Keith saw only the flash of familiar eyes and the blur of metal just before he sailed off the bed and onto the floor. Now he felt the pain, sharp and searing. He glanced at his shoulder to discriminate blood oozing out in a thick current, sparkling brightly in the streaming olive moonlight like liquid rubies melting down his chest. At the source of the puncture was a pair of long silver scissors plunged into his chest just below the collarbone. They stuck out like a metallic flamingo.
"Lance?! What in hell are you…"
An indistinguishable movement and Keith was again prostrate on his stomach, the scissors tore loose from his flesh by the impact of the landing. Blood flooded from the open wound as Keith lay stunned. He vaguely realized his mouth had been split when he tasted salt. He struggled up in time to see Lance bearing down on him with the newly retrieved and now bent scissors.
He rolled in time to escape a second blow.
Confused, unable to comprehend what was happening, Keith threw up an arm as the short spear pierced his forearm. The new pain focused his thoughts in one searing white streak. *Damn it Keith, think!*
Think. Focus. Training.
Lance came at him again. Keith seized his wrist, wrenching the scissors deftly from his ill-tempered hand while spinning him into a hold on the floor, his knee burrowing between the other's shoulder blades. His heavier body locked its joints, securing its position. Lance struggled on the ground against Keith's stronger grip, every ligament and tendon visibly straining at once, like a lithe rabbit caught in the hunter's snare writhing for life. Keith could barely hold him down, his arm and shoulder a blinding kaleidoscope of pain, the numbing sensations causing fireworks across his vision.
"Lance, what the hell is wrong with you?!" he repeated in vain.
Lance only strained against him as Keith worked one foot over to the com badge on his shirt. He punched it with his toe and it beeped.
"Somebody get to Lance's room NOW!" he screamed out. Even without the badge he might have been heard. Hunk, who was on duty in the main control room, was the first to arrive.
"What in hell?" he echoed, running to the contorted mass that was Keith and Lance and hovering over, unsure of what to do. He seemed to be more confused by the fact that they were both almost naked than that they were struggling. Keith wasn't in the mood to be gawked at however.
"Don't just stand there!" he shouted, "Hold him down!"
Hunk clumsily, and with some embarrassment, sat on Lance as Keith retrieved a loose extension cable to tie the pilot of Red Lion up with. Keith bound his hands behind him and then his feet together. The brown haired man lay trussed up on the floor, immobilized but still wriggling violently.
Hunk took a deep breath and wiped the thin layer of sweat forming on his forehead as Keith draped the bed cover over Lance's semi-exposed body. He didn't care for the idea of other people seeing Lance in just his boxers, an untimely thought but typical of his excessive consideration.
"Keith, what in the world is going on here?" Hunk finally asked, stepping forward again.
Keith peered down to the liquid clotting below his collarbone, wincing at his wound.
"I wish I knew."
"Well, old witch?"
"Will it work?"
The shadowy old hag hunched over a small blue fire, the flames the color of ice, boiling the contents of a glass beaker. It was difficult to distinguish her from the surroundings of her witch's room. All around, wooden dressers and iron chests were jealously guarded in dark corners by silent shadows. She grinned under her protective hood, her leather skin gathering in the corners, her answer amused and belated. "Of course."
She made her way to an ancient wooden cabinet beautifully carved with irreverent gargoyles devouring cherubs. Around her feet her sable coated cat now emerged and rubbed against her robe, arching up lasciviously and mewling slightly. "Soon, sire."
"How will we know when the spell has run its course?"
She stood a bit straighter and motioned to a small, blown glass goblet which sat half filled with crimson fluid. "This glass should shatter once his mission is complete."
"Should? Why is it that you cannot control your own magic, witch?"
"Magic is not an exact science, sire. The same spell reacts differently to each person, battles and mingles exclusively with that person's soul. Everything must be carefully executed and accounted for to prevent unforeseen side effects."
"The time is closing in Hagar. I want no 'unforeseen side effects.'"
The withered old lamia nodded her customary affirmation. "As you wish, sire."
Lance sat motionless on the cot in the jail cell, the cold metal burning through the thin leather covering, chilling his legs. He pulled the sheet tighter around his body, resting his head on his knees, his headache gone, but his heartache strong. How could he believe what Hunk had said? How could he believe what he himself remembered doing? He looked up as a door opened and light flooded the dark cell, burning his eyes shut. He recognized the even, controlled steps as they crossed the concrete floor.
"Keith?" he speculated, squinting at the blur.
The captain, halloed and obscured by the harsh light, idled in mute confusion. Hunk had said that Lance was back to normal, or so he thought. Keith studied Lance from a safe distance. It tugged at him to see Lance caged.
