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Performance

Chapter Text

...
If I scream at the top of my lungs
Will you hear what I don't say?
If I dance like I'm on a stage
Will you see I seem out of place?

...

The castle was quiet late at night, any sounds echoing off the walls, reverberating through the walls. Lance had figured this out long ago, and could walk so quietly, even the mice didn’t hear him. Everyone else in the castle usually slept during the night, and, if they weren’t sleeping, like Pidge, who was usually up on her computer, or Shiro, whose PTSD kept him up, they weren’t likely to be wandering around the castle.
Lance was completely alone.

The castle was big-and huge swaths were forgotten or ignored. Not essential. Just like Lance. It's not like he wanted to be the seventh wheel. Not again. It was the same back at home on earth. Just another child in a brood of too many, just another sibling to ignore.

Lance sighed. As much as things changed, the more they stayed the same. At least on the ship no one really cared what he did outside of training, aa long as he was in his lion when needed.

Just a warm body. Necessary because there was no one else.

When he and the others had first arrived at the castle, he had really thought things were going to be different. The blue lion had chose him; his team on the garrison liked him, or, at least, well enough. And, sure, Keith and Shiro had been a little standoff-ish, and Allura hadn’t been the most pleased when she figure out that he was, in fact, not fucking with them, and was an actual Paladin. Coran seemed to like him at least.

Two weeks.

That’s how long it took Lance to realize that acceptance had all been in his head. That was how long it took him to realize that the happy-go-lucky persona he put on didn’t matter to these people. No matter how much he tried to do the right thing, say the right thing...none of it mattered. He could scream into the void of space and no one would hear him.
No one noticed. No one cared.

That had been months ago.

Months of being pushed to the side. Months of being an afterthought. Months of being the worthless flirt that really didn’t contribute all that much. Months of being the seventh wheel. The last wheel. The forgotten-until-needed wheel. At first, Lance had been hurt, but that pain had mostly dulled to a lonely numbness that never went away. Like that feeling of being frozen at the dentist, but all over.
Lance was on his way to a small observation deck he had found after a few weeks on the castle. No one seemed to know about it, so he could just be alone. Away from the team. Away from the facade he himself had created. It was near the top of the castle when it was flying, And close enough to the hangars with the lions so he could sprint there if needed.

The room itself was small, a few lounge chairs, and a table. The big draw for Lance, other than the privacy, was the floor to ceiling windows that opened up to show the stars, planets, and suns of whatever galaxy they were in. The big bright orbs, small coloured ones, and streaks of colour ripping through the black void comforted Lance. Maybe it was the openness, or the unending-ness of it all, but Lance loved space. It reminded him of the ocean back in Varadero. Blue and open for as far as the eye could see.

Lance had seated himself on the couch, facing the windows, and let his thoughts consume him. He was trapped, in every way possible. Trapped on a space-castle; trapped as a saviour of the galaxy-not that he was complaining. Quite the opposite, it made him feel important, wanted, needed. Sure, no one really noticed his contributions to the team, such as they were. And yes, sure, the beings on the planets they saved never really said more than a greeting to him, but, he was still there.
Right?
He was the leg of Voltron, helping support the other team members (regardless of whether they noticed or not). That had to count for something.
Right?

He sighed.
Even he didn’t believe it. Blue chose him, sure, but it wasn’t like there was a lot of choice, especially given the fact that Blue probably knew the others were destined to be the other Paladins. He was just the extra available body; right time right place, and all that.
The only thing to really go right in his life, honestly.

There was a soft noise outside the room, and Lance tensed.

“Lance?”

Of course. Of-fucking-course.

“I didn’t know you knew about this place, I come up here sometimes.”

Lance didn’t reply. He didn’t know what to say. This was his place of solitude, his place where he could just, not. And here was Keith, in his space.

He tried to rebuild his persona, as Keith came further into the room. The layers of self-doubt, insecurity, and hurt being removed and replaced with energy, and pep, and self-confidence.

“Lance? Are you alright?”

No. He was not alright. He had never been alright. But he couldn’t say that. He had let his guard down, let go of himself in this space that was supposed to be just for him. A place he could be himself.
The rebuilding of himself wasn’t working. The panic began to rise, heartbeat quickening as the footsteps moved closer and closer.

“Lance?”
The voice was behind Lance, so close. Too close. He had to say something. Something that he would normally say, but his mind was blank.

“Lance? Come on buddy, what’s going on?”

He turned his face away from where Keith leaned over the couch, avoiding his gaze.
“I'm sorry. The Lance you are looking for is currently unavailable. Please try your call later.” He paused. “just.... Not now.” his voice cracked.

Once again, Lance had said the wrong thing. Even he could hear the insincerity, the fakeness. He berated himself for even trying to come up with something.
Keith wasn’t stupid. He would ask questions, and there was no easy way of escape. Only one door, and it was behind Keith. Would Keith try and stop him? Lance didn’t know.

The footsteps stopped moving. He could hear the rustle of Keiths jacket as he moved. Panic was setting in, the walls closing in around Lance. If he didn’t get it together soon, he was going to lose it, in front of Keith of all people.

He couldn’t let that happen.

Deep breath in; ignore the shifting of the couch; deep breath out. Keep the eyes closed, another deep breath in and out. He could feel the heat radiating off Keith beside him, but he kept his face forward, eyes still closed. Deep breath in, let it all out.

Slowly he opened his eyes, and took another deep breath in, plastered a smile on his face.

“What can I do for you Mullet?” There. That sounded normal. Or, at least, better. He could tell the smile looked fake, and that his voice wasn’t as exuberant as his usual show, but, it was something.

Keith had an eyebrow raised, violet eyes staring at Lance, dark hair just brushing his eyelashes. “Are you okay, Lance?”

No. Of course he wasn’t okay. Nothing was okay, and, if history decided to repeat itself, it never would be.

He smiled and cocked his head at Keith. “Okay? Of course it isn’t! A little secluded spot, a great view, and no sexy ladies to share it with.” he shook his head, and raised his shoulders. He was good at pretending to be the great flirt. Sure, his lines were cheesy-even he knew that. But they were meant to be. No one needed to know that though.

Keith looked doubtful, but just rolled his eyes. “Right. The ladies.” He turned his face back towards the window, and sighed.

“I don’t know why you’re lying to me, but, I won’t force you to talk to me. But I will listen, if you ever want to.”
He turned to look at Lance, but Lance was still facing away from him. Keith reached out to touch him.

Lance jerked back, pulling his jacket sleeves down over his hands.

“I’m fine Keith. You know me. Always fine.” Lance tried to flash a brilliant smile. “It’s late. I’m going to bed. Good night”
Lance didn’t even wait for a response, just silently fled the room, leaving behind a confused Keith.

Chapter Text

...
If I put on a disguise
Will you think everything's alright?
If I leave before the end
Will you forget that I was there?
...

“Shiro, hold up a second.”

Shiro waited at the entrance between the kitchen and the hall leading to the bridge. He had a morning meeting with Allura on the bridge, as per usual.

“What’s up Keith?” Shiro asked as Keith caught up with the black paladin.

Keith didn’t say anything right away, chewing his lip in thought.

“I do have a meeting with the Princess, you know.” Shiro said, as Keith continued to stay quiet.

“What is the best way to get someone to talk, even if they don’t really want to?”

Shiro raised an eyebrow. “You know, buddy, there’s only 7 of us on the ship…” he trailed off, a half-smile on his lips.

Keith flushed. “Yea, whatever man. Just” he trailed off, running his hand through his hair. “How would you do it?”

Shiro considered for a few moments. “Well, it really depends on who it is. When I wanted you to talk, I had you train to exhaustion. When I tried to get Matt to talk, I told him to stop being such a salty bitch.”
He paused, looking at Keith.

“It depends on who you want to talk to, but I would start by just being around that person more. You know, letting them know I was there. Patience is your friend in these circumstances. And, if this person doesn’t want to talk...you can’t force them to.”

Keith nodded chewing his lip again. He looked up, and offered a quick smile. “Thanks, Shiro.”

Shiro nodded, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder. “Good luck.”

Keith nodded again, watching Shiro head off towards the bridge. He had known Shiro a long time, and, as much as Keith didn’t want to admit it, he was often right, especially when it came to other people. Keith was not exactly a born social butterfly, or even a pretend social person. Being alone worked. But, after being chosen to be part of a seven person team, all together on a flying castle, well, being alone and antisocial did not always go as planned.
At least, it didn’t for Keith.

