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And We Go Where The Stars Take Us

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Day one;

 

Lance goes missing on the fifteen of June. Or maybe it’s the sixteenth, or the fourteenth. Or perhaps it’s not even June; guessing the exact date is hard when you’re millions of lightyears away from Earth.

 

They all just woke up the day after an intense battle and he was gone, no trace that he’d even existed in the castle other than the clothes and other trinkets he’d found and stored in his room. The blankets spread across his bed are laid haphazardly, as if he laid down to sleep but never woke up, at least not in that room.

 

Keith finds him gone first, waking up and shouting Lance along for breakfast, like he does every morning since he made it his own personal responsibility to make sure Lance woke up with enough time for both breakfast and morning training. He knocks on Lance’s door after he gets no response and, without him even pressing the button, the door glides open to reveal an empty room.

 

Keith shrugs, thinking Lance had already gone ahead, it’s not uncommon for any of them to have a rough night’s sleep, especially with the work they do. Killing Galra, despite how awful they are, is still murder and Keith knows the burden of it weighs down on Lance after battles and missions. Of course, it worries him slightly but he files it away to discuss with Lance later.

 

It’s as he reaches the dining hall to find Hunk and Pidge sat eating something blue that smells suspiciously like bacon when he realises that Lance isn’t there. A small spark of worry ignites his insides, the feeling that something is very wrong becomes almost all consuming.

 

Neither of the other two paladins have seen him. As Shiro walks in, he asks if the black paladin has seen Lance, to which he says no.

 

Twenty minutes later, Allura checks the castle, scanning for any sign of his presence. Nothing appears.

 

***

 

Lance opens his eyes to find that something is very very wrong. He is aware of only four things. One: the room he’s in is dark. Two: he’s laid on a cold, hard surface which sends icy shivers down his spine even through his armour. Three: there’s a chain wrapped tight enough around his foot that when he twitches it, the skin rubs with irritation and threatens to break. Four: he’s completely and utterly alone.

 

His first thought is that, maybe they’re pulling a prank on him. Maybe Keith finally got sick of their bickering and locked him away. Perhaps this is even a training exercise, to test how efficient he is at getting out of captivity.

 

The last thought spurs him to take an inventory, he mentally categorises every ache and pain he feels. Which is actually less than he originally expected now he thinks about it; physically he feels fine apart from the ache pulsing behind his eyes. Lance tries to move, pushing himself up onto his forearms and looking around the room. Apparently, he’s laid on the floor. He can’t see much, other than the slightly blurry outline of his helmet laid a few meters away from him. The rest of his armour is missing, leaving him only in the black under suit.

 

He sees the helmet and pushes himself onto his feet, standing still for the few seconds where dizziness overwhelms him. He takes a step forward, then another. Pushing through the dizziness and white spots burning behind his eyelids.

 

In the back of his mind, he realises that he may have a concussion. However, it doesn’t hurt so Lance carries on regardless.

 

Lance takes another step forward and promptly falls over. The chain attached to his leg is now   stretched to full length, he’s still a meter away from the helmet even if he lies down and reaches as far as he possibly can.

 

It’s no use he’s trapped here.

 

To his right, a door slides open, drenching the room in light. He blinks until the darkness fully fades from his vision and a figure dressed in dark purple armour walks in. He catches a glimpse of purple skin; a thick voice orders someone to restrain him fully. The guards enter and grab his arms and chest, heaving him onto a table he hadn’t noticed before and cuffing his arms down by his sides and his legs to either side of the table.

 

Definitely not a training exercise then.

 

His helmet still lays on the ground, from his position he can see it. The Galra commander notices his stare and laughs. The sound is cold and it sends a shiver down his spine. In the back of his mind, he analyses the figure, looking at their face and armour and anything he could use to identify them. It doesn’t work.

 

“You’ve noticed your little surprise then, Paladin?” He – Lance presumes it’s a male anyway from the deepness of the voice – sounds almost excited. Like he’s about to show off a new toy. It makes Lance’s stomach turn uneasily.

 

“Where am I? What have you done with my team?” Lance asks, images of Keith, Hunk, Pidge or Shiro in a similar situation to him flood his brain. He feels sick.

 

“Your team are perfectly fine.” The Galra answers. “We only wanted you.” It doesn’t offer much in the way of comfort. It implies that they have a plan and some sort of requirements for him – it’s not a pleasant thought. His stomach twists with anxiety.

 

“They’ll come looking for me, you know. They won’t stop until they find me.” Lance says. He doesn’t know if it’s true, but he just wants to try and intimidate the soldier. To gain some form of momentum against this unknown alien.

 

“Are you so sure about that?” Lance’s stomach drops, to be honest, he isn’t sure at all. It’s one of his biggest insecurities that perhaps he is as worthless to the team as he sometimes believes. The blue paladin could be easily replaceable. For all he knows they’ve already found someone else. He doesn’t try and answer back.

 

“That’s what I thought. We’ve analysed your team dynamic, you are the weakest one, the most worthless to the rest of them. They’ll probably leave you here to die.” The Galra laughs like something is funny. “Of course, by the time that happens they will have moved on entirely, your presence in the team will be long forgotten.”

 

The soldier walks over to his helmet and taps something. Suddenly, the sound of voices fill the room; his teammates voices. It’s comforting to Lance until he registers what they’re actually saying.

 

“Maybe we’re better off without Lance.” Someone says, he thinks it could be Keith.

 

“He doesn’t really contribute much anyway.” Says Pidge.

 

“The blue paladin is the most easily replaceable so we won’t have any trouble still forming Voltron as long as we find someone suitable.” Allura says.

 

Lance wants to scream; it isn’t real, it can’t be real. But the voices are coming from his helmet, through the fitted communications device; amplified so that Lance can hear it.

 

He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to pretend that he’s somewhere else. It doesn’t work. Lance chases the thoughts of his mama’s cooking and his siblings playing on the beach but as soon as an image forms in his head, the voices from the helmet chase it away again.

 

Eventually, the voices shut off and quiet fills the room. Lance opens his eyes, shocked to feel his face streaked with tears.

 

“This one will be easy to break, Haggar.” The commander says. Lance turns his head, notices the witch stood in the corner. “Do your worst.”

 

Lance screams as his vison explodes with white hot pain.

 

Day two;

 

Lance sleeps fitfully, his brain doesn’t seem to want to fully shut off so he drifts in and out of consciousness, jolted awake by the slightest sound. He dreams of his family back on earth, but by the time he’s fully awake he’s forgotten most of the dreams, left with an impression of comfort and warmth and safety that fades as soon as he opens his eyes.

 

It takes a few seconds for everything to come back which means that when he first opens his eyes Lance thinks that he could still be at the castle, only his bed isn’t this solid and he usually doesn’t hurt this much. Then it all comes back, in one long flash where he realises that he’s trapped in a Galra ship and there’s a very slim chance of his friends coming to rescue him.

