lance and he didn't like it that he couldn't.

"Do you hate me?" Lance said, low and caught somewhere between wanting to know and wanting to remain ignorant.

"No." Keith fidgeted and he wanted to run but he wanted to stand still at the same time. He wanted his wife and he wanted his friend and in this world he currently had neither, because Allura had kept far away from him and Lance had stayed close but remained even more distant. Keith was tired and he was lost and lonely in this familiarly different world. "I could never hate you."

"I love you." Lance's voice broke, slightly, and Keith wondered if it was as bad for Lance as it was for himself, this seeing but not touching, this knowing and not-having, or if it was worse for him.

Keith wanted to sigh but he didn't. He wanted to crawl into his own bed with his wife and wake up tomorrow and have breakfast with his best friend and save the world. He didn't want to lie alone in an unfamiliar room on an uncomfortable bed and listen to the dull white noise of the air-conditioner instead of the now familiar thrum of Allura's heart. He really didn't want to think about this thing with Lance and whether or not it could have happened to him if Lance had just said a word. But he was lonely and tired and weak and he needed Lance now in a way that he'd never really needed Lance or anybody before. He needed to be loved and to be comforted and when he stepped forward into Lance's personal space, dropping his clothing to one side, and gently placing his hands on Lance's cheeks, he didn't think about the guilt that made his heart twinge. He was using Lance in a terrible fashion, but that was okay because he was just a hero and not a saint.

Lance broke the kiss and stared, afraid, hopeful, confused, beautiful into Keith's eyes, as if he could read the confused thoughts that hid themselves from Keith. "What was that for?"

"I just." Keith didn't know how to respond, to say that the kiss wasn't as weird or awkward as he'd expected, that perhaps there was a part of him that remembered the life of this other Keith, that even in his own reality he loved Lance more than he could say, more than he thought he could have ever expressed because there were no words, no actions that were right enough to convey the depth and breadth and intensity of this emotion. "Could I try this? For a while?"

"You love Allura." Lance's voice was flat and his stare was challenging.

"Yeah. But you're you." And that was, really, all Keith could say, the English language failing him once more. He made a tiny gesture, a half shrug and a spreading of his hands that attempted to convey everything that Lance was.

But Lance understood what he meant to say but couldn't and the light that suddenly bloomed in his eyes and spread across his face like the morning sun over the lake, made Keith's breath hitch. He could understand this Keith's choice.

He would have done the same.