It was working out for Lance, however. Maybe.
After their meeting last night, Keith had spent all night thinking about their encounter. Everything about the way that Lance was acting set Keith on edge. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t figure it out. He was missing something. He tried to think back to their previous encounters, trying to think of what and where Lance had been during the past few months, since their arrival. Keith didn’t spend a lot of time with him, what with the finding out he was part Galra, Shiro disappearing AGAIN, and mild social anxiety thing. But, he spent time with the others, right?

He knew that since coming back (again), Shiro had been spending a lot of time with Allura, and Coran was always busy with the ship. Hunk and Pidge spent a lot of time together, tinkering with some new thing they made. Slav had, thankfully, gone with the rest of the Blade of Malmora, who went back to their base to regroup and figure out their next steps.

Which meant that Lance was probably alone a lot of the time. Or, maybe. He could have been with Hunk and Pidge. Hunk was Lance’s best friend, after all. But, since arriving on the ship...Keith couldn’t recall seeing them together all that much.

And where was Lance now? He wasn’t the first one down for breakfast usually, but, he normally appeared before Shiro and Allura took off for their meetings. Pidge and Hunk had already eaten and left, saying something about a new idea to get the game console from the space mall working.

Keith sighed.
He could go look for Lance, but, the castle was pretty big, and the chances of finding him were pretty slim, especially if he wasn’t in his room. He sighed again. If he wasn’t so worried about Lance, he would give up on this whole thing, but...Keith was very worried. Lance had never acted like that before, it was so outside of his usual self...And nothing was adding up. Lance liked people, and being around them, so why had he seemed so tense last night? The way he had pulled away...

Or...maybe Lance pulled away because it was Keith. Maybe the supposed rivalry wasn’t as over as Keith had thought.
Or, maybe Lance just didn’t like him.

Keith ran his hand through his hair, and cracked his neck. There was no use sitting around, doing nothing. He would go find Lance, and try talking to him again.

He set off towards the sleeping area, his footsteps echoing in quiet hall. Even when everyone was awake and moving, the castle was quiet. Unless they were in a battle, of course. Then the castle was loud as hell. Keith liked the quiet. He had hated it at first, when he moved from the garrison to his house, but, after a week, he couldn’t imagine living somewhere so busy again. The desert had been a good home for him, but, truth be told, space was working out well too. Dark, quiet, and even bigger than the desert. Calming and open, without the oppressive heat.

Keith stopped in front of Lance’s door, and took a deep breath in, knocking firmly. He heard something inside the room, but nothing from Lance. He waited a few moments, before knocking again “Lance?”

Still no response.

Keith took a deep breath in, and then used the keypad to let himself in, the door whooshing open. Keith walked slowly into the room, calling out to Lance, while surveying the space. The room looked much like his own room, but slightly bigger, and painted a greyish blue. The bed was to the left of the door, and was made, Lance’s blue Altean pyjamas folded neatly on top of the blanket. To the right was a desk and dresser, and the door leading to the bathroom, which was closed.

“Lance?” he called a little louder, moving a bit more into the room. Now that he was here, Keith was anxious about his decision to let himself in. What if Lance didn’t want to see him? What if Lance was in the shower (which was looking likely)? What if he was attending personal needs…
Keith began to sweat.

Suddenly, the castle alarm bells screamed through the room, soft red light bathing the room.

“Paladins, a Galra fleet just worm-holed in front of us. Get to your lions immediately!” Allura’s anxious voice sounded over the intercoms.

Keith turned around to leave the room, when he heard the bathroom door open.

“Keith!? The hell…?” Lance squeaked.

Keith turned his head, “Sorry, I wanted to…” he stopped. Lance had been in the shower, and wore nothing but a towel around his lean waist. But, that wasn’t what caught Keiths eye. It was the red, raw scars and cuts lacing across Lance's skin.

Lance noticed his gaze, and flushed. “Keith. Emergency. Remember?”
Keith continued to stare, his mouth opening and closing, words refusing to come out.

“Keith. Get out!”. Lance shouted, pulling clothing from his dresser, not looking at the other boy. “Now!”

Keith nodded, turned from the room, and fled.

Chapter Text


...
I'll put on a performance
I'll put on a show
I do it all so
You won't see me hurting
When my heart it breaks


Lance threw his clothing on, both furious and unbelievably embarrassed, his skin hot.

Who walks into someone else's room? Like, totally unannounced?

The nerve of that guy, just waltzing in! Lance huffed. Why was he there at all?
Lance looked at his body as he pulled his clothes on. Not all the scars were that old. No, some were fresh, still oozing blood. A pit of ice filled Lance.
Keith had seen them.
Keith had judged them. He knew that for a fact. The horrified look on his face as he ran from Lance's room. The look of revulsion. The look of pity.
He rubbed his arms, the skin smooth, but raised, a roadmap of pain.
Nothing he could do about it now.
Honestly, it didn’t matter. Not now anyways. Lance shook his head, trying to chase the thoughts away. The castle was under attack-that was the important part. He needed to get down to Blue, so he could help out the team, help form Voltron.

He really needed to get a lock on the door.
And somehow avoid Keith for, oh, the entirety of his existence. And keep him from mentioning anything to literally anyone else.

Lance sighed as he dashed out of his room, bolting towards the Blue’s hangar. He could feel her anxiety flashing through his head as he neared her. The others had, mostly, already took off, and were in the thick of battle. Only Blue and Red were still inside the castle.

But, Keith should have been out already? Lance slowed, just a little. Keith wasn’t doing some stupid waiting for him shit, was he? Because the fate of the universe, or, at least, Voltron, was in the balance here.
Lance shook his head, and picked up the pace again. There was surely something else going on. Keith wasn’t stupid, and he loved to fight. There had to be a good reason he wasn’t already out there.

“Keith? Lance?” Shiro’s voice came over the comms in their helmets. “We need you guys out here now. ETA?”

Keiths voice came right after “On my way out now. Red needed a quick adjustment.”

See? Lance knew there was a good reason. “Almost to the hangar-give me a few ticks.”

Shiro grunted in response, and called out an attack order for Hunk.

Blue already had her mouth open for Lance when he ran into the hangar, breath coming in gasps, a trickle of sweat dripping down his back. So much for that shower. Without pausing, he lept into Blue, and scrambled up to the cockpit as she took off towards the battle. He was used to moving around her as she moved, his balance used to space.

The view facing him was worse than he expected. Allura had made it sound like a single Galra fleet had come to the castle. Lance counted at least 7. They were coordinated as well, and apparently came into the fight with a plan. The fighters from four of the fleets were concentrating on each of the lions, while the other fighters kamakazeed around the lions, and the castle, firing at anything and everything, including each other, creating chaos. The main ships, however, were focusing their fire entirely on the castle. The other Paladins were swamped dealing with the fighters, leaving the castle to its own defenses. Allura and Coran had the shields up, and were firing back, but there was just so many enemies to fire at, and their efforts were not enough.

Lance began firing at the main ships closest to the castle, focusing on the ships more explosive areas, trying to take them out. He had several direct shots, hitting the engines several times, the ship exploding in a fiery pile of debris.

“Lance, good job. Use your ice on the main ship closest to the castle, then head over here.” Shiro's voice called.

“On it.” he replied. The others were slowly, but surely, working their way through the small fighter ships, small explosions dotting the area. The castle itself was doing well enough, as well. Coran had managed to take out a ship, as well as dozens of fighters.

Lance maneuvered towards the ship Shiro marked, and set up his ice beam. He had just released the beam when his lion was thrown to the side, rolling away from his position, the ice beam going wild.

Blue’s anxiety and panic mixed with his confusion “fuck was that?” he muttered, looking around. He could see the green lion, Pidge inside, righting herself, a groan coming from her comm.

“Lance, what the fuck?” Shiro’s voice was hot and angry, a jolt of panic slicing its way through Lance, pulling his attention from Pidge. His ice beam had nearly hit the black lion, which had sent him careening out of the way, to avoid the blast.

He didn’t even get to respond before Shiro went off. “I asked you to do one simple thing, and you can’t even do that. Dammit, Lance, get your head in the damn game!” The voice pierced the comms, not a single other sound was heard. “You need to understand that you have important responsibilities as a Paladin, and being a lazy, usel-”

“Shiro!” Keiths voice cut through the tirade, silencing the black Paladin. Silence followed the outbursts, louder than the battle that still raged around them. Even Blue was shocked, the feeling reaching Lance through the white hot shame, tears forming.
“Shiro, it wasn’t his fault-” Pidge started, her voice quiet.