 

To be honest, Lance isn’t sure if he would even rescue himself.

 

The only comforting thought is that at least it’s him in this situation, not anyone else. Lance wouldn’t be able to cope if it was any of the others here instead of him.

 

At some point, the druid, Haggar, enters the room again. He can sense her magic. The ebbing and flowing of power as it courses through the witch’s veins. She chants something and swirls her hands around in an over-exaggerated motion, it would be almost comical if this wasn’t such a serious situation.

 

The chanting stops and there’s a flash of darkness before the pain hits him.

 

It burns hot and cold simultaneously in the worst way possible, it feels like his skin is trying to crawl off his body. Lance can feel himself writhing, struggling to get away from the pain. His mind is reduced to fog, the only thing he can focus on is how much it hurts. Faintly, he can hear someone screaming, the pain fades and the burning in his throat indicates it was him.

 

His muscles feel like jelly. He tries to turn his head, to observe Haggar, but his body doesn’t obey. Lance feels trapped inside his own skin, not an entirely uncommon feeling for someone with ADHD but this is different somehow, rawer. As if he doesn’t move he will actually combust into flames.

 

Someone talks, Lance recognises it as the Galra soldier he met yesterday. “Tell us about Voltron.”

 

Lance doesn’t even think before he says “No.”

 

Haggar mutters something again and all of his nerve endings are on fire. This time, Lance knows it is himself that is screaming, but the pain seems worth it now that he has an idea about what they want from him.

 

Lance puts up with blinding agony and the other paladins save the universe from Zarkon and the rest of the Galra. Easy-peasy.

 

The pain fades again. “Tell us where Voltron is.” The soldier says again; it’s said like a command, as if Lance shouldn’t dare refuse. He does anyway.

 

They stop asking questions after that, Lance screams with pain until his voice is raw and broken. And then he screams anyway because of the unfairness of this situation.

 

Day three;

 

Lance opens his eyes to complete darkness. He holds his hand just in front of his face and cannot make out the dimples and the curves of the brown skin. On his right hand, he has a scar from when a rogue laser hit him and Allura considered the injury not serious enough to require a healing pod. The skin is raised and stark white, contrasting strongly against his skin. As he holds his hand up to his face, Lance can’t even make out the scar through the darkness.

 

The table he was laid on is gone, replaced by the cold and unforgiving floor. The darkness of the room seems to push down around him, making it hard to breath. Lance curls up in a ball with his back against the wall. He places his head on his knees and lets the tears fall down his face.

 

Lance has never felt this alone before.

 

Day four;

 

On the fourth day, the trail officially runs cold. They’d managed to track Lance’s helmet to a nebula in the Tarantula region when the signal glitches and suddenly it’s bouncing around across the universe; the exact second they get a reading it changes to a system 2000 lightyears away.

 

“This should be impossible.” Coran says, “There’s no way to track the signal. Quiznak, we will never be able to find Lance like this.”

 

That night, Shiro has to force the other paladins to sleep after Pidge almost falls asleep next to her laptop, he tells them that they will never find Lance if they collapse with exhaustion. They resist until he fixes them with the look Lance had dubbed his “dad stare”.

 

Less than three hours later they all gather in the kitchen. Hunk prepares a meal, one of Lance’s favourite he said, and they discuss possible ideas about where Lance could be.

 

If anyone notices the heartbreakingly sad look on Hunk’s face, they don’t say anything.

 

Day six;

 

When Lance got anxious back on earth, he would think of how insignificant he was compared to the never-ending intensity of space. It made his problems feel small and meaningless and brought him a small amount of peace.

 

As Lance stares up at the ceiling, feeling the aches all over his body and the almost painful twists of hunger in his stomach, he wishes he could go back to the days when his problems didn’t potentially affect the safety of the entire universe. When the biggest thing he had to worry about was studying for exams and the most pain he’d felt was when the girl he dated in his math class had left him for someone else.

 

Lance wishes he could be insignificant again.

Chapter Text

Day nine;

 

On the ninth day, after fuck-knows how long in the dark, the door opens. Lance’s eyes open with it and he rubs them to try and stay awake; so long without food had made his body weak and uncooperative.

 

He’s met with a sight he didn’t expect. Keith stands in front of him, wearing his red paladin suit. Lance would hug him if he wasn’t 100% certain the other would murder him, captured by Galra or not.

 

And that is definitely not the way Lance wants to die, not after this.

 

Keith activates his bayard and uses it to slice through the chain around Lance’s ankle. The relief from its removal causes him to sigh happily. Keith nudges Lance with his foot.

 

“Come on you idiot, do you want us both to get caught?” This spurs Lance to move. He drains his energy reserves and follows Keith out of the door, running down the purple hallway.

 

At some point, Keith had grabbed Lance’s hand to drag him along. Lance would make a snide comment but he’s too caught up in the relief that they found him to care.

 

After running for longer than Lance’s aching body wants to put up with, they come to a stop just before a corner. Keith activates his bayard again and pulls his hand away from Lance’s.

 

Keith ducks around the corner at the same time as fifty-ish Galra robots find them. They’re far outnumbered, especially since Lance doesn’t have a weapon with him. Lance feels his heart drop, they’re about to be captured because of him.

 

The Galra easily contain them despite Keith’s best efforts, pulling their arms behind their backs and handcuffing them. They’re lead down the hallway that Keith was about to drag Lance down and along a smaller corridor that empties out into a larger room.

 

The sight inside sends Lance reeling. The other three paladins are there, all handcuffed behind their backs, all knelt on the floor and all bearing some injuries. Their helmets thrown to the side so that their faces are clearly visible. Shiro is bleeding quite badly from his side and Pidge is holding her arm to her chest, Lance can’t tell from the distance but he thinks it might be broken.

 

Hunk looks like he tried to fight a tank and lost, he’s covered in scrapes and scratches, some shallow and some oozing blood. His head is bleeding from a cut and he sways side to side slowly, as if he could actually pass out. Probably concussed. Nothing the healing pod won’t fix.

 

Lance watches as Keith is herded into a space next to Hunk, Lance is pushed forward so that he’s knelt in front of the rest of his team. He tries to meet their eyes but they all seem to be avoiding him.

 

Lance tries hard not to think about how screwed they all are.

 

Someone stood behind Lance gives the order to shoot them all.

 

Lance doesn’t even have time to react before the sentry pulls out a gun and shoots Pidge in the back of the head.

 

Her head snaps forward with the shock of the shot, blood and parts of skull splatter on the ground around Lance and, as if she was a marionette whose strings had been cut, Pidge’s body falls to the floor. It twitches once or twice before remaining still, once brilliant eyes now dull and lifeless. He notices a crack running up the right lens on her glasses.

 

Lance turns to the side and retches violently. He continues until his throat and stomach burns and there’s a small puddle of bile besides him.