Lance shook his head, wanting as much as Keith to understand what had happened. "I don't…they told me what I did. I remembered but I didn't believe. I don't know how I could have…"
Lance stopped, his hands wrapping around the somber iron grill of the prison door. It seemed as though the chilled bars represented a huge chasm between them. He wanted to reach through the bars but his hands refused to move. He shook his head.
"Lance?" Keith asked hopefully at the sound of the familiar voice as he crossed the distance between them. "What happened to you? You tried to kill me for God's sake!"
Lance nervously glanced to the spot below the shoulder where Hunk had swore he'd stabbed Keith, and he could almost remember the feel of forcing metal through soft skin and muscle.
"I don't know what happened, I swear!"
Keith titled his head, trying to remain clinical, Hunk's warning echoing in his head. Keep his personal emotions from marring his judgement. For whatever reason, this man had tried to kill him. But this was Lance, his love, and detachment was impossible; a lifetime of training was insufficient. "You don't?"
"No! Why would I try to kill you?!" Lance looked angrily hurt at the thought. It seemed like such a stupid question, the kind only Keith would ask, trying to be impartial at such a delicate moment, holding steadfastly to any remaining shreds of leader-like objectivity while Lance wanted to scream. His voice came out a pleading whisper instead. "Keith…"
Lance put one hand through the bars, reaching for Keith who was still beyond his reach, wanting insanely to touch him. "I don't know what's going on."
It was pitiful to see Lance reduced to such a state, and it touched Keith intensely, all resolve fading. Lance was being so sincere, his blue eyes bordering on tears. Keith went to him automatically, reaching for him through the bars. He couldn't stand to see Lance caged, even for the few hours he'd been locked in the cell. It was like trapping a firefly in a glass jar.
"Lotor did something to you," he declared, as though it was fact and not his own sudden rationalization.
Lance did not argue, eager to remove this guilt and shift the blame to someone else. "How do we find out what?"
"I don't know. But you can bet that whatever Lotor has planned, he'll let us know."
"In the meantime I stay in here." Lance pulled away.
Keith nodded regretfully. "I'm sorry."
"So am I. That I hurt you." Lance moved back to the low cot and sat down, his head slumped almost to his knees. "I'm so sorry."
Keith reached for the key in his pocket.
"What are you doing?" Lance inquired when he heard the sound of metal scraping. "You can't let me out."
"I know," Keith softly agreed. He slid open the door and eased his way inside. "I just wanted…"
Lance stood up hopefully. He waited only for Keith to extend his good arm before pressing into an embrace. "I'm sorry…don't know what's going on…" he repeated again and again, while Keith murmured generic but sincere consolatory remarks back. Lance's kisses were nervous but passionate, filled with the confusion and regret that he tried to alleviate by giving pleasure instead.
"Maybe it's worn off." Keith offered hopefully, pulling away from the numbing, strangely amorous kisses. "Maybe it only happened one time."
"I don't know." Lance leaned on him. "My head hurts."
"That could just be a side effect."
"Maybe. Or it could mean I'm about to go berserk on you again." Lance winced under the throb intensifying, and at his own words, as he braced himself against Keith's sagging frame, suddenly sweating.
Keith smiled softly, his good arm patting Lance's damp hair. "I don't think so."
"Keith, I don't know if it's a good idea to be…" Allura's voice trailed off as the two men turned.
"Excuse me," she apologized. "Coran said to see what was keeping you…" her voice trailed off as she blushed. Hunk and Pidge entered the room then.
"It's alright Allura," Keith offered. "It think it would be alright to move Lance to his bedroom. We could lock the door from the outside. He'd be more comfortable."
Allura and the others appeared dubious. "I don't know…"
"He hasn't tried to hurt me." Keith insisted. It seemed as though he was over compensating for Lance's behavior.
Lance stepped forward, stumbling slightly to Keith's back and leaning against it. "Keith!" he gasped softly, clutching at the wad of shirt at his face.
Keith turned. "What? Lance are you…"
In the next second, Keith was lying on the concrete floor in a pool of blood, the words still hovering unsaid about his lips. His laser blaster, the one that he wore like a wedding band on his belt, was in Lance's hand. It smelled of smoke and Keith smelled of burned flesh, a quarter sized hole in his gut.
He looked around. Allura was screaming. Hunk and Pidge were barreling towards him. Hunk knocked something from his right hand and then threw him headlong into a wall with a sickening crack of bone. When his vision focused he saw Pidge kneeling beside a crumpled mass of limbs and shiny black hair. Raven strands that fell sideways as the head turned to reveal a pallid face. Keith's face.
"Oh my God…" Lance gasped, watching the blood stretching along the floor, almost to his fingertips. "Oh my god! What did I do?!"
"You killed him!" Pidge shouted above the chaos, the words causing a violent shudder to paralyze Lance's body.
And that's when his world went black.
The glass on the witch's stand shattered. The blood it contained ran down over the old mahogany cabinet and into the floor, where it seeped down cracks and into oblivion.