Lance cleared his throat, quickly wiping his face, even though he knew they couldn’t see him. The sound drowned out Pidge, and he spoke, quiet, but like his usual self.. “Sorry, commander. Won’t happen again.”

“Better not.” Shiro huffed. The rest of the team stayed silent, even those on the castle.

It took a few moments of silence, but, eventually, the team continued the fight, the fighters and main ships falling to the attacks from the Paladins. The battle raged on for hours, the comms silent except to warn others of incoming fighters.

They did not form Voltron.

Chapter Text


When you saw me leaving
Did you think I had a place to go?
Since you stopped believing
I've had to put on my own show

...

Keith threw his helmet on the ground and marched out of Red, heading towards the other lions. First thing he wanted to do was knock some sense into Shiro. Then he wanted to see Lance. He had so many questions, but, he was too furious at Shiro to even think about anything else.

How could he even think about saying something like that? During battle? It was a goddamn accident! He had seen Pidge get hit off balance by one of the Galra fighters, and knock into the Blue lion, just as the ice beam went off. The fact that Lance had been able to fight so quickly and efficiently after what he had seen in Lance's bedroom...Shiro should be thanking him. Keith shuddered. Just thinking about the scars, some white, others red and raw, looked across Lance's dark skin made him feel sick with dread. And so many questions…

Keith's anger spiked again as he neared the black lion, and Shiro. Both Hunk and Pidge were already there, waiting for Shiro to exit his lion. Pidge had her hands on her hips, face in a scowl. Hunk looked like he was trying to talk her down, but failing miserably. Lance was nowhere to be seen.

Pidge started shouting as soon as the Black lions mouth opened.

“That was NOT his fault, Shiro!” she pointed a finger right at him, other hand still on her hips. “You need to apologize to Lance. Right now!” she punctuated the last words by stomping her feet on the ground.

Shiro raised an eyebrow at her, and continued out of his lion. “I do not. Lance should have been able to do as I asked, not nearly get us all killed.”

“But, it was my fault! I got hit, and bounced into him!” she yelled back.

Shiro cocked his head “Be that as it may, he should have been aware of his surroundings, and adjusted his attack. We’ve been doing this for months now. We need improvements, not excuses.”

Pidge just sputtered, eventually throwing her hands in the air, and stormed off, still muttering.

Shiro watched her go, and then continued his walk out of the hangar. Hunk caught up with him, and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You know, mistake or not, Pidge is right. Sure, you’re the leader. Sure, you expect more from us. But that doesn’t mean you get to berate the team. That doesn’t mean you get to be an asshole.” Hunk was slow to anger, but it did happen.

He began to walk away, heading towards Keith, but turned around and said “You were his hero, you know.” Hunk shook his head, and then continued walking. He gently squeezed Keith’s shoulder as he passed, but said nothing.

Hunks footsteps echoed in the hangar, eventually leaving Keith alone with Shiro.

Keith chews his lip, as he stares at someone he considered a brother. Shiro was wrong to say what he did to Lance. There was no other way around it.

“Hunk is right, you know.” Keith starts. “Just because you’re the head of Voltron doesn’t give you right to be an ass.”

Shiro sighs. “Not you too.”

“Yes. Me too. You were out of line. Accidents happen, and being a good leader, an effective leader, means knowing when to support your team. Knowing when your team needs encouragement, and understanding. Not berating. Especially not in front of others.” Keith feels the red hot anger filling him again, but keeps it in check.

“Being a leader means knowing when you’re wrong, and fixing the problem.” Keith turns on his heel, and stalks out of the hangar. He needs to calm down, and find Lance, make sure he’s okay.

Keith takes a few deep breaths in, as he heads towards the Blue lions hangar. Both Red and Blue had hangars a bit further from the main lion bay, ensuring that, if intruders did enter the castle, they couldn’t form Voltron right away.

The anger is still red hot, but Keith’s concern for Lance slowly increases as he nears Blue’s hangar. The hallways are much too silent. Much too empty. Keith knew before he even entered the room that Lance wouldn’t be there. Lance had...an aura? A presence? There was just something about him…

Sure enough, once in the hangar, Keith saw Blue, with her particle barrier up. Red knew where he was, and gave him a gentle warning not to fuck with her or ask too many questions. While Blue wasn’t the most temperamental of the lions, she was fiercely loyal and protective of her Paladin, and she was mad as hell.

Keith snorted “I know how you feel, Blue.” he shook his head, thinking of where Lance could be...maybe his room, or in the observation deck? Somewhere he could be alone, Keith knew that for sure. He turned on his heel and, before exiting the room, turned back to Blue and gave her a small smile. “I’ll try and fix things, I promise.”

He felt approval through his link to Red. He felt nothing from Blue. But, really, he didn’t expect to. The only lion he could, occasionally OCCASIONALLY communicate was the Black lion, and, since he was pissed at her Paladin, it didn’t seem the best idea.

Keith decided to cut through the bridge, check out the observation deck, and then head to Lance’s room. If he wasn’t in any of those spots...he was at a loss. The castle was big, and searching for one single person, that likely didn’t want to be found, would be hard.

Allura, Coran, and Shiro were in the bridge when Keith entered. They seemed to be in a bit of an argument, which stopped the second Keith stepped in. Keith rolled his eyes-he had been the head of Voltron while Shiro had been missing. It wasn’t like he didn’t understand what they were doing. Shiro wouldn't even look at him.

Allura cleared her throat. “Keith, good job out there today.” she paused, shooting a look at Shiro, who continued to avoid his gaze “You haven’t seen Lance, have you?”

Keith shook his head.

Allura pursed her lips, shooting another look at Shiro, who at least had the grace to look a little ashamed. “Well, if you do see him, can you inform him I wish to speak to him?”

“Sure thing” Keith looked at the trio as he continued his way out of the bridge. He knew they were arguing about Lance, and what Shiro had said, but, as to what side Allura would fall on...it was a mystery. She was always on the fence about Lance, unsure of his worthiness of being a Paladin. Hell, she felt the same way about Keith himself. Coran was all about Lance, as the Altaen considered the boy to be like a long lost son.

Keith walked the halls towards the observation deck, emotions swirling. He couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was, or what he was feeling exactly, just that he needed to find Lance, and just...talk. The scars, and cuts...the way he had acted last night...and what Shiro had said to him today. It was a recipe for disaster, and Keith wanted to spare Lance from whatever that outcome would be. They had bonded over both flying Red, and slowly, slowly, had started to become not rivals. He wouldn’t say friends, but he barely considered Pidge and Hunk really friends, and he would kill for them. Keith wasn’t good with people. At all.

A quick glance in the room showed it still empty, likely not even looked at since Keith had left it the night previous. Keith continued on his way, an endless loop of Shiro’s words, and the way Lance had looked the night before running through his head. Like a broken record, repeating over and over, he couldn’t get it to stop.

Keith stopped at Lance’s bedroom door, the feeling of having just been there. Deep breath in, and out. He knocked on the door.

“Lance?” he leaned against the door, calling out as loud as he dared.

No answer.

He continued to lean against the door, sighing. A light noise...was that a sob?

Another deep breath in, and hold. Exhale. He gently knocked on the door again, pushing at the hand scanner.

“Lance, its me. I’m coming in.” Another quick breath in, and Keith walked through the door, finding the room in a much different state than a few hours before. The entire bed was torn apart, sheets and blankets strewn across the floor. Clothing and beauty products all over the place, thankfully everything still in one piece.

Lance himself was slumped against the bathroom door, hair mussed, still mostly in his armor. He was holding a red-tinged cloth to his arm, and shooting daggers at Keith.

“Why in the fuck do you think you can just come in here…” Lance started shouting, but a sob stopped his rant. Keith slowly edged his way towards Lance, his hands out and visible.

Lance let out a shuddering breath. “Why the fuck are you here?” he continued to shoot daggers, his tear streaked face anguished.

Keith slowly sank down to his knees in front of Lance, and slowly sat all the way down. The look on Lance’s face tore at his heart, filling his chest with a great empty ache, and his eyes burned.

He still didn’t say anything, but gently placed his hand on Lance’s knee which rested against the dresser.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, small sobs and sniffles breaking the near perfect silence.