 

The sound of a gun powering up forces his head to look up, the gun is aimed at Shiro. There’s a loud bang as the trigger is pulled. There’s something terribly, horrifically wrong with seeing their leader reduced to nothing more than a body and a growing pool of blood. Lance squeezes his eyes shut, unable to see any more of this.

 

His breath comes fast and he sobs loudly and messily. Lance finds himself begging as the gun is placed behind Keith’s head, he cries loudly pleading with the Galra to not do this as the raw panic sets in. They don’t listen and the shot fires. A small amount of blood lands on Lance’s face. He retches again.

 

He stares at the bodies of his friends, makes eye contact with Hunk who just shakes his head. His usually warm eyes are cold and harsh. Lance hears him say “This is your fault.” Before the sentry pulls the trigger and Hunk’s body falls to the floor.

 

Lance feels his mouth hanging open but doesn’t move to shut it. He doesn’t think he could anyway. His body feels frozen in place, it’s only until his lungs start to burn when Lance realises he hasn’t even been breathing.

 

Hands find his arms and he is practically carried to sit directly in front of the bodies, facing the person who ordered their execution. He knows this face, sees it in his nightmares sometimes. Zarkon.

 

They lost. The Galra won.

 

Lance glances back at the bodies, sees how small and frail Pidge looks. She’s just a kid after all, barely fourteen. Naïve enough to think that this would work out for them all, that none of them would ever be injured or kidnapped or dead. And now she’s lying dead on the ground and it’s all his fault.

 

He feels the barrel of a gun press against his temple. He turns back and faces Zarkon.

 

On the ninth day, Lance shuts his eyes in his own personal hell, and when he opens them he’s in his home back on earth surrounded by his family and the warmth and light is so bright his eyes burn with it.

 

Day ten;

 

Lance opens his eyes, he can almost taste his mama’s homecooked picadillo and it makes him so homesick it hurts.

 

He shuts his eyes again and wonders if his team have already found someone to replace him. Lance imagines a faceless body grinning with Hunk, tinkering with some alien technology with Pidge, actually getting along with Keith for longer than five seconds. As Lance sits there, he wonders if this imaginary person has managed to gain the respect of the rest of the team.

 

Lance wonders if the rest of his team are even still looking for him.

 

Day twelve;

 

Lance opens his eyes to find Shiro standing there, offering his flesh hand out to help Lance up.

 

This time, Lance notices the faint purple edge to Shiro’s body and stays where he is. Shutting his eyes to try and block the fake Shiro out. It doesn’t work.

 

Not-Shiro straightens up, “It’s not as if we wanted to actually rescue you anyway.” He says before walking away, the door slamming shut and plunging Lance into darkness again.

 

Lance knows it is just a mind trick but he still flinches at the words. He curls up into a ball and stares forward at the wall until he feels tired enough to sleep again.

 

Day fifteen;

 

Lance dreams of his friends and family. He remembers the way his abuela would tell him stories when he stayed at her house as a kid and couldn’t sleep. She would whisper words about faraway places and aliens who lived just like humans. She would tell him of a child who would go and explore these worlds. Lance remembers being told that that child would grow into something great one day.

 

As he wakes up, he realises that he was always the child in the stories. Now he is actually exploring the faraway places and meeting alien lifeforms, it seems to be a cruel twist of fate that it ends up like this.

 

He thinks of his family and cries at the possibility that he may never see them again. He cries because they may already think he’s dead. Lance imagines them having a funeral, burying an empty casket to try and get some peace.

 

He cries until the tears stop coming.

 

Day nineteen;

 

There’s a small gap in the door of Lance’s cell, it’s positioned too high for him to see out of but he can hear things through it. Mostly just the soft whirr of the technology but occasionally, he hears talk of plans and missions. He listens for talk of Voltron, of an attack on the ship. He dreams of his friends coming to rescue him. They never come.

 

Today, something slides through the gap, it’s a small droid, flying a few feet off the ground. It’s carrying a glass of a clear liquid Lance presumes to be water and a small tray of food. Something that looks suspiciously like sliced bread lies on the tray.

 

Lance devours it with greed despite the bland taste and oddly slimy texture. It’s the first food he’s eaten since he got here and he’s starving. He wonders how he could still be alive with the very small amount he had drank and eaten. Perhaps Haggar has been healing him and giving him the required nutrients in between torture sessions.

 

After all, an alive paladin is worth more than a dead one.

 

Day twenty-one;

 

On the twenty-first day, Lance is moved rooms. They take him along a corridor and around so many corners he loses count. Eventually, he’s shoved through a small door into a smaller room. There’s a single chair in the centre, they strap him to it and lock the door as they leave.

 

The light is left on, Lance takes advantage of this to catalogue his surroundings.

 

One. Chair. Light. Door.

 

Two. The smallest prime number. Two hinges on the door. Two straps around his wrists and ankles.

 

Three. Three weeks since he’s seen his friends. Three weeks since he’s seen anything that wasn’t Galra related. Three meters across the room.

 

Four.  Four legs on the chair. Four bolts on the door. Four leaves on a clover if you’re lucky. He doesn’t feel very lucky.

 

Five. Five Paladins of Voltron. He misses his team.

 

Day twenty-two;

 

The castle of lions detects a distress beacon close by. All four paladins are woken ridiculously early, around 3am earth time, and told to fight. They gear up as fast as they can and head to the lions. This is the first time they’ve flown without Lance and there’s an underlying feeling that something is completely wrong, the unease flows through the team Voltron bond. As Keith flies underneath a bridge, pulling off a cool spin that he was only 45% certain would actually succeed, he almost shouts Lance to see if the other saw. He bites his tongue instead and sobers up instantly, the grin wiped off his face.

 

When they arrive there’s nothing there apart from a single blue and white helmet left on a rock, directly on top of the source of the distress signal.

 

There isn’t any doubt in anyone’s minds as to who this helmet belongs to. They just hope they aren’t too late; that this doesn’t mean the unthinkable.

 

When they get back to the ship, Keith uses the helmet to encourage Blue to let him in. He asks her where Lance is and receives a small growl of frustration, like she has been trying to find him all along. Keith sighs and focuses on Blue, then pushes his mind outwards, drawing in the energy from the paladin bond and Blue’s quintessence. He receives a mental image of a ship as his reward.

 

Finally, they’re getting somewhere.

 

Day twenty-three;

 

Exhaustion racks the bodies of the paladins, all of them running on nothing but stress and adrenaline. Pidge taps frantically at some form of console that Keith cannot name, there are wires linked to Lance’s helmet and she’s working frantically to find Lance’s last known location.

 

None of them dare sleep, in case they need to leave quickly to get Lance. To be honest, Keith doesn’t think he’s slept properly at all. Every time he shuts his eyes he dreams vividly about Lance and where he could be, he’s heard enough about the Galra from Shiro to know exactly how creative they can be at torturing someone.

 

For someone who practically raised himself, it’s an odd feeling to care this much about another person. Keith doesn’t think it’s a particularly bad thing.

