Descend from Grace

by Zoe


....or, Ten Pages or So of Pure, Unadulterated Pain.

This is the sort of thing that my overly sadistic muse likes to throw at me when I'm least expecting it. The actual song being, well, ficced, is Garbage's "Dumb," but that title just isn't aesthetically pleasing, so I wound up swiping a hopefully appropriate NIN lyric. Which no doubt indicates that this is Not a Happy Fic, a fact to which yon main character will gladly attest (at length). Um... enjoy?

Zoe

Everything in red is a flashback or nightmare

Warnings: Yaoi (probably a given, yes?), AU, some profanity, violence, and Angst. *Lots* of Angst. There are also references to childhood violence and rape -- nothing explicit, but sufficiently suggestive as to be disturbing nonetheless.


Descend from Grace

They were all around him, too many of them, looming impossibly large with their leering alien faces and unholy sulfur-colored eyes. Mocking laughter washed over him as they moved closer and he shuddered in revulsion and terror, feeling so very small and alone as icy alien hands began to slither inexorably over his suddenly frozen body. And then torn clothing gave way to bruised flesh and the dying world around him faded to nothing as the cold began to invade him and a low, sibilant voice hissed, "First lesson, boy."

And then the nightmare began in earnest.

I never claimed to be your saviour
I said I had a dirty mouth
Stop analysing my behaviour
If you're too dumb to work it out

Lance was not having a good week.

More accurately, he thought as he feinted right to avoid an enemy fighter that seemed intent on ramming him, he was having a spectacularly awful week. His current predicament being only the latest disaster in a week marked by more than its share of them, even taking... the anniversary... into account. No - especially taking it into account. After all, it wasn't every year he managed to obliterate the one saving grace in his life in the name of confronting his nightmares. Damn Keith anyway... why couldn't the man leave well enough alone for once?

Then again, whom was he kidding? Keith never left well enough alone - he was congenitally incapable of doing so. With a huff of annoyance, Lance attempted to turn his full attention back to the task at hand, which at the moment consisted of figuring out how in the Myriad Hells the handful of enemy ships he'd run into while on patrol had ballooned to include what now appeared to be a significant portion of Zarcon's fleet, and deciding what he was going to do about it. Anything to keep his mind off recent events.

I've got to keep myself together
You know I hate to disappoint
A masochistic lamb to slaughter
Maybe you miss the point?

Red Lion pivoted smoothly in the air as Lance moved to intercept another fighter. For once he was grateful for Keith's often aggravating obsession with training drills; the endless repetitions he'd already been through enabled him to parry and return fire almost without thinking. Which was good, because gods knew he'd been having trouble keeping his mind on much of anything lately.

Well, that wasn't exactly true. His mind was perfectly capable of focussing on things. They just didn't happen to be the things he wanted to be focussing on. Or should have been, under current circumstances. Not that his wishes mattered at this point.

He didn't want to think about what had happened. He couldn't think about anything else. The Allmother hated him, he was sure of it.

I'm feeling small
I'm climbing the walls
I don't let it show

He had always made a point of asking for that day off, preferring to drown his memories in various mind-altering substances rather than allow the ghosts of his past to carve themselves any more deeply into his consciousness. He'd never really gone into detail as to the reasons behind his requests, generally confining his explanations to "Personal Reasons" or, for the more stringent, "Religious Reasons." He rather doubted that anyone had been fooled by his non-explanations, but to his immense surprise nobody had ever really called him on it. Perhaps they simply didn't want to know. Which was fine with him - he didn't really feel like explaining it to anyone.

Until his oh-so-considerate commanding officer and lover had gone and upset everything in an effort to "help" him.

Now that you know what you know
I bet you wish you could let it go
You'll never come sucking your thumb
Better off dumb

It was bad enough that Keith had slotted him for duty that day in an ultimately futile attempt to keep him from "brooding." But then he'd had to compound the issue by dropping by Lance's quarters after too many hellish hours spent trying not to think about... things... and insisting that Lance "stop hiding behind alcohol and actually talk about what was bothering him for a change." Unfortunately, Lance had never responded well to such overtures even when he was sober, which he most decidedly wasn't at the time.

So he'd "talked." Loudly. At length. In graphic detail.