Keith gently squeezed the knee he was holding, and cleared his throat. “I’ll...I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

His face was hot, both with shame and embarrassment as he began pulling his gloves off, and rolling up his sleeves. Not even Shiro knew…

He couldn’t look Lance in the face, his heart pounding in his ears. But he could feel Lance’s attention, the feeling of those blue, blue eyes boring into him, watching every move, inspecting everything.

He needed to do this. Needed Lance to know he wasn’t alone…

Alarm bells ripped through the castle, startling both the boys.

“Paladins. A few more Glara fleets have arrived...Please get to your lions immediately!”

Chapter Text

I'll put on a performance
I'll put on a show
It is a performance
I do it all so…

Lance sighed, breath shuddering from the remnants of his tears. He rested his head back against the wall he was leaning against, and closed his eyes. Of course there was another Galra attack. Because, obviously it would happen now.
When he was bleeding.
And crying.
And completely not okay.
And Keith was here.

Which was also something to stress and panic about.

The story of Lance’s life.

He slipped his eyes open, and looked at Keith, still sitting shock still in front of him. He hadn’t moved since the alarm went off, hands on his gloves, his own expression panicked.

Lance let out a mirthless chuckle. “What a day.” he sighed, closing his eyes again. He just needed a minutes. Was that too much to ask? He could hear the voices of the other Paladins coming from his helmet beside him, their voices tinny, words indistinguishable. Shiro’s deep voice was the most prominent, as well as Alluras. The others-Hunk and Pidge, were quiet, or, at least not discernible from where Lance sat.

He heard Keith moving around, and cracked open an eye to watch. Keith was putting his gloves back on, and his face was flushed. He snuck the occasional look at Lance, but didn’t say anything right away, but flushed harder when he looked up.

A few moments of silence between them, then Keith cleared his throat. “Lets...lets get you bandaged up, and head out. They probably need us.” He reached out his hand towards Lance, close, but not yet touching.

Lance raised his head, and looked at Keith, his jaw hanging open. “You, you mean.”

Keith looked up, confused, hand still held out towards Lance “What?”

“The team. They need you, is what you mean.” Lance’s head was turned to the side, eyebrow raised. The team didn’t need him, they had made that abundantly clear during the last battle, oh, 20 minutes ago.

Had it only been that long?

Lance sighed again. He hadn’t had a day this bad in a while, and he was spiraling. The same thoughts spiraling in his head, over and over, unrelenting. Lance knew he wasn’t the best Paladin, or the best person, or whatever. But to be told he was useless? To be chastised by the one person he looked up to most? By the person he considered a true hero? Hearing those words over and over in his head turned his heart to shattered ice, his insecurities and anxiety at an all time high. Knowing the one person whose opinion he valued thought he was useless, a waste of space, a joke.
He hadn’t meant to hurt himself so deep...it was the only way to feel something, the only way to break through the ice that had taken over...
Or, it had been, until Keith had shown up.

Keith interrupted his thoughts, grabbing his hand. “Lance. They need both of us. Regardless of whether we form Voltron or not, we need all 5 of us out there.” He looked down at their hands, still held together. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up and-”

Lance chuckled mirthlessly, gently removing his hand from Keith's. “Yea.” he took a deep breath in. “You go on. I can…” he paused, collecting himself. “Like you said, they need five of us, and they only have 3. Get going.” Lance gently pushed himself off the floor with one hand, and stretched his neck.

Keith also stood up, looking Lance over. He stepped forward, hand out again “Are you...are you sure you can go out? Do you need the healing pod?” The concern in his voice was evident, even to Lance.

Lance gave him a tired smile. “I’m fine.” He shooed him towards the door, swooping down to grab a piece of his armor. ‘Go. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Keith nodded, then turned to dash out the door. As he turned the corner, Lance could hear him call back “We’re going to finish this conversation when we get back.” and he was gone.

Lance sighed again. Like hell they would. Lance was most definitely not okay, and sharing all of his shit with Keith wasn’t going to help either.

Lance moved to the bathroom, and moved the towel from his arm. The cut was long and deep, blood oozing down his arm forming a crimson river. Right. That needed to be bandaged tightly before he could go out…

Could he go out in Blue? He could feel she was both impatient and pissed. She didn’t want to fight beside Shiro either, not after what he said…

Blue was also projecting other feelings towards him, but, they were jumbled, and all coming from the other lions. There was some serious discontent among the Paladins and their lions, a discontent that hadn’t been there in the earlier battle. His one-time connection with Red let him feel her absolute fury, but, he couldn’t tell what it was directed at.
He was happy he was with Blue, angry as she herself was.

He pushed her thoughts, and the thoughts of the other lions, out of his head, and grabbed the gauze from his cabinet. He quickly wrapped his arm tight, flexing his fingers, checking for permanent damage. While he hadn’t done that to himself yet, there had been a few close calls. Satisfied, he pulled his armour back on, and left to bedroom, grabbing his helmet as he headed towards Blue.

The comms were still predominantly filled with Shiro and Allura’s voices, the other Paladins and Coran strangely quiet.

Lance dashed to where Blue’s hangar was, his arm throbbing in time with his heartbeat. He would have to be careful in the coming weeks with that one. As he neared his lion, she dropped her particle barrier, and lowered her mouth to scoop him up. Lance hadn’t even sat down when she took off, her Blue anger joining the rest of the lions in a firefight with the Galra.

Chapter Text

You won't see me hurting

When my heart it breaks

...

Keith watched as the Blue lion exited the castle, heading right towards the thick of the fight. Keith sighed, both in frustration and in relief. He hadn’t gotten a good look at his wound, but, given the amount of blood that had seeped through the towel, Keith guessed it was deep. Very deep. But, if Lance we able to pilot Blue-and she didn’t refuse to take off, despite his injury-then it couldn’t have been that bad.

Except that it was bad.

Lance had seriously hurt himself. Given the state of those scars...he’d been doing it for a while. And no one had noticed.

Keith had thought that everything would just...sorta go back to normal once Shiro returned. He was realizing that, maybe there never had been a normal. He had just assumed that the happy Paladins of Voltron was, like, a thing that didn’t need any work. A thing that just was.

But it wasn’t. Not for everyone.

Keith dodged a shot from one of the main ships, returning fire, impaling the ship easily. He tried to keep track of Lance, but it was hard to do, with all the Galra fighters, and the lions so separated.

If he were still in the Black lion… He shook his head of the thought, just as Red growled in his mind. She had liked Lance well enough, but, Keith was her cub, and no other would do long term. Just as Keith had been okay in the Black lion, but was never fully comfortable in her. Not like Red, where he felt at home.

But, forming Voltron was still the better, safer and faster option for this fight.

Shiro was still commanding the Paladins, but hadn’t called for Voltron. He watched as Pidge and Hunk tag teamed a ship, the pieces exploding around them all, taking out some of the fighters. There weren’t as many as the last battle, but Keith was still concerned for the team. They were still tired from the last battle, and tempers were still running high.

Shiro still hadn’t spoken to Lance. All of his commands and warnings were coming from Allura and Coran on the castle.

“Are you quiznaking kidding me…” he mumbled, dodging a shot from a fighter behind him. He spun around, just to see Lance shoot the fighter down, and fly past him, towards another fighter Keith hadn’t even seen.

“Look alive, Keith” he mumbled over the comms. The first words he’d spoken over the comms since the battle started.

“Yea. Thanks.” he replied, following the Blue lion towards one of the last two ships. The fight was almost over. Then they could go back to the castle, and he could check on Lance, and actually see how he was really doing. Keith wasn’t that great at the whole personal interactions thing, but, he needed to do this. This was one thing where failure was not an option.

Determined, Keith fired on the fighters between them and the ships, taking out several. Hunk and Pidge soon flanked them on either side, creating a barrage of shots on the remaining Galra ships.

“Alright, guys-”

“And ladies” Pidge interrupted. Keith smirked, and continued “Alright, male and female Paladins of Voltron- we got this”

Hunk replied “Damn right we do.” his lion ate one of the fighters “Then it is time for some grub. I might literally be dying.”

“I seriously doubt that” Pidge said. Keith smiled, firing off more blasts, taking out more of the fighters. He loved being part of Voltron, with these people. He loved saving planets, and fighting the good fight. 

“Lance, look out!” Coran screamed over the comms.