 

All of a sudden, Pidge lets out a groan of frustration. “There’s something wrong with this helmet, some kind of modification they made only it’s not using any technology I’ve seen before. I’m gonna need to work out what this is first before I try and trace Lance’s location in case the modification is anything dangerous.”

 

Nobody responds past a tense nod of the head. Pidge continues working, occasionally they’ll hear the sound of something whirring or a curse word muttered under Pidge’s breath. Either Shiro pretends to not notice or he doesn’t care.

 

After what seems like hours, Pidge finally lets out a cry of relief and says, “I don’t think the modification is dangerous, but I do want to see what it actually does.” She holds the helmet and presses a small button hidden on the outside. Instantly voices appear from the helmet.

 

Their voices.

 

Keith hears himself speak words he doesn’t think are true; words he hasn’t even thought before. They talk about how Lance is useless to the team and will easily be replaced. Keith glances around to see Pidge looking like she might be about to cry. He wants to hug her and comfort her, the innate need to protect their youngest burns strongly within him. Hunk is actually crying; fat tears drip down from the end of his chin. Keith feels slightly less inclined to hug him.

 

Shiro is staring at the screen, but from his vacant expression it is obvious he is thinking deeply about something.

 

“It’s a form of psychological torture.” He says finally. Keith gives him a blank look, praying that he misheard and that Shiro did not just say the word torture. Shiro continues, “They do it to make the person feel like they’ve been left behind and abandoned. It’s a way of breaking moral because it plays highly on many people’s insecurities. The Galra seem to think that if someone listens to how much their teammates hate them, they’ll be more willing to give up their secrets.”

 

Keith bites the bullet and asks what he is sure they are all thinking. “Did they torture Lance for information?”

 

Shiro nods his head and Keith hears a ringing in his ears.

 

The words “Lance” and “Torture” should never be said in the same sentence again. It sounds wrong in a way that Keith can’t even fully comprehend past he’s my friend and I never want to see him hurt.

 

Pidge moves first, heading back to the helmet, and attaching more wires to it. Her face set with a fierce determination Keith has only seen her wear when talking about her father and brother. The others follow suit, getting on with the tasks that need doing and generally staying out of Pidge’s way so she has room to work.

 

Keith uses this time to think, to imagine what Lance has gone through, he’d spent a few hours captured once during a mission gone wrong and it had easily been the worst time of his life – the Galra had been ruthless and brutal with their interrogation tactics. Keith thinks that, after spending over three weeks there, Lance could have gone crazy. Honestly, Keith wouldn’t blame him.

 

One comforting thought is that Lance won’t be dead because the Galra need him alive. So do I, Keith thinks.

 

After a long period where nobody talks, Pidge sighs loudly. “I think I did it. I got some coordinates anyway, based on where the helmet spent a large amount of time. They might be useful, we should probably check them out anyway.”

 

Coran runs over and reads the coordinates, typing them out as he goes. Eventually, the castle fixes on a destination a few systems away. They travel there as quickly as they can and hide the castle ship around the opposite side of a moon.

 

Around the other side of this moon is a Galra ship, one large enough that it could be the main ship but Allura can’t sense Zarkon’s energy.

 

Before they even have chance to discuss a plan, the screen flickers red, before returning with a purple tinge. Before anyone can react, an image appears on the screen. It’s a room inside the Galra ship, darkened so they can’t make out any shapes within.

 

After a few ticks pass, the lights come on in the room. Lance is tied to a chair facing them, wearing his paladin armour, and slumped over. If it weren’t for the faint rise and fall of his chest, Keith would think he was dead.

 

A door in the room opens making a loud screeching noise as it does so, jolting Lance awake. He lifts up his head and looks straight at them all. Keith wonders if this is a two-way call.

 

The figure in the room stands right in front of the screen and Lance jerks away, his eyes wide but more out of confusion than fear.

 

Keith takes time to notice all of the little differences in Lance. His hair is lank and unkempt, plastered to his forehead with sweat. Lance looks skinner, he was always on the lanky side but now he looks unhealthy. He probably hasn’t eaten much (if at all, he remembers Coran saying the food goo had enough nutrients in to last them a while so they could survive if they were ever stranded without food.) His armour is battered and scratched in places. Keith remembers the stories Shiro told about being made to fight, he hopes Lance didn’t have to go through that.

 

While Keith was focused on Lance, he hadn’t noticed the druid (Haggar?) enter the room behind Lance.

 

“We are going to try something new today, Paladins. And you get to watch it for yourselves. How fascinating.” The Galra soldier says, Keith tries to ignore the rising panic.

 

Oh god, he thinks, they’re going to torture Lance right in front of them all. A glace to his left shows Pidge looking as white as a sheet and Hunk looking like he might cry again. A glance to his right shows Shiro holding his prosthetic arm against his chest, something he often does when memories of his imprisonment come rushing back uncontrollably.

 

“Haggar, try the memory extraction technique.”

Chapter Text

Lance opens his eyes as the door screeches open only to find himself face to face with the rest of his team. They’re stood in the castle which means he must be projected across the screen there. He’s seen enough Galra tech, even before his imprisonment, to know the basics about how their communication systems work.

 

Great, he thinks, now they get to know for definite how weak he actually is. Lance feels sick at the thought of them seeing him like this, they can’t know how weak he is or they’ll just kick him off the team. Or worse, leave him to rot alone. Lance imagines living out the rest of his life within the walls of this ship and shudders. Not that the rest of his life would be long if they found another Blue paladin.

 

Haggar enters the room, followed closely by the still unnamed Galra soldier. You’d think after spending twenty-ish days as his prisoner, Lance would at least know his name. But nope, nothing, nada. Not even any idea of his ranking extending past he must be important.

 

Lance hears the request to try the memory extraction technique. He gets a brief second to panic before it begins.

 

It feels like there’s a hand wrapping around his skull, squeezing it of any valuable information. Lance tries so hard to resist, using his remaining strength to try and build a wall in his mind to stop her accessing his memories. He clears his mind, the meditation skills Shiro had taught the group are actually paying off for once.

 

It works for a little while, until the pull seems to strengthen. He cries out in pain as the hold tightens and suddenly it’s like he has no control over his memories. So, Lance compromises. He focuses on things that happened on earth, long before he became a paladin, and pushes the memories of his team to the back of his mind.

 

The memories play like a disjointed film of his own life. They’re playing in his own mind but also on a screen in front of him, he can seem them both with his eyes shut and open. The witch rakes her eyes over the screen hungrily, looking for anything of use. He resists the urge to glance at his team.

 

Haggar ups her magic strength, or something like that, because suddenly his memories are playing clear enough so that he can hear words being said and can remember exactly how he felt in the moment. It’s overwhelming to the point where Lance almost relaxes his mental wall.

 

Lance wonders if the others, the Galra and everyone on the castleship, can see the memories in as much detail.