He didn't know which was worse: the look of horror and disgust that had flitted briefly over Keith's otherwise expressionless face or the fact that Allura had been standing right outside the door at the time for some odd reason. That the lateness of the hour meant that Hunk and Pidge had been in their quarters nearby and thus privy to the whole conversation as well had merely been icing on the cake. They knew - all of them. But Keith knowing was the worst. They'd barely spoken since; Keith seemed to be avoiding him and Lance was only too glad to let him.

Yeah. Right. Maybe if he repeated that often enough, he'd even believe it.

Maybe I could write a letter
To help me with my self-esteem
You should get to know me better
No one's ever what they seem

He'd never really understood what Keith had seen in him anyway. It had always seemed inconceivable that Captain By-the-Book would be remotely interested in - he winced inwardly - Mr. Anything-that-Moves. Lance was painfully aware of his not entirely unearned reputation as the "campus slut." He had never ascribed any sort of emotional component to sex - it was just something you did when the situation called for it. Even the first few nights he'd spent with Keith had felt largely compulsory. It had only been gradually that he'd realized that there was more to it, that desire could be about more than physical need. That knowledge had exhilarated him as much as it had terrified him; he could scarcely articulate it to himself, much less to Keith.

I'm feeling small
Climbing the walls
I don't let it show

Keith had made him feel wanted, truly wanted, for perhaps the first time in his life. And he'd completely fucked it up. Gods, but he was an idiot.

Now that you know what you know
I bet you wish you could let it go
You'll never come sucking your thumb
Better off dumb

He forced that line of thought away as another volley ricocheted off his left side. He returned fire quickly, ruthlessly, grateful for the distraction if not the circumstances. Another enemy fighter disappeared in a gout of flame and he grinned ferally in satisfaction, noting with some amusement Red Lion's answering rumble. He'd initially been skeptical when he'd been chosen to pilot this particular Lion - that its color and element alike practically screamed "sexual metaphor" hadn't exactly done wonders for his ego - but he had to admit now that the two of them were a perfect match.

Another burst of fire impacted on the right and he cursed, whirling on the offending craft and annihilating it even as more appeared on either side of him. He was tempted to throw himself blindly into the fray - he was spoiling for a fight anyway, and judging by the way Red Lion was handling he wasn't the only one - but the increasing number of enemy fighters around him made that a dicey proposition at best. He wasn't that suicidal.

He was about to call in for backup when he remembered... Keith was on monitor duty this afternoon. Wonderful. Okay... maybe he was that suicidal.

You still don't know what you think of me
You still don't know what you mean to me
You still don't know what to think of me
You still don't know what you think of me

He growled impatiently, disgusted with himself, as he dodged another salvo from behind, dispatching two more attackers in the process. It was one thing to avoid any sort of contact with the man whenever he was off duty, but in a combat situation? He was vastly outnumbered, beset from all sides, and who knew whether there happened to be a robeast lurking around? It was impossible to believe that he could fend these attacks off indefinitely by himself - he'd be lucky if he lasted two more minutes by himself. Was the damage to his pride really a more significant concern than the potential loss of one of Arus' sacred Lions?

Except it wasn't pride that was gnawing at him but shame.

Now that you know what you know
I bet you wish you could let it go
You'll never come sucking your thumb
Better off dumb

Not that pride didn't figure into it to some extent. He'd never backed down from a challenge in his life, no matter how inevitably it came back to haunt him later. And he'd always prided himself on his self-sufficiency; after all, he'd had to muddle through life on his own for a very long time. Even admitting that there might be times when he needed a little help was an exercise in frustration for all involved, not only because he hated the very idea of needing others... but because on some level that he rarely chose to acknowledge, he was absolutely sure he didn't deserve it.

And therein lay his current problem. Because not only did HE not think he was worthy of assistance, he was reasonably certain that Keith agreed. How could he not, after that night? Most of the things he'd told Keith disgusted him - he could only imagine what Keith had thought of the whole sordid story. Especially given that Keith seemed to want nothing more to do with him. So perhaps this was all for the best...

Red Lion snarled almost impatiently and he started somewhat guiltily, growling a bit himself as he took out another fighter. He was being an idiot, and wasting time to boot. He couldn't fight off this incursion alone; thus he needed to call for assistance. End of story. He could feel sorry for himself later. He reached over the control panel to hail Castle Control...