Keith flipped around just in time to see a fighter get a shot off at the Blue lions back, hitting dead on. She immediately powered down, sparks flying.

Keith’s heart dropped, Red not even waiting for a command before she took out the fighter. She was growling in his head, anger and worry pressing around him.

“Lance!” both Hunk and Pidge screamed over the comms. The Blue lion didn’t move.

All three of them moved towards the Blue lion at the same time, trying to get to Lance.

“Guys. Not now. There are still two ships to deal with.” Shiro’s voice pulled them all to a stop.

“But-”

“No Pidge. Focus on the battle at hand, then we deal with our wounded.”

“Shiro-”

“Lance wouldn’t want us to fail, so we won’t.”

The battle raged on around them. The castle had moved as close as it dared, still too damaged from the previous battle to get too engage. The Blue lion continued to float, dead to the world. Completely silent.

Keith grit his teeth “Dammit!” Red echoed his sentiments.

“Alright, Hunk, Pidge, take out the one on our left. Keith, you and I will take the one on our right.”

The three of them confirmed orders, and quickly took out the last of the ships, firing at the remaining fighters trying to retreat. Without a word, both Hunk and Keith shot towards Blue, ignoring Shiro’s commands to ensure the area was cleared.

“Keith, I got this. Go help the others.” Hunk’s voice was strained, almost to breaking.

“My lion is faster…”

“But not strong enough to carry Blue.” Hunks lion grasped the Blue lion in her claws, and started off towards the castle “Especially not damaged.” he paused a moment “But I will gladly take someone at my back.”

“On it, buddy” Keith replied. He watched the yellow lion carry Blue back to the ship, watching for any and all movement. They seemed to have defeated all the fighters and ships, and Shiro and Pidge had taken care of the last.

He could hear her quiet sniffles through the comm.

Keith wasn’t doing much better. His heart was beating against his chest, making it hard to breathe. He waited while Hunk landed on the ship, keeping watch both on the lions, and the vastness of space around them.

“Alright, all clear. Head back!” Allura called.

Keith didn’t hesitate. Red flew back to the castle, leaving Pidge and Shiro long behind. Red gently nudged him with her mind, sending both worried and calming vibes to him. She wanted an update on her once-Paladin, and worried about her lion mate.

Once she landed, Keith jumped from Red, and dashed towards the medical bay. Pidge was close behind him, her lions hangar closer to the main part of the ship. She had tear marks down her face, but looked determined. They shared a quick glance, before he grabbed her hand, running faster.

They were both out of breath when they arrived at the medical bay, Pidge bent over, gasping for air. Keith put his hand on her back and gently rubbed it.

“It will all be okay.” he said. She glanced up at him, eyebrows furrowed.

“Fucking hell, I hope so.” she gasped. She stood up fully, and took in as deep a breath as she could. “Let’s do this.”

Keith nodded, heart still hammering wildly. He moved forward and put his hand on the scanner, the door slowly opening.

“Quiznak, get him in the pod, now!” Coran yelled. They heard Hunk grunt with the effort as the door fully opened.

The first thing Keith noticed was just how much blood there was.

He felt Pidge drop beside him, gasping. Hunk turned at the sound, his eyes filled with tears. Coran leaned against the pod, eyes closed, also covered in blood.

Keith forced himself to look at the pod, terrified and numb, unable to even blink.

Lance was inside the pod, pale skin glowing in the fluid, which was just the lightest shade of pink. The pod was frosted from the neck down, covering the injuries, except for the deep gash along his cheekbone.

“The bleeding will stop in a moment. Then the scanners will do their work, and tell us how long he needs to be in there.” Coran said, still leaning against the pod, not even looking up.

That was how Allura and Shiro found them-Coran leaning against the pod; Hunk, blood and tear stained, staring at nothing; Pidge still crumpled on the floor; and Keith halfway between them, his face a mask of shock.

All of them, waiting.

Chapter Text

I'll put on a performance

I'll put on a brave face

...

“Coran, seriously. It’s been 4 days already-when is Lance getting out?”

Coran looked at the monitors still attached to the healing pod, and did some calculations. “Another 3 days or so, my young Paladin. There were a lot of internal...things to deal with.”

Pidge raised her eyebrow. “Internal..things. Right.” She pressed her face up against the pod, which was still frosted over from the neck down. “What’s up with the glass anyways? It didn’t do this last time he was in here.”

“His injuries are much worse this time around” Coran explained, worry still etched across his face. He had taken Lance’s accident worse than anyone had expected. Coran had already lost one son, he wasn’t prepared to lose another. “He’s also pretty much naked in there.” He chuckled at Pidges face “Wanted to spare your innocence”

Pidge snorted, but said nothing. She did, however, move her face away from the glass.

 

The door hissed open, admitting Shiro and Allura. Allura went to confer with Coran, talking in hushed voices. Shiro, however, glanced around the room, lingering on Lance for a few moments, before making his way to Keith, who was leaning against a pillar, facing the pods.

 

Shiro leaned against the pillar as well, clearing his throat, and running his hand through his hair, the shock of white bright against his skin.

“So. I watched the footage from the past battles...and you all were right.”

 

Keith turned to look at him, eyebrow raised. “Oh? Prey tell.” Okay, so that came out a little snarkier than Keith had intended. But he was still a little pissed off at Shiro for losing his shit on Lance, for no reason. He didn’t want to blame this entire fiasco on the Black paladin, but…

 

Shiro raked his hand through his hair again. “I shouldn’t have yelled at Lance the way I did. He was actually amazing in that battle…” he trailed off, looking at Lance in his pod, still and pale. “I...I can’t help but feel this is all my fault. If I hadn’t lost it...we could have formed Voltron…”.

 

“And forming Voltron would have allowed us to beat the Galra faster, avoiding the predicament we’re currently in.” Keith finished, voice monotone, eyebrow raised.

 

Shiro’s eyebrows both rose “Wow. Well, yes, I guess.” he shook his head, looking both guilty and shocked.

 

“Sorry, but it’s true. If you wanted someone to baby you about your responsibilities, you should have gone to literally anyone but me.”

 

“Fair enough.” Shiro sighed, and leaned back again, looking at the pod, and the rest of the team. Keith followed his gaze.

 

Keith wanted to ask Coran about the cuts on Lance’s arms, but, was too nervous to. If Coran had noticed something off...he would have said something, right? The frost on the glass kept it covered from prying eyes, and from Keith’s very concerned ones. It had been days since their...moment, and Keith was unable to get the images out of his head. The cuts, red and deep; the blood; Blue shutting down; Hunk covered in blood, on his knees in front of the pod; Pidge crumpled at the door; Coran absolutely losing his shit at Shiro…then breaking down completely.

 

Shiro had to carry Pidge out, and to her room. Allura carried Coran.

They left Hunk and Keith.

 

The shit-show of the past few days had died down, as Lance got better. Things were still tense, but having Shiro admit he was wrong, well, that was a start.

“Shiro?” Keith glanced at his friend.

“Hmm?” he responded, gaze still on Lance.

“I think you should apologize to Hunk and Pidge too. And Coran.”

Shiro stood up, and turned to look at Keith, eyes resigned. “I know. Its...its just hard, you know?”

Keith nodded. “Which makes it that much more important.”

"I knew you would make a good leader.” Shiro turned and walked first towards Hunk, who had set up an entire bed in the medical bay. Hunk only left the room to eat and shower, heading back to keep watch once those things were done.

 

Keith sat with him for most of it. So had Pidge, after her initial breakdown, although she left to repair Blue and “give the girl a little boost” whatever that meant. Hunk told them about their time at the Garrison, before Pidge had enrolled, and about Cuba, where Lance was from. He and Hunk had a few summers there together before the Garrison, and had loads of stories about all of Lance’s family, and the beach, and just how beautiful Varadero was.

Keith smiled thinking about how excited Hunk had been. He hoped that one day, they could all visit Cuba. It sounded wonderful. Pidge had said she had never been there either, and looked interested, asking questions about the weather and geology. It would be fun...going somewhere on Earth with his friends. If they were friends. Or...Keith sighed.

 

Now was not the time for his insecurities. He’d been better, recently. Opening up to Hunk and Pidge, while they were tucked in blankets, staring up at the frosted pod. Coran had been there most of the time too, and probably wouldn’t have left if the ship hadn’t been in desperate need of repair. Coran hadn’t curled up with them, but he had told them stories about his time with Lance, and all their bonding.