 

As Lance sees himself, aged twelve, letting his older sisters practise applying makeup to his face and laughing alongside them as they accidentally smudge mascara down his cheek, he wishes they can’t see this; it’s too personal.

 

The memory changes again, Lance sees himself climbing a tree with his younger brother, Benji. He watches as the two children race to the top, watches as younger Lance moves slightly faster and his brother reaches out to grab his foot to try and slow the other down. Younger Lance kicks out, an instinctual response, but it causes Benji to lose his footing and fall. Lance remembers the guilt and fear that he’d felt looking at the mangled arm that his brother had clutched to his chest while he cried in agony.

 

Lance is aware of the tears running down his face at this point but is too exhausted to care. This time, he sees himself as a thirteen-year-old, watching the guy who sat across from him in his biology class, Lance had refused to call him attractive at the time. Lance feels his past self’s embarrassment as the other male catches him staring and gives a questioning gaze.

 

The image flickers briefly to a scene from a few weeks after, the same guy sits at the edge of Lance’s bed beside Lance. They’re talking quietly until the guy cups Lace’s face in his hand and presses a soft kiss to his lips. Lance can feel the way his younger self’s heart had practically exploded out of his chest, he can feel the joy and elation at the kiss, it makes his heart hurt.

 

Lance hurriedly forces his mind away from that memory. “Th’ts ‘s private.” He manages to spit out, the words forced out through his clenched teeth and aching jaw.

 

Now, he sees himself aged eleven, when his behavioural issues were at their worst. He’s stood in the principal’s office being shouted at for interrupting the teacher, leaving his chair, and chatting to those around him. Lance remembers wanting to scream at the teacher that he can’t help it. That he literally feels like he can’t stop moving but the words never come and Lance leaves the office with his head bowed and bottom lip quivering with the threat of tears.

 

The next memory is nicer to watch. Lance must only be about three years old here, he’s sat on the beach watching the stars as his older sister, Maria, holds him in her arms. She sings to him in Spanish and young Lance tries to copy her but his words blur together and fade into nothing but garbled syllables and half spoken words. It’s heartbreakingly endearing, Lance thinks. He misses home more than ever.

 

Eventually, the memory fades only to be replaced with an image of ten year old Lance sat at the kitchen table with his Papa. He holds a textbook in his hands. The title reads Beginner English. This must be from when his uncle moved to America and Lance had thought that the English language sounded so pretty and begged to learn it.

 

His uncle tests him on the basic English words and Lance watches the younger version of himself stutter on pronunciations and fumble over translations, but at least he’s starting to understand it. Or at least some parts, Lance still gets confused over the correct usage of their, there and they’re.

 

The memory shifts slightly, Lance is older now, approximately fourteen. The memory shows him reading a book in English, something about the planets orbiting the sun, Lance remembers staring at the images for hours at a time imaging what it would be like to walk on those planets. Young Lance buries his head in the book and tries his hardest to read the text but his brain refuses to cooperate and translate. He eventually gives up, throwing the book at the wall with a huff of frustration.

 

The next memory is more private, something he doesn’t want anyone to see. He remembers the feeling of the girl pressed against his body as they make out against the tree, the way the bark dug into his back seared into his memory. She was his first kiss with a female, but as Lance watches the memory play out he realises that he can’t even remember what her last name was. Lance was fifteen here.

 

Lance shakes his head, clears that memory away before something else appears. This Lance is barely sixteen, just about to leave for the garrison. It’s his last night in Cuba and his family threw him a party. Lance’s best friend at the time had snuck into his house and stolen his mother’s bottle of tequila. The two of them sit on the beach drinking shots and laughing almost hysterically until the sun begins to rise, spreading bold colours across the ocean water. It’s one of his happiest memories; until of course, the morning had actually come and Lance had found himself horrifically hungover with a three hour flight ahead of him.

 

Then, as if a tap had been turned off, the memories end. Lance opens his eyes to find himself sat back in the same room. He looks at the image of his team, he can see the raw shock on most of their faces. Lance sighs while wondering what they are most shocked about, the fact that English is his second language or that he’s bisexual. Probably both.

 

Both are pretty shocking considering the personality he portrays; the American accent practised to perfection and the womanizer persona don’t really add up to create a bilingual bisexual.

 

“It’s not working, his mind is stronger than we anticipated.” Haggar says, looking towards the Galra soldier (who Lance decides to nickname Purple) for advice. Lance laughs bitterly at that, remembering the first day when they said he would be easy to break.

 

“Even after all of this time he still refuses to betray his paladins, despite knowing how they really feel about him. Increase his pain.” Purple gives a mocking laugh. Movement on the screen catches Lance’s eye and he watches as Shiro’s mouth moves. Lance can’t hear the words being said. Maybe it’s for the best; he wouldn’t be able to hold for much longer if he had to listen to Shiro calling him weak and pathetic.

 

Haggar complies with Purple’s request and Lance cries out in agony as the pounding inside his head increases tenfold. This time when he feels the witch’s magic, he cannot put up any defences, no matter how hard he may try.

 

The memories leak out of his head, floating away like smoke whenever he tries to stop it. He can sense Haggar’s happiness at finally getting something useful from him and Lance panics, focusing on the first memory he thinks of.

 

It’s of the paladins. As a team bonding activity, Allura had suggested that they spend more time together and Pidge had immediately said “How about a movie night?”

 

So, that’s how Lance had found himself millions of miles away from home watching an Altean movie eerily similar to Titanic, only with more spaceships and aliens. He’s sat on the end of the row next to Keith, Pidge and Hunk are in the middle sharing a bowl of some weird flavoured popcorn substitute and Shiro sits on the other end talking to Allura and Coran quietly so the rest of them can still hear the film.

 

He remembers picking up a piece of popcorn substitute and throwing it softly at Keith so that it lands in his hair. Keith had shaken his head so that the popcorn dropped to the floor and picked up a different piece, throwing it back at Lance. Their mini food fight continues, both of them taunting each other until the other paladins shush them. Keith and Lance share a look before turning back to watch the film.

 

The memory fades as he feels Haggar withdraw her grip on his mind. Clarity returns at once, as well as the insistent headache behind his eyes. Lance groans weakly as Haggar says, “I don’t believe there is anything useful within his mind.”

 

Purple looks at Lance, then towards the screen showing the castleship, and says “Make him suffer.”

 

Lance throws a slight panicked look at the castleship before the agony strikes.

 

“Hijo de puta.” Lance groans as the pain fades slightly, only to return at full force a second later. He feels as if the agony is consuming him, Lance feels trapped in an endless cycle of pain where the second it fades, it returns at full force.

 

After what seems like hours, when in reality it had probably only been a few minutes, Haggar stops. Lance coughs weakly, feels something coppery coat his lips and the inside of his mouth and tries not to think too much about the implications of that. Purple speaks up again, turning towards the screen facing the castleship.