....and the world turned inside out as something knocked him out of the sky.

Now that you know what you know
You're going to reap what you sow
Nothing will come sucking your thumb
Better off dumb

Momentarily stunned, he was completely unable to react as Red Lion began descending rapidly and vertiginously. He was vaguely aware that he was in freefall but so disoriented by the Lion's crazed spin and the resultant g-forces that he simply had no chance to recover. He felt Red Lion slam head-first into the ground with a sickening metallic crunch and found himself absurdly wondering what Hunk would say about this flagrant disrespect for the big cat's dignity, to say nothing of its structural integrity.

He must have passed out for a few seconds because the next thing he knew he was dangling sideways, Red Lion having fallen over backward before coming to rest on its left side. His skull was throbbing, his entire body ached horribly and he could feel blood trickling across his forehead. Stifling a groan, he attempted to bring the Lion upright and hissed as searing pain shot through his left shoulder. Dislocated. Terrific. How was he supposed to pilot Red Lion like this? He ground his teeth against the pain, clutching distractedly at his wounded shoulder and suppressing a sudden inexplicable urge to whack his cranium against the console a few more times for good measure. It would only save Zarcon's troops some trouble, and gods knew he didn't want to do that. It was bad enough that they'd been firing on him unabated since he'd been hit - he flinched sympathetically as Red Lion shuddered under another several impacts. The Lion was no doubt in even worse shape than he was, judging by the various warning lights flickering throughout the darkened cockpit. From the looks of things, both communications and weapons systems were completely offline. Worse, even if he had been able to pilot the Lion in his current condition, the controls weren't responding at all. He was effectively paralyzed, mute and defenseless.

More explosions rocked the Lion and Lance fought back a surge of blind panic, making another frantic, adrenaline-fueled attempt to get it back up and running, injuries be damned. He did not want to die, not alone and helpless like this - another volley hit home and the edges of his vision began to grey as Red Lion practically convulsed around him - hells, he'd at least wanted to apologize to Keith first...

You still don't know what you think of me
You still don't know what you mean to me

He heard another barrage of fire as if from a great distance but to his surprise there was no impact. For a brief moment he wondered if he was actually dead, but quickly ruled that out as various aches and pains reasserted themselves with a vengeance. All right... he was alive. So why wasn't he being shot at anymore?

His answer came in a burst of static and a frantic voice over the comlink: "... - n you hear me? ... Lance, respond, please...!"

Keith?!

You still don't know what to think of me

He sat stupefied for what seemed like a small eternity, overcome by the whirling maelstrom of clashing emotions swirling through him, shock and disbelief mingling with joy giving way to fear blending with relief and worry and gratitude and pride and guilt and love almost too intense to bear. Keith had come for him - he didn't hate him after all...

....Unless, of course, he was mainly concerned about the Lion.

He banished that line of thought nearly as quickly as it had arisen. Keith had actually sounded frightened, which was virtually unheard of - he could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen the other man even LOOK nervous. But how had Keith gotten here so quickly anyway? Black Lion was fast, but not that fast - and in any case, Lance hadn't managed to send any kind of distress signal before he'd crashed. Which meant... Allmother. It meant that Keith must have been monitoring him the whole time. He'd been that worried... about him... the thought was somehow shaming and reassuring at the same time.

And what exactly was he doing to assuage his Captain's fears? Nothing. With a mental shake of the head, the real thing being out of the question at present, he twisted awkwardly in his seat and attempted to hail Keith. And got absolutely no response... outbound communications were still offline. Lovely. Maybe he could get something to move, to signal Keith that he wasn't quite dead yet. Even a toe would be acceptable at this point, he thought as he reached again for the control panel -

- and promptly collapsed back into his seat, head spinning almost-but-not-quite in time with the throbbing in his shoulder. It was no use - he was going to have to sit this one out entirely. He briefly considered making his way outside to flag Keith down, but quickly discarded the idea. Even if he could make it outside the Lion - and it seemed less than likely that he could even make it out of his chair at this point - he would only wind up presenting the attacking fleet with one more target, thereby making Keith's job that much more difficult. He settled back as comfortably as possible under the circumstances, listening to the sounds of the battle and garbled transmissions and struggling unsuccessfully to bring his roiling emotions under some semblance of control.