 

“I knew you guys spent a lot of time together, but I hadn’t known it was that much.” Hunk said.

Coran shrugged. “He is quite the special lad. A little sad sometimes, but a remarkable boy.”

“Sad?” Pidge cocked her head. “I don’t remember him ever being sad.”

Keith said nothing, knowing the truth. Lance wasn’t just sad. No, that didn’t cover it. But he wasn’t going to correct Coran, wasn’t going to let on just how bad Lance really was.

Coran didn’t say anything, but was called away by Allura, who wanted to wormhole again. She was worried they were being followed by Galra again, and, without Lance, forming Voltron was not an option. Blue had refused, absolutely refused, to allow Allura near her. She had outright growled at Shiro when he got too close once.

Keith had told Red about Lance’s condition, as promised. She was constantly in his mind, still worried, but content to know he was doing better.

 

Three more days. Keith sighed, and pushed himself off the pillar. “Hey, Hunk.” he called. The other boy looked up from his work, face worn and tired, dark circles under his eyes. Shiro had moved from Hunk, to Pidge, and was talking to both Allura and Coran.

“I’m going to grab some goo. Want me to bring you some?”

“Buddy, yes. Please.” Hunk responded, breaking out into a smile.

Keith returned the smile.

“I’ll come with you” Pidge said, turning away from the pod, and grabbing her computer. Keith nodded, waiting for her to reach him before heading out of the med bay, towards the kitchens.

Three more days.

 

Chapter Text

When you saw me leaving

Did you think I had a place to go?

...

“Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.” Hunk sighed, plopping down beside Pidge.

“Agreed. It’s just...so quiet without him around.” Pidge responded, pushing her glasses up.

The three of them-Hunk, Pidge and Keith-had made a blanket and pillow fortress in the medical bay and were lounging, getting ready to put a movie on. Once Pidge and Hunk had figured out the video game system, they had managed to rig up a movie player, and watched the movies that Pidge had on her computer when they arrived. Sure, the selection was limited to conspiracy theories and Disney, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

Tonight was the first night Keith had joined them in the blanket fort. Before, he had kept himself apart, sleeping away from the others. But, Keith found himself unable to deny their request this night. Maybe it was the feeling of belonging, or of having been jealous of the closeness of the other paladins...Keith couldn’t be sure. All he knew was that he was comfortable with these two. Wanted to spend more time with them, sometimes.

Lance too. The stories these two had about Lance intrigued Keith, made him want to know more. Work past whatever was causing the destructive self-harm, and get to know the Lance that was in the stories. Or, at least, work past the issues, and find  a new balance. Whatever worked for Lance.

Keith sighed.

“You okay, buddy?” Hunk asked, turning his head to the side to look at Keith.

“Yup. Just thinking that it has been quiet around here lately.”

Hunk nodded, then went back to fiddling with the video system. There were still a few bugs to be worked out, to make it work properly, which is what he was doing now. Pidge was going through her data drive, to find the perfect movie for the night.

“How about Moana? Have either of you-”

“The movie of my people!” Hunk whooped, interrupting Pidge, and clapping. “Yes! My vote is for Moana.”

Keith chuckled “Moana it is.”

Pidge nodded, then loaded the movie, ready to go.

“Alright, Pidge, lets get this party started!” Hunk said, putting the control device down, and snuggling into the blankets. “As a heads up, I am totally a sing-along kind of dude. Especially for the songs of my people.”

Pidge rolled her eyes, but put the movie on without a word.

Keith smiled. Of course Hunk would sing along. So would Pidge, just much quieter, if history was anything to go by. Keith leaned back into the blankets, and pulled them around his neck, settling in for a few hours.

 

“We are explorers reading every sign” Hunk belted out, louder than even the movie.

Keith-as well as the other two-jumped to hear a fourth voice in the room. “Movie night without me? Rude.”

Keith looked up, heart beating wildly, to see Lance standing a little bit away from the group, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Also, why was I naked? I wasn’t naked last time…” he pulled a sheet around his waist tighter, looking between the other paladins, who were all just staring.

Hunk recovered first, jumping up from the blankets, nearly tripping himself, to pull Lance into a huge, bone-crushing hug.

“Lance!” he exclaimed, hugging tighter.

“Hunk. Bromigo. You’re killing me here.” Lance said, gasping, but hugging back with one arm. Hunk loosened his grip, but only just.

Pidge was up next, hugging both the boys from the side. “We’ve missed you! It’s been so quiet without you around!”

Lance cocked his head, shock spread across his features. “You have?”

Pidge laughed “Well, duh.”

Keith saw the look on Lance’s face-he was genuinely shocked at Pidge’s words. The other two missed the expression, which Keith thought was probably for the best.

“Glad you’re finally out.” Keith said, also standing up. He and Lance locked eyes, Lance still in the others embrace.

Pain, both physical and mental. Exhaustion. Shame. A little embarrassment. But, also, maybe, a bit happy? Or relieved? Keith couldn’t tell, and reading emotions was not his forte.

Lance gently extracted himself from the hug pile, tightening the sheet around his waist again. “What happened? How long was I out? Is there any food at this movie night?”

Hunk slapped himself on his forehead “Food! Of course you’re hungry. We have a few snacks here, but you need more than that.” he paused, thinking “Pretty sure I can whip something up, but…”

Keith broke in “How about I get you some clothes, and grab more food?”

Hunk looked up, grateful, “Thanks man!”

Keith nodded in response. Lance smiled at him, rubbing his hand through his hair. “Clothes would be great.”

Pidge snorted “For all of us.”

“Hey!”

 

Keith left the room, heading towards Lance’s room. Clothes, food goo, then back to the medical bay. He knew they would still be talking, hopefully about good, happy things.

Besides, Keith wanted to finish the movie.

Keith was back in record time, and entered the med bay to find Lance curled up beside Hunk, Pidge on the other side of Hunk, listening to their story of the battle Lance was injured in. They heard him come in, and Lance lifted his head, giving him a small smile.

Keith smiled at the sight.

“Keith! Come sit down, we’re just about to re-start the movie!” Hunk said, waving him over.

“Sure.”



Chapter Text

Even when I was hiding

You could always find me

...

“I know Coran said you were really hurt, but, those are some serious scars.” Pidge said.

 Lance froze where he was, curled against Hunk, eyes going wide. Moana had finished, and Pidge was looking for another movie for them to watch. Apparently, the plan was to spend the night in the medical bay, so Coran wouldn’t freak out about Lance leaving without a proper and thorough checkup.

 He looked at his arms, scars out for all to see. Most were all healed, thanks to the healing pod, but they were still red, raised. Angry. Criss-crossing some parts of his skin, like a roadmap.

Lance normally worse long-sleeve shirts, but Keith had brought him a short-sleeve shirt. He snuck a quick glance at Keith, who had moved to the other side of Pidge. Had he done this on purpose…? No. Lance didn’t know Keith that well, but if he had the same kind of scars, like he had hinted at...he wouldn’t be malicious about it.

Besides, Keith looked a little wide-eyes himself.

Pidge leaned closer, reaching a hand out to touch Lance. “Some of these are old...you weren’t this injured the last time you were in the pod…” she trailed off.

Panic hit Lance like a train, and he tried to move away from her touch, without her actually noticing. He didn’t want her to touch them. He didn’t want her, or anyone, to notice the scars. Or ask questions.

Why did this have to happen right when Lance finally felt good, felt wanted ? He finally...finally got what he’d wanted for months-love, attention, cuddles, bonding ...and here it was about to be ruined.

He look a deep breath in, and closed his eyes briefly. He had to say something. Anything. Panic wouldn’t get him anywhere. Just...breathe. What would regular Lance do?

Lance chuckled awkwardly “What can I say, I’m accident prone.”

“But-”

Hunk interrupted her “Oh yeah! Remember that time you fell down that hill, into the ocean in Cuba? I thought for sure your mom was going to lose her mind!”

“What happened?” Pidge asked, moving her hand away from Lance’s arm, and looking to Hunk.

Lance breathed a sigh of relief. Disaster averted. For the moment at least. He let Hunk tell the story of how he tripped over a twig, and nearly killed himself, instead just listening to their voices that surrounded him. He tried to move the sheets up around his arms, to cover his scars, but Hunk was sitting on most of them. He kept pulling them though, and managed to cover part of a single forearm.

Whatever. Better than nothing.

