Keith stood under the hot spray of the shower head, his eyes closed as he focused inward and trying desperately to regain some sense of composure. He wasn't really sure what was wrong with him today; he was the only one out of the entire team moving out of sync in their training exercises, he'd snapped off at Pidge and run himself into one of the invisible maze's walls so hard that he was still slightly dizzy from it and even now felt like the static jolt still buzzed under his skin. When Shiro had touched his shoulder, eyes concerned, his touch was like a fresh electric current and Keith had yanked himself away.
He realized how quickly he was breathing and turned around under the spray, trying to bring his heart rate under control and even out his panting breaths. He had turned the water on full blast, hot enough to scald but now he was beginning to feel like that was a bad idea, like the blood in his veins was just as hot as the water and if he let it keep going he would burn up, combust right here and now.
The shower stalls themselves were on the small side, and gave the illusion of privacy when the dividers between the boxes only came up to chest height. Keith gripped the top of one of the dividers to maintain his balance, he felt like a fever had come up on him out of nowhere and it hurt, it throbbed in his temples and in his chest and lower, too. He should turn off the water but he was suddenly too dizzy to move again, and all his thoughts ran back to earlier, and Shiro's hand on his shoulder electric jolt and all, and how comforting that was….
"Keith…? You okay, buddy?"
It too a monumental amount of effort to lift his head and look to the corridor that ran between the two rows of shower stalls. Lance was standing there in his ridiculous, fuzzy blue Altean-cut bathrobe, a towel slung over one shoulder and carrying a little caddy with bottles in it. He was staring unabashedly at Keith, eyebrows high in his hairline. Usually he would have turned red by now, or looked away or something because Keith was clearly naked and that was awkward, but the look he was giving Keith was clearly concerned instead, and that only made him feel worse. If Lance was concerned about him….
"I'm fine," Keith croaked, because he wanted Lance to go away, he didn't want to be seen like this. But then his body decided to up and betray him, his legs giving out and Keith slid down the divider to sit on the tile floor, the water from the shower head sluicing down his body. Keith groaned at the weakness in his own limbs, the water too hot, his skin even hotter. Keith closed his eyes and pressed his cheek into the wet, alien-feeling material of the divider, relishing in its cooler temperature despite the heat of the water, and after a moment realized the sensation of water hitting his skin had abated.
When he opened his eyes it was to see Lance in the stall with him, still wearing his robe but now drenched, the shower head dripping slightly but the water shut off. He was staring at Keith, eyes wide and now obviously alarmed. "Do you want me to get Shiro?" Lance asked, and Keith watched the water drip from his soaked robe. He reached out and caught the hem of it, felt the water run down his hand, still warm. Yes, getting Shiro would be nice … he wanted to see Shiro, although he wasn't quite sure why, and he really didn't want Shiro to see him like this.
Whatever this was.
Lance crouched and put his hand on Keith's shoulder, clearly about to try to help him to his feet but he hesitated, his hand lingering on Keith's skin. "Holy shit, you're burning up."
'I'm fine' wasn't even remotely accurate, but Keith said it anyway. Or at least, he tried to.
Lance didn't remove his hand from Keith's shoulder, and Keith's annoyance at the fact that Lance was touching him was beginning to mount. He leaned in closer to Keith, wide-eyed, and asked in a hush whisper, "are you in heat?"
Keith scoffed. "Betas don't go into heat," he said, and then felt his face flush even redder at admitting his status to Lance. He turned his face away and closed his eyes. "I'm fine, I'll be fine," he croaked, even if he didn't feel fine.
Lance bit his bottom lip. "It's your first heat," he said, suddenly understanding and equally surprised. "You hadn't presented."
"Why are you such an expert on heats, anyway?" Keith pushed at Lance weakly. "You don't smell like an alpha to me." He didn't. He did smell, though, in a way that Keith hadn't noticed before now but … god, this was weird.