 

“Hand over the Voltron lions, or we will kill the blue paladin.” Lance feels his eyes open widely but he doesn’t try to resist as Purple places his gun against Lance’s head. He subtly shakes his head, trying to communicate to his team that they shouldn’t do this, they should keep themselves safe and find a different person to pilot the blue lion. Lance hopes it works, he prays that they understand because he couldn’t face it if they were actually captured because of him. The feeling of the gun pressed against his temple triggers a flashback to the first galra mid trick, he sees the bodies lying sprawled on the floor and they are enough to get him to gag violently, throwing up the minimal contents of his stomach and bile at the side of the chair.

 

His whole body aches as he sits back, the handcuffs around his wrist had dug into his skin enough to break it so that blood drips down his hands onto the floor. Lance feels oddly empty and lightheaded as he stares straight ahead. The room spins faintly and the edges blur in and out of focus whenever he tries to turn his head. He coughs up more blood.

 

He vaguely hears Purple say “You have one hour.” And then something that sounds like “And just so you understand that I am serious.”

 

Lance kind of registers it as a threat towards him, recognises that he should prepare for the onslaught of pain. But he doesn’t move. There’s the sound of a Galra weapon charging, before the trigger is pulled.

 

Lance hears the shot before he feels it. He hears the loud bang and the sound of the laser firing through his armour. Lance doesn’t register the pain until his vision is fuzzy and his whole body seems to explode with fire.

 

The darkness blurs the edge of his vision and Lance lets himself pass out.

Chapter Text

Back on the castleship, the paladins had watched on in a mixture of shock and horror. They’d seen Lance be tortured as the druid searched though his mind, been shown the memories of Lance’s past and had watched him in agony while Haggar tortured him for fun. They’d seen how Lance had coughed up blood, how disorientated he had looked after.

 

They watch as the Galra pulls the trigger on his gun, firing a laser at point-blank through Lance’s abdomen. Lance seems to slump over more, his head flops forward as he passes out and Keith tries not to think about how slowly Lance’s chest seems to be rising and falling.

 

The video feed from inside the ship cuts off and the image of Lance disappears. As soon as it does, three voices speak at exactly the same time.

 

“How are we going to get him back?” Hunk asks.

 

“What’s the plan?” Keith asks.

 

“Why did they show us his memories?” Pidge says, “Why did Lance never tell us he could speak Spanish?”

 

“Why did he never say he had ADHD? It explains so much about his behaviour that we just used to get irritated at. Like the fact that he can’t focus for long or has to try, like, twice as hard to read a book.” Keith says, an unreadable look on his face.

 

“Why Lance didn’t tell us these things doesn’t matter, what matters is that we make a plan to get him back.” Shiro says, trying so hard to be the voice of reason, the leader they need. He doesn’t feel like a leader, he feels just as scared as the rest of them look.

 

The paladins have been in bad situations before, but nothing quite as severe as this.

 

Lance is literally dying in that ship right now and they don’t have a clue what they can do.

 

“We are definitely not giving up the lions, no matter how seriously injured Lance is we can’t afford to risk Voltron falling into Zarkon’s hands.” Allura says. Her voice is steady and calm but her eyes betray her worry. “Besides,” she adds, “They will keep him alive until the hour is up.”

 

“How can you be so sure?” Keith asks.

 

“The Galra may be genocidal maniacs with an intense desire to destroy the universe, but are honourable in the respect that they uphold agreements.” Allura continues.

 

“I think I could maybe find a way to deactivate the part of the ship Lance is in, but for that I’d need to know the general area he’s in.” Pidge suggests, typing at something on her laptop. “I’m trying to track the signal from the feed, I didn’t dare try it while it was on in case they saw and hurt Lance more or something.”

 

“I’ll help her with that.” Hunk says, relieved to have finally found something useful to do.

 

Keith thinks for a while, plotting the details of a plan. “How about we try pretending to give up the lions, or at least two of them, as a decoy and sneak Pidge in using the green lions cloaking device so that she can find exactly where Lance is and disable the area, then we can go and find him and bring him back.”

 

Shiro frowns slightly, “We have already used that tactic before, why would they fall for it again?”

 

“Because they believe they have the upper hand here. The Galra think that we will do as they say to try and keep Lance alive, they won’t expect us to try something like this. Have you seen how arrogant their guys are, they probably won’t even think that we will try and plot against them.” Keith says.

 

“There would be a lot of risks with this, we would have to get the timing exactly right or Lance could end up dead.” Shiro uses this to check everyone is one hundred percent on board because this could end terribly for all of them. He needs them to understand what the risks are.

 

Of course, no matter what he says, they will all go anyway because Lance has suffered for long enough.

 

They continue discussing plans for a further fifteen minutes, leaving them with roughly 40 minutes left for execution.

 

Shiro takes a second to send a silent prayer up towards a deity he doesn’t believe in because he needs reassurance they will all walk out of this unharmed. He hears nothing in response.

 

They decided that Hunk is going as a distraction and will lure defences away from Keith, Shiro and Pidge. Pidge will try and deactivate the part of the castle they need and as many bots as they can, while Keith and Shiro try and find Lance, guided by Allura and Coran who will be receiving intel from Pidge as she accesses the Galra technology.

 

As far as their plans go, it’s one of the better thought out ones. But that doesn’t mean it’s safer. There are so many different things that could go wrong and Shiro knows this, feels the weight of it sit in his gut and crawl up his throat, choking him.

 

Initially, everything goes well. Hunk and Pidge pull of their part well and she manages to locate Lance easily. He’s on the side of the ship closest to where Keith and Shiro are stationed awaiting directions.

 

Allura’s voice through the comms direct them both to a door, locked. It opens easily as Keith presses his hand against the panel, and Keith begins to think something is wrong when he noticed the distinct lack of guards around the cell.

 

Surely they’d expect an attack? Is this a trap?

 

The door slides open, revealing the room that Keith recognises from the video feed. Slumped over in a chair is Lance. His normally tan skin is pale, enough so that the thin layer of sweat coating Lance’s forehead makes him look sick and feverish.

 

Lance is still cuffed to the chair. There’s a growing pool of blood underneath him. Shiro stands guard by the door as Keith unties the unconscious Lance and lies him down on the floor to examine the full extent of his injuries. There are few surface injuries and a few more serious ones; Lance’s nose is bleeding and there’s a scabbed over cut on his forehead that looks like it might have been there since Lance was first taken. Lance’s chest is bleeding heavily from the shot, the blood pools around Lance and spreads over the floor, Keith places his hands over the wound, applying pressure to try and slow the rapid blood flow.

 

It happens slowly, yet all at once; Lance opens his eye lids at the same time as his eyes roll back into his head and his body begins to twitch and spasm.

 

Keith remembers the basic first aid training he received at the garrison, it didn’t cover seizures.

 

“Shiro,” Keith shouts. “Help me.” Shiro abandons his position by the door and come to kneel beside Keith, he turns Lance over onto his side so that he is facing the two of them.