Pidge laughed really hard, and he looked up.

“Seriously? Who can be that clumsy?”

“Okay, but let me tell you about…” Hunk continued, both his friends laughing. It was all in good fun, right? Sure, they were laughing at Lance, but, to be fair, all of these weird things did all happen to him. And, once everything had calmed down, they did make great stories.

He felt a tap on his shoulder, and he turned his head to see Keith behind him. Lance raised an eyebrow, but extracted himself from Hunk and sat up. Keith looked a little pink, but that could have been the glow from the video screen.

Keith cleared his throat, and quiety said “You look a little cold.”  He held out his jacket for Lance, who just noticed Keith wasn’t wearing it.

“Uh…” Lance said, that eyebrow raising again.

Keith raised his own eyebrow in response, and glanced down to Lance’s arms, and then gave a look.

Lance flushed, taking the offered jacket, and sliding his arms into the still-warm sleeves.

“Thanks.” Lance said, looking down, embarrassed. Keith wore this jacket like a security blanket. Hell, it probably was. Lance had a lot of feelings about being given the jacket to wear, hiding his hands in the sleeves.

Keith smiled, and sat down next to Lance “No problem.” He looked over at the other two, who were deep in an argument over what movie to watch next, then turned back to Lance.

“We’re still going to have that talk...right?”

Lance stopped running his hands along the jacket material, glancing at Keith. So he had been serious about that. Lance didn’t want to talk about his feelings of inadequacy, or self-doubt, and the entire suitcase store worth  of baggage that he had...but he also knew that things couldn’t continue as they had been. Lance knew, now, that he had been at the breaking point when Keith had walked in on him. Whatever was lower than where Lance already was...was somewhere he didn’t want to be. He didn’t want to see where that rabbit hole went.

 

Lance didn’t think he would survive the trip.

 

But...maybe he did need help. Maybe he couldn’t do it on his own. Not anymore.

Lance looked back up at Keith. “Yea. Sure.” Saying the words didn’t make Lance feel any better, but the look of relief of Keith’s face did.

“Good.”

“It’s decided!” Pidge whooped, interrupting any other conversation. “Next up, Treasure Planet!” she grinned so wide, her glasses slide down her small nose.

“Such a good movie” Hunk sighed, smiling.

“Keith, you staying there?”

She didn’t wait for an answer before she threw his blanket and pillow over to him. She leaned back into her own pillows, and curled into Hunk’s side.

Lance watched Keith arranged his blankets, cheeks definitely pink this time, and settled down to watch the movie.

Lance moved closer to Hunk’s other side, resting his head on his friends big chest, but stayed on his back. Hunk, in turn, put his arm around Lance’s shoulders, pulling him close, so he was the mirror image of Pidge on his other side. Hunk had always been a cuddler, and had been the best co-babysitter of all his nieces and nephews.

A few minutes into the movie, Lance held out his hand to Keith, wiggling his fingers, waiting. Lance saw Keith look at his hand, glance back to the movie, to the others, and finally back to lance’s hand. Keith looked both confused, and terrified, so incredibly out of place as to what to do. It took a few moments, but eventually Keith put his own hand in Lance’s, barely touching, fingers chill against Lance's own warm ones.

Lance smiled, and closed his hand around Keith’s, interlacing their fingers, pulling their entwined hands under the blankets. He leaned into Hunk again, and turned to watch the movie.

Chapter Text

I want you to notice

...

“Come on guys, I told you not to sleep-” Shiro’s soft voice stopped, stepping into the medical bay, both Allura and Coran trailing after him.

“Shiro-” Allura started to speak, but was hushed by Shiro, who just pointed.

There, in the middle of the medical bay, was the rest of the paladins, in a giant nest of blankets, fast asleep.

Pidge had curled nearly underneath Hunk, her puff of her hair just visible from between Hunks body and arm, cocooned in blankets. Hunk was sprawled on his back, both arms flung out, blankets covering where Pidge was wrapped, and his leg. He snored softly, mouth slightly agape.

Lance was using Hunk’s other arm as a pillow, curled on his side, facing the yellow paladin. He was completely covered in blankets, and, strangely, Keith’s jacket. Keith himself had spooned up behind Lance, face  burrowed into the taller man’s back. He was curled on his side, covered in blankets up to his underarm, his arm fully wrapped around Lance. Protective. 

Shiro smiled at the sight. Most of the blankets on the entire ship were here, as well as most of the pillows. Snack containers and drink cups were on one of the tables near the group, and the video projector was still emitting a light glow, indicating it was still on. Pidge's laptop was off to the side, still open to the video player.

Hilariously, all of the paladins had brought their lion slippers, which were piled up at the bottom of the blankets. Someone had even brought Lance’s, which were also there. Shiro smiled at that thought. He was also a little jealous of them. 

Allura came up beside Shiro, and gently entwined her fingers in his own, leaning her head against his shoulder. She was a comforting weight against him. Warm and loving.

“This makes me so happy” she said quietly, squeezing the hand in hers.

“Me too.” Shiro replied, smiling.

Shiro glanced at Coran, who had been rather quiet. He was surprised to see the tears in his eyes, hand covering his mouth.

“Coran?” he asked.

Coran waved his hand around and said “Really should give Lance a full examination, but..” he smiled “I would hate to wake them.”

“Yea.” Shiro agreed.

“Lets go to bed. We can see them all in the morning.” He gently pulled Allura towards the door, pausing beside Coran. “Besides, if anything was wrong, someone would have come to get us.”

Coran smiled and nodded. He listened to the couple leave the medical bay, watching the paladins for a few extra moments, his gaze lingering on the sleeping blue paladin.

He smiled again, then turned around, leaving the paladins to sleep.

Chapter Text

Keith woke with a start, awake and alert, tense. Coran stood above and behind him, leaning over to wake up Lance, who was curled between himself and Hunk.

 “Sorry, Number 4. I waited long enough-Lance needs his checkup.” Coran said quietly, shaking Lance’s shoulder gently.

 “It’s fine.” Keith responded quietly. He had disturbed the blankets when he woke, and saw that Lance was still wearing his jacket. His face felt warm at the thought, and the memory of the night before.

He cleared his throat, and looked around, distracting himself from the semi-awake Lance who was trying to fight Coran like a kitten.

 Hunk was still sprawled out on the floor, fast asleep, lightly snoring. Pidge appeared to be curled up under his arm. It was hard to tell for sure, since she was so burrowed under blankets, there was just a lumpy Pidge shape that really could have been a pillow.

 “Come on Lance. Once you’re done, you can sleep more. But we need to run a full test. Make sure everything is fine and dandy.” Coran said, pulling at Lance’s shoulder.

 “But I’m sleepy” Lance whined, trying to pull away from Coran’s hands.

 Keith smirked at the scene, and turned towards Lance, running his hand gently over the other boys arm.

 “Come on Lance. If you get up for Coran now, I promise to make sure your spot stays warm.” he said, closer to Lance than he planned on being. But, now that he was here...he let himself gaze at the other boy's face, still lightly running his hand over the boys arm.

Seriously, the light smattering of freckles across Lance’s cheeks and nose might be the death of Keith. They were just too cute to be real. And the skin...Keith wondered if he was as soft as it looked.

 Not that he was going to touch it to find out. No. Not without Lance being aware of-and fully endorsing- what he was doing, and not with Coran watching them, gaze sharp.

 Lance sighed, peeking his eye open to look at Keith “Fine. But it better be warm, and you better still be here.” He pushed off the ground, catching Coran’s outstretched hand to keep from falling.

 Keith held his hands up, both to answer Lance, and to catch him in case he fell. He really did look unsteady still. Keith watched as Coran led Lance to a bed surrounded by machines, and started scanning the boy.

 Lance rubbed his eyes, and yawned, patient while Coran scanned, poked, and prodded him. Keith watched the entire proceedings, while leaning into Lance’s spot, trying to keep the heat in, as promised. Coran was thorough in his inspection, pausing to jot things down, and compare numbers on his tablet.

Keith yawned. He was still pretty tired. He had spent the past few days basically awake the entire time. So had Hunk and Pidge, which probably explained their still comatose state. Everyone had been worried about Lance. And, on the plus side, he, Pidge and Hunk had bonded really well-more so than when he had led Voltron.

 He smiled to himself. That had been something. Keith was glad it was over though. He hadn’t enjoyed leading and he knew he was too temperamental to think things through rationally. Act first, think later, that was his motto. Which is why he had continually gone after Lance, and even now was trying to keep his part of the bed warm.

 Which he was failing miserably at. How did that boy generate so much heat?

 Coran’s voice interrupted Keiths thoughts.

 “The scanners say this cut, and this one here” he said pointing to Lance’s arm “ are older than the ones sustained during the battle.” Coran shook the scanner in his hand, looking at it quizzically.

Lance, on the other hand, looked a little panicked, and snuck a glance at Keith. Keith shrugged his shoulders. How would he explain that to Coran?

Keith stood up, moving the blankets to try and keep the heat in (because obviously, that would work) and walked over to the pair. He glanced at Lance, and shot him a look. Keith only hoped his plan would work.

He took a breath in, and pointed to the two cuts “You mean these two?” Coran looked at where he was pointing, but didn’t confirm before Keith went on “I was trying to teach Lance how to fight closer range, with blades.” He shook his head, trying to sell the story. “Lance, you should have told me the “scratches” “ he seriously used air quotes “were this bad. I should have looked at them sooner.” Keith shook his head, looking at Lance.

 He could hear Lance breath a sigh, and a look of relief crossed his face. “I didn’t think they were that bad.” he shrugged, sneaking a glance at Coran.

 Coran huffed. “You paladins really need to wear proper training gear while training. That’s what its for, why when my great grandfather…”

 Keith stopped listening, and looked at the scars that ran across Lance’s skin. Coran had made him strip to just pants while he ran his tests, all of Lance’s scars-self-inflicted, or otherwise-visible. What had Lance said? They weren’t in a participation game, but war? That fact was written across Lance’s skin, in all it’s deep glory. The scars across the arms looked like the worst, but there were others, across Lance’s wide back, and chest, that were all from battle.

 Keith knew his body looked the same, but it looked worse on Lance. It looked worse on the dark tan skin of their favourite goofball.

It looked worse seeing it on someone else.

 Keith reached his hand out, gently tracing one of the scars across Lance’s back. The skin was smooth, but slightly raised, like a map of the hurts Lance had been through. He saw Lance looking at him from the corner of his eye, and pulled his hand back cradling it to his chest.

 “Sorry.”

 “No problem.” Lance replied.

 Keith looked back towards the makeshift bed, considering going back, as his cheeks flushed. He didn’t want to make the situation any more awkward, but, could he even? He would just go back, and lay down, and forget everything. That was a valid option, right?

 “All done. You are on bed rest for the day. Once the rest of the paladins wake up, you go right to your room. Keith” Keith snapped his head up at Coran’s voice “you are to watch Lance, and make sure he actually listens to orders.”

 “Uh. Sure” So, today was not going to go as planned.

 “Now, back to bed, both of you. One of us will come wake you again in a few varga.” Coran said, moving away from the table, to let Lance get down. Once he had jumped off, Coran moved back in, hugging the paladin tightly.

 Keith could just hear him say “Thank the ancients…” before pulling away, and turning back to Keith. “I’m counting on you.”

 Keith nodded, cheeks still flushed. He moved towards Lance, offering him a shoulder, which he took. They moved towards the bed, silently, Keith feeling awkward as hell.  Lance got into the blankets first, laying on his back, blankets up to his neck. Keith swallowed hard, and lay down beside him, blankets up around to his waist, arms across his stomach.

 He felt Lance move, and curl up beside him, blanket covered arm snaking around his elbow, and resting his forehead on his shoulder. Keith could feel the heat that radiated from the boy, cheeks flushing even more.

 “Together for an entire day.” Lance whispered, already drifting off to sleep, given his slightly slurred speech. “Guess….guess we can talk then.”

 Lance moved a little closer, and was out.

Chapter Text

I’ll put on a brave face…

...

“Breakfast time, my paladins!” Allura’s clear voice broke through the fog that was Lance’s mind. He’d been, basically, asleep while in the healing pod, so why was he still so exhausted?

 

He heard the others moving around, including Keith, who had his arm curled around Lance’s waist. Lance himself had an arm thrown casually over Hunk’s belly. Pidge was still indistinguishable from the blankets. Was she even still there?

 

He heard Keith groan behind him, and felt the heat from his arm move away. Lance flushed, and had no idea how to react. Okay, sure, some of the physical contact between them was initiated by Lance-he would totally own up to that. There was something about Keith that just drew him in...But the fact that Keith reciprocated, for the most part, blew Lance’s mind. Like, what?

 

“Come on, lazy bones! Coran and I have prepared a huge breakfast for our brave, sleepy paladins, and the food is getting cold!” Allura was so...awake.

 

“Wait. Getting cold? Does that mean it’s not goo?” Hunk asked, perking up.

 

Allura hummed a bit “Maybe. Maybe not. You’ll have to find out yourself, and I suggest sooner rather than later.” She turned to leave, her light foodsteps heading away “Oh, and I warn you, Shiro may not leave anything for the rest of you.”

 

“Damn” Lance heard Pidge say, muffled by blankets.

 

“I want hot food” Lance said, not really to anyone, but in general.

 

“Dude, my man. Me too. I am so for this.” Hunk replied, sitting up and rubbing his eye. “How are you feeling, anyways?” he turned to look at Lance.

 

“I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. And exhausted.” Lance finished his sentence with a long yawn, to accentuate his point.

 

“Better than being dead.”

 

Lance nodded. “Better than being dead.” he echoed. He didn’t want to die, but, most of the time, he didn’t really want to be alive either. But, close enough.

 

“Do you need me to help you to breakfast?” Keith asked behind him. Lance hasn’t even noticed Keith sit up. Lance looked at the boy, who was staring not quite at him, but close. His cheeks were slightly pink, and his hair was a mess.

 

“Good question.” Lance replied, then prepped himself to sit up. He hadn’t been joking when he said like he’d been hit by a bus. Everything ached. Joints, muscles, skin. Everything.

Lance groaned as he pushed himself up to a seated position. Alright, so, things were most assuredly not okay. He glanced at Keith, who was looking at him, eyebrows furrowed.

 

“Yes. Yes I will need help.” Lance stretched out a bit, but had to stop, biting back a cry as something in his arm popped. He still must have made some noise, because both Hunk and Keith reached out to him.

 

“Dude…”

 

“Lance-”

 

Lance waved them both away, even though his arm still smarted. “It’s fine. Seriously. I just need more sleep. And some of that food.”

 

“Hear hear to that” Pidge finally sat up, mounds of blankets falling around her small frame. She cracked her neck and, readjusting her glasses, looked at the boys “Shall we?”

Hunk pushed himself off the floor, and held his hand out to Pidge “Yes. Before Shiro eats everything.” Pidge took his hand, and  pulled herself up, brushing her pajamas off.

Beside him, Keith also stood up, and stretched out his arms. He reached down, like Hunk had, his gloved hand extended to Lance.

 

Lance felt himself flush slightly, but tightly gripped Keith’s warm hand, and let Keith mostly pull him up.

 

“Thanks”

 

Keith just smiled, and wrapped his arm around Lance’s waist, supporting his weight.

 

Hunk looked at them “Keith, you okay there?”

 

“Yea. I got this.” This being Lance. While the whole thing felt rather undignified, Lance had to admit that he was not the most dignified guy to begin with. Besides, being nearly killed took a lot out of a man.

 

Lance and Keith followed Pidge and Hunk-still holding hands- to the kitchen. Every step hurt Lance more than the one before it, his body protesting the movement with every passing second. Coran hadn’t gotten into specifics on how badly he had been hurt, but, given the reactions from the other paladins, and from Coran himself, Lance believe he very likely almost died. Why else would the others camp out at his healing pod? Sure, they had been there the last few times, but those times hadn’t felt the same.

Or involved sleepovers.

 

Lance leaned a bit closer to Keith, the long dark hair tickling Lance’s neck. Keith must have felt the movement, as he looked up at Lance, inquisitive look on his face.

 

Lance turned his head, voice quiet “Level with me...how bad was I coming out of Blue? I asked Hunk and Pidge, but, well, they didn’t say a lot.” He tried to shrug.

 

He heard Keith sigh, and look down, watching the floor in front of his steps, slowing down to let the others move ahead.

 

“Honestly?” At Lance’s nod, he continued. “Pretty damn bad. I think the only reason you aren’t still in the pod is because Hunk literally ran you to the medical bay.”

 

Lance could only nod.

 