You still don't know what you think of me...

He heard the others hailing Black Lion in turn as they converged on his position, felt a pang of guilt as Keith ordered Pidge to scan Red Lion for "something... anything," blinked in surprise as the bespectacled pilot proceeded to rattle off a list of malfunctions more extensive than he'd thought possible and stifled an amused snort as Hunk interrupted to ask if there was any part of Red Lion that was actually working. He heard Allura softly ask Keith if he'd been able to make contact with him and flinched at Keith's terse negative, wishing there was something he could do or say to counter the almost naked fear in the other man's voice. And then Keith was all business, issuing orders left and right as he deployed the remaining members of his team for a brutally effective counterattack that eventually had the remnants of Zarcon's fleet limping for Planet Doom. Still, the post-battle banter was decidedly more subdued than normal, and Lance sighed miserably. This was all his fault.

Lost in his own misery, Lance was only half-listening when Keith announced he was landing. However, he snapped to full attention when Keith added that he was going to try to board Red Lion, anticipation warring with abject dread. Keith would kill him. And rightly so - after all, he'd not only almost gotten himself killed, but needlessly risked the lives of his teammates as well. Had Zarcon had a robeast in reserve somewhere (and Lance still couldn't quite believe that he hadn't) someone else could quite easily have been killed. Probably a lot of someones. No, he definitely didn't want to see Keith now... not so soon...

For all the forewarning, he was still startled to hear the small explosion that heralded the destruction of Red Lion's entrance hatch. Hunk was going to love that - assuming he got over the rest of the damage to the Lion, of course. The team's resident mechanic tended to take these sorts of things personally. And sure enough, he could hear Hunk's horrified proclamations all the way from outside, followed by the big man himself, medkit in tow, as he navigated the cockpit wall with deceptive speed, Keith matching him stride for stride. Fighting a new surge of dizziness, Lance tried to pretend at least a modicum of nonchalance while steeling himself for the inevitable tongue-lashing that he knew would occur once his teammates were convinced he wasn't going to up and die on them right there.

He was not disappointed. "What the hell were you thinking?" bellowed Hunk. "You scared us all half to death! Were you trying to get yourself killed?"

He forced himself to meet his friend's eyes, feeling the ghost of a tired smile play across his face even as the ringing in his ears intensified rather too sharply. "Hello to you too, Hunk," he sighed, somewhat dismayed to find that his voice sounded so... weak.

Hunk stared at him, flabbergasted. "That's ALL you have to say for yourself? What is the matter with you anyway - "

"Hunk." Keith's voice sounded oddly calm to Lance's ears. "Would you please contact Coran for me? Have him assemble a trauma team if he hasn't already, just to be on the safe side. Pidge can head back and retrieve them; he's fastest. In the meantime, I want you and the Princess to keep an eye out for any counterattacks. I'll stay here."

Hunk paused, rant derailed. "I - sure, Skipper. Right away," he replied, his voice tight. With a final backward glance, he made his way back out of the Lion. Lance breathed a silent sigh of relief - the sheer worry in Hunk's eyes had been a bit much for him to endure.

Unfortunately he was now alone with Keith... exactly where he didn't want to be. He shivered involuntarily as he felt the other man draw nearer, need warring with fear and half a dozen other emotions he didn't want to contemplate as he fixed his gaze on the console in front of him. He sensed that Keith had stopped nearby but remained silent, refusing to meet the other's eyes. Waiting - for what he didn't know.

You still don't know what I think of me

Finally, Keith broke the strained silence between them. "Looks bad," he remarked, voice carefully neutral.

Lance shrugged, regretting the move instantly as waves of pain cascaded from his shoulder. "It'll feel better when it stops hurting," he quipped nervously, hoping the tremor in his own voice wasn't as obvious to Keith as it was to him.

"...Right." Keith paused, clearly trying to choose his next words carefully. Not a good sign. "I... wanted to apologize... about that night - "

Lance flinched. This was exactly what he hadn't wanted to hear. "Stop," he replied dully, already feeling the pain in his head beginning to intensify again. "You have nothing to be sorry for. I got drunk and said a bunch of things I shouldn't have, that's all."

"Lance..."

"Ancient history, Keith," he snapped, a bit more harshly than he'd intended. "Don't worry about it."

"When it concerns you, I can't do anything else," Keith replied evenly. "Especially when you keep insisting nothing's wrong - "

"Nothing IS wrong," Lance interrupted hastily, wishing in vain that Keith would just drop the subject for once.

"The hell it's not!" Keith hissed, his temper finally overcoming his control. "How can you sit there and tell me that when you've hardly said three words to anyone all week and just about got yourself killed today?! Do you have any idea what it's like for me, seeing you like this and not being able to do a damned thing to help you because you won't let me? Do you know how helpless I feel? I..." Keith's voice trailed off and Lance heard him draw in a ragged breath. "Look, I don't want to get in a fight. It's been a rough week for both of us. It's just... I wish you wouldn't try to deal with everything on your own like this. You have people who love you, who'll help you. You have me." He paused. "You do know that, don't you?"

He wanted to respond, wanted desperately to reassure Keith that yes, he knew that, but he found himself completely unable to speak, strangled as he was by fear, shame and a terrible suffocating disbelief that threatened to crush him. Instead, he only squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip until it bled, wondering what was so horribly wrong with him that he couldn't even give his lover this tiniest bit of hope.

The undercurrent of despair in Keith's next words cut him to the quick. "God... you don't know, do you?"

You still don't know what you think of me

"Lance... please, look at me..."

He didn't dare, didn't want to see the inevitable disappointment scrawled across Keith's face. Didn't want to face the disgust, or the anger, or - worst of all - the pity. The other emotions he probably could have dealt with - they were, after all, entirely appropriate - but he was reasonably sure that the pity would kill him. He didn't need it. Didn't want it. Didn't even deserve it, really.

Did Keith even realize that?

"Look, I - I know I reacted badly to all this at first, and I'm sorry. I was in shock and I wasn't thinking clearly. But I wish there was some way to make you understand that I'm not going to just throw you away now that I know what those - animals - did to you." Keith paused to draw in another shuddering breath and Lance found himself marveling at the fact that the other man could breathe at all, something he himself was having difficulty with at present.

"Come on, Lance... don't shut me out like this..."

He found himself shuddering anew at the pleading tone in Keith's voice - he'd never heard it before, never wanted to hear it again. Keith had his pride as well, after all - what right had he to break it?

His eyes snapped open in shock as he felt a feather-light touch on his cheek and he gasped, unable to suppress the violent flinch that was his instinctive reaction. He heard Keith's own sharp intake of breath as the hand withdrew and quailed inwardly, wondering how many other ways he was going to find to inadvertently hurt his lover today. What was wrong with him, anyway? When had he become so weak? He'd never been this much of a coward - he'd never run away from anything in his life.

Had he?

For one terrible minute there was utter silence. Finally, Keith began to speak again, voice trembling. "Look, I'm just making things worse for you, and that's the last thing I want to do. If you want, I can go get Allura and have her wait with you until the medics get here -"

"No."

He turned his head, slowly, hesitantly, to meet his lover's eyes for the first time in days, nearly overcome by the pain and sorrow he found waiting for him. His fault... Still, he managed not to look away as he reached awkwardly toward Keith with his right hand, praying to every deity he could think of that he wouldn't totally blow this. "Stay," he whispered simply, unable to trust his voice any further.

He saw Keith hesitate for a brief moment - from shock? - and then he released the breath he hadn't even been aware he was holding as two warm hands gently enfolded his own. Keith gazed searchingly up at him for a long moment and Lance felt his pulse quicken, drowning in the dark eyes fixed on him even as he wondered what it was Keith was seeing.

Finally, a slow, gentle smile wafted across Keith's face and to his immense surprise, Lance could feel an answering smile tugging at the corners of his own lips as Keith murmured, "Of course I will."

And the cold began to fade, just a little.

*******

Voltron and all characters therein property of World Event Productions Hyakuju Oh Go-Lion and all characters therein property of Toei Animation Lyrics from "Dumb," written, produced and performed by Garbage, 1998 Garbage from Version 2.0 1998 Almo Sounds, Inc.


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