 

It’s all they can do at the moment, he tells Keith and tries to make it sound like he has a clue about how the human body works.

 

After a few moments of silence and anxious waiting, Lance’s movements still. He goes limp and rolls forward onto Keith. At the same time as this happens, the sound of a gun charging and hurried footsteps fill the room.

 

This would be where the security was then.

 

The corridor fills with sentries and Keith panics for a second. He lets the anxiety rush through his veins and feels the beginning of the fight-or-flight response. Shiro nods at him, angles his head slightly towards the Galra soldiers. The message is clear; I’ll fight and you look after Lance.

 

Shiro moves suddenly, the sentries weren’t expecting it and there’s a split second of silence while Shiro takes down a few, then their reaction happens and the room is suddenly a minefield of lasers. Keith leans protectively over Lance to try and shield him.

 

Shiro fights harder than Keith has ever seen him. His teeth are clenched in a way that must be uncomfortable, his face contorted into a scowl and his prosthetic arm glows a faint purple as he uses it to cut down the droids. Despite the hostility radiating from his body, Shiro still fights with the grace of a dancer and it’s almost hypnotising.

 

There’s the sound of a gun firing and Keith feels a scorching heat pass right beside his ear, he ducks instinctively and another laser fires right where his head had been just seconds previously. Keith activates his bayard and stands up, the shots forcing him to leave Lance’s side.

 

Keith fights brutally and fiercely. He shows no mercy and delivers kill shots with every turn. His sword slices through the metal and plastic of the bots with no trouble. Time passes, it could be minutes or hours but Keith is too hyped up on adrenaline to have any concept of it, until eventually the only beings still standing in that room are Keith and Shiro themselves.

 

Shiro leans forward, bracing his hands on his knees to catch his breath, while Keith immediately rushes down to check on Lance, ignoring the dull aches of exertion on his muscles.

 

The Cuban boy is beginning to stir, the sounds of fighting must have woken him up.

 

“Come on, we need to leave.” Shiro says, placing a hand on Keith shoulder. Keith slides an arm underneath Lance’s legs and shoulders, carrying him bridal style. Shiro leads the way out of the room and back down the corridor they came down.

 

Lance twists slightly in his arms, his eyes are open slightly but look unfocused. “You’re n’t real.” Lance mutters and Keith frowns, confused.

 

“I am very much real Lance, I promise.” Keith says, his tone of voice far softer than he will ever admit to using. Especially at Lance.

 

“Th’t’s wh’t the last ‘n said.” Lance mutters, turning his face away from Keith, who feels his heart clench painfully at those words.

 

“Lance I promise you I am real, I’m not a mind game or some kind of trick. We came to rescue you.” Keith says, keeping his voice even despite the heaving of his chest as he struggles to supply oxygen to his muscles.

 

Keith expects an answer, or at least some kind of acknowledgement, when he doesn’t get it he looks back down at Lance. The blue paladin is passed out in his arms. Keith speeds up.

 

They make it back to their lions easier than expected, only having to take out a few guards on the way. The missing prisoner alarm probably hadn’t been triggered yet (either that or they let you go, a small voice whispers in his mind). As they fly back to the castle of lions, they spot Pidge and Hunk flying away from the ship, pursued by a small Galra fleet. Hunk uses his laser to take out two of them.

 

Keith can practically hear Shiro urging Black to hurry up. He sits down on a bench towards the back of the lion, holding Lance close to his chest still, so he can check for changes in the others health easily. Such as Lance stopping breathing. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. About half way back to the castle, Lance stirs again. Moving closer and pressing his face into Keith’s side.

 

“We’re h’ving a bonding moment,” Lance mutters, “You’re cr’dlin’ me in your arms.” Keith actually laughs at that, the memory of the first time Lance had almost died plays in his mind. It’s not a good memory but it’s the time when they had progressed from being nothing more than rivals, working together when necessary, to being friends.

 

Keith is snapped back into reality when Lance jerks in his arms, turning to the side to cough up dark red blood. Keith rubs his back as the hacking coughs shake Lance’s frame and he groans weakly.

 

“Shiro, hurry up!” Keith says. There’s no way they’re going to make it before Lance bleeds out all over Keith and the floor of Black. Keith’s armour is already coated in blood, some of it oxidising and drying while the rest is still wet and thick, sickly red smudges painted onto an already red and white armour. Keith remembers Hunk saying the colour red suited him, now, as Lance coughs up more blood, Keith wishes to never see the colour red again for as long as he lives.

 

There’s blood splatted across Lance’s face, dripping slowly out of his mouth, when he opens his mouth, Keith can see blood coated across his teeth. Red isn’t a good colour on the blue paladin, Keith thinks. He misses the ocean blue of his eyes.

 

Hijo de puta, Keith.” Lance whispers.

 

“What’s up?” Keith asks then immediately feels stupid. What isn’t wrong at the moment?

 

“It hurts, mierda, Keith, it hurts so bad.” Keith feels his resolve crumble. His rival’s voice sounds so soft and innocent. Lacking the cockiness and self-assured charm that Lance wore like a mask. Keith also really wishes Lance would stop slipping into Spanish halfway through a sentence, it’s irritating when he didn’t even know the paladin could speak a different language until a few hours ago.

 

“I know, I know. But I need you to stay conscious for me, can you do that, Lance?” Keith asks, he’s holding the other’s head in his hand, cradling it so that Lance can see him.

 

“D’nno.” Lance says and Keith becomes aware of how much the other is slurring his speech. That’s not good. Lance’s eyes slide shut slowly and Keith gently taps the side of his face until Lance’s eyes snap open.

 

Over the comms, he can hear Hunk and Pidge screaming questions about how Lance is. He can’t bring himself to say the truth, he isn’t even entirely sure what the truth is, so he doesn’t say anything at all. He pulls off his helmet and places it beside his legs. Lance is his first priority right now; Hunk and Pidge can wait.

 

“What colour is the grass?” Keith asks Lance. He can almost see the gears turning in Lance’s head as he thinks.

 

After a few seconds, he says “Gr’n” and Keith accepts the answer.

 

“What colour is the ocean?”

 

“Blue.” Lance answers, quicker this time. Keith hopes that means that he is becoming more coherent.

 

Lance coughs weakly and blood bubbles up around the corner of his lips. If they don’t get him to a healing pod soon Lance will literally choke on his own blood.

 

“Shiro, are we almost there?” Keith has more important things to worry about than the fact he sounds like a whining child.

 

“Almost, Keith. How is he?” Shiro asks.

 

“He’s not good, Shiro. I don’t know what I can do to help him.” Keith bites his lip while he racks his brain for ways he can help.

 

Shiro never responds but the lion begins her descent down towards the hanger as Keith watches Hunk and Pidge try and catch up, the Galra fleet just behind them.

 

Black lands a few ticks before Yellow and Green do, there’s the familiar feeling of a wormhole jump and then the ship is still.