And he realized with a hard beat of his heart that Lance was right. He was in heat, that's what this was and the reason that he still felt so wet despite the shower head being turned off was because he was leaking. Keith let out a low, aggravated noise but instead it slid off into one higher and needier than he intended. He was really too separated from the moment to be ashamed, but he was certain that his brain would remind him in vivid detail later.
Lance let out a noise almost equally frustrated. "You'll feel better if you take care of it," he said. "I mean, it won't be over right away, but it would help."
"What do you know-" Keith snarled through gritted teeth.
Lance's answer overrode the tail end of Keith's question, although he turned a very vivid shade of red. "I'm an omega too," Lance's voice was hushed. "I've been through this, it's rough but you'll make it through."
"Oh hell," Keith said. He didn't want to be hearing this. He didn't want to be living through this, he had been confident that he was a beta; it didn't carry the same prestige as an alpha but at least it wasn't an omega. "I'm not…" he trailed off, because he knew, he knew and he hated that he knew it but Lance was telling the truth and for some unknown reason now he was presenting as an omega. "God dammit," he hissed, and slapped the wet tile with his hand, weakly.
Lance had never moved his hand from Keith's shoulder, comforting, soft … but not what he wanted. Keith hung his head forward, hair soaked and dripping warm water down his fevered skin as he tried again to bring his panting breaths under control. Why did it have to be Lance here, now? He didn't want anyone to see him like this, least of all Lance.
"Do you want me to go get Shiro?" Lance asked again, not having moved. Keith's muscles seized up at the thought of Shiro here, his hand warm on Keith's skin, his arm sliding over Keith's shoulders as he pulled him in close and if Keith wasn't already flushed red from the heat he would have gone dizzy with all the blood rushing to his face. He stared at the tile, breathing hard, and didn't raise his face to Lance's even though the want would be clearly spelled out there. "Shiro is an alpha," Lance was saying, certain with the knowledge and Keith's head jerked up and he stared at Lance in surprise. "That can … make things easier." Lance was as red as Keith felt, but he wasn't looking away.
"Shiro's a…" how had he not known this? They were so close, he knew so much; but there was a lot that Shiro didn't know about him as well so maybe that figured into things. It had always been an assumption, Shiro had never actually presented as long as Keith had known him but alphas were natural leaders and promoted quickly in the Garrison. Keith wrenched himself out from under Lance's hand, breath burning in his lungs, shaking. So, if Lance was an omega, too, had he… had they…? No, no … he would have known, Lance was the polar opposite of subtle and something would have slipped out by now. "Have you…" Keith choked the words out anyway, he had to know, to be certain. "You and Shiro…?"
"What? No! I'm on suppressants anyway," Lance said. "I mean, I don't have a lot left, I wasn't exactly planning to be away for this long. I can probably spare a couple but they won't be as effective for you, and you're not supposed to use them on your first heat anyway." He was watching Keith critically, and Keith let his head loll against the divider. He felt sick, panicked, everything hurt and he didn't know what to do about it. Lance sat back on the wet tile in front of him and watched him carefully. Keith couldn't stand the attention, so he closed his eyes.
He could feel the hesitation in the air. When he opened his eyes Lance was no longer looking at him, instead his gaze had directed toward the shower wall, arms folded and face flushed pink. "It makes things better if you deal with it," Lance said, and moved a little like he was going to get up. "I'll stand guard in the changing room if you want, I mean, I wouldn't want Pidge walking in on this or something…"
For all the way his limbs currently felt like lead weights, Keith's hand moved quickly and caught Lance's robe. The movement surprised even Keith, as his emotions had gone sideways on him. "I don't want to be alone," Keith said, his heart pounding quickly, everything too muddled except for that single point of clarity. He'd been alone too much. "Please…"
"Are you - are you kidding," Lance said too quickly. "I'm not going to, this is something that…" he took a great gulping breath, staring at Keith as he did so, his own breathing coming too fast now too. Keith stared right back, hazy, hard, hurting - and Lance looked away sharply. "You're going to owe me," he muttered, addressing the tile. "Big time. Bigger than big time."
"Lance," Keith said, his eyes closed. "Shut up."