 

The mission was successful, now it’s time to save Lance.

 

Keith stands quickly, clutching the Cuban boy to his chest and hurries out of Black. Coran waits with a stretcher at the bottom of the ramp and Keith gently places Lance on top of it, taking care to avoid pressing down on or moving the wound too much. Lance opens his eyes briefly, looks around in panic, before his eyes roll back and he seizes again.

 

Lance’s long limbs jerk and twitch in a way that must be causing him pain, Keith watches as the movements appear to tear the wound slightly more and a fresh river of blood streams from his side. Keith feels himself panicking with the sheer uncertainty of what the hell is wrong?

 

He’s briefly aware of Hunk and Pidge coming to stand beside him, looking on in shock and horror at the scene before them. Then, Lance drops deadly still, as if whatever force was keeping him moving is cut off.

 

Keith isn’t even sure if he’s breathing, he reaches out a hand towards Lance’s tanned wrist and checks the pulse. Then he shifts his grip and checks again, then, he shoves past Coran and Shiro to feel at his neck. A horrible thought grows in his mind, please be wrong, please be wrong.

 

He isn’t.

 

He’s not breathing.” Keith chokes out and the world seems to crash down around him. Shiro moves, pushing Keith out of the way to tear open Lance’s armour, ripping the breast plate off in the process, leaving Lance’s bare chest exposed. He begins chest compressions, pushing down to a song he’s singing under his breath. Keith recognises the tune, if he could think past the hazy cloud of panic clouding his mind he would probably know the name of the song.

 

Keith feels his heart stop beating, almost wishes it was for real, because he knows the statistics. Only seven percent of people can be revived from CPR outside of a hospital. They don’t have a hospital, none of them are even close to being qualified doctors, but they have healing pods and advanced Altean technology.

 

Lance has to be fine. He has to be.

 

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, which causes the heart to suddenly stop beating.

 

Lance will be fine.

 

Keith doesn’t even notice when Shiro, Coran and Lance leave. He opens his eyes again to see Hunk and Pidge standing beside him looking increasingly worried. Pidge looks him up and down and her face visibly pales.

 

“Keith, is that your blood?” Keith wishes it was, would give anything to trade places with Lance, but it’s not. The adrenaline leaving his system is filling his limbs with lead and Keith almost wishes to just collapse to the floor until this whole nightmare is over.

 

Instead, he shakes his head, no, and walks away quickly. He has no idea where he is heading until he ends up stood outside his room and the urge to be clean almost burns him. Keith is aware of Lance’s blood all over his armour, it makes him feel sick and he feels his skin crawl with disgust. He climbs into the shower cubicle, still wearing his armour, and lets the warm water engulf him. The water in the bottom turns a deep red before fading to a pink-ish colour.

 

Keith turns up the temperature so that it scorches the back of his neck and the other areas of exposed skin, he stands there until the water runs clear and he finds it hard to breathe due to the sheer intensity of the steam.

 

Keith pulls off his armour, dumps it in a pile in the bathroom, and quickly lathers soap on his hands to try and remove the last bit of dirt that won’t come off. He scrubs at his skin until the flesh is a bright red and the offending dirt is gone. Keith turns off the shower and wraps a towel around his waist before he leaves the bathroom to get dressed. He pulls on a t-shirt and some jeans.

 

He doesn’t even bother to put shoes on before he’s running out of the door into the medical bay. Keith slides around the corner, the soft cotton of his socks sending him skidding across the hallway.

 

He finds Shiro stood there talking to Coran, Hunk and Pidge stand a few meters away, looking in a healing pod. There’s Lance inside, standing upright. His tan skin looks unnaturally pale under the harsh lighting and the white healing pod suit has a red stain on it from Lance’s blood.

 

Keith notices that Shiro’s hands are still covered in the blood. He feels an empty sort of detachment, too much panic and emotion for one day leaving him fully drained but unable to relax. Truthfully, Keith thinks that none of them will relax until the blue paladin is out of the pod and healthy.

 

“He’ll need to spend at least seven quintents in there until he’s fully healed, even then it could be much longer. We were unable to assess the full extent of damage done and we couldn’t locate a cause for the seizures as there was limited time because we needed to get him into a healing pod while his heart was still beating.” Coran says, his usually cheerful voice sounds almost sour. “It could be that the sustained mental torture caused some physical damage.”

 

“Is that even possible?” Pidge asks, her soft voice full of concern but also inquisitive. Keith lets their conversation fade into background noise.

 

Keith looks up at Lance again, his face looks younger having lost the hardened exterior being a defender of the universe had forced them to adopt; he looks every bit the fragile teen that he is. Lance looks sick, even when he had almost died after protecting Coran from the bomb, Lance hadn’t looked this bad.

 

Keith stares at Lance until a comforting hand lands on his shoulder, he looks up and makes eye contact with Shiro.

 

“Lance will be okay, he’s strong.” Keith trusts Shiro, but he knows this is bullshit.

 

“Shiro, Lance was just kidnapped and tortured for over three weeks, he will be lucky if he is ever okay again.” Keith swallows thickly, fully aware of how well Shiro understands this. “It’s just, he was there for so long. What did they do to him in that time? Is he even the same person he was?”

 

“Keith,” Shiro says gently, “maybe he won’t be okay at the start, but he’s got all of us around him. We will not let him be broken by this.”

 

“What if we can’t help him?”

 

“We will find a way, I promise.” Shiro squeezes Keith’s shoulder softly, before stepping forward and pulling up the control panel for the cryo-pod. He presses a few buttons, thinks for a second, then presses another. Keith watches him questioningly when suddenly,

 

Beep, beep.

 

“What happened?” Keith asks, panicked in case something is wrong.

 

“I turned the heart rate monitor on. He technically died today and I think we both could do with the reassurance that he is alive.”

 

Keith realises suddenly that Shiro was right, it is comforting to listen to Lance’s heartbeat.

 

The door opens behind them, Pidge walks in with her arms filled with blankets and pillows. Hunk follows closely behind her.

 

“We are having a slumber party.” She says, none of them dare argue with her.

 

Twenty minutes later, Keith is settled down in a soft pile of pillows, draped in a soft blanket that smells like flowers and the weird cleaning agent the castle uses. He nibbles on a bowl of food goo, swallowing around the disgusting texture.

 

Beside him, Hunk and Pidge are sleep, Pidge had flopped forward onto the make-shift bed and not moved since and Hunk had shifted closer to her side so that their arms were touching. They both looked peaceful.

 

Shiro is talking with Allura, he laughs quietly at something she says and blushes softly. Keith smiles gently as he watches them.

 

Keith sits there and listens to the beating of Lance’s heart.

 

Beep, beep.

 

Lance will be okay.

 

Beep, beep.

 

They will all be okay.

 

Beep, beep.

 

As Keith sits there, listening to Hunk’s soft snores and Shiro and Allura’s quiet chatter, he almost believes it.

 

Beep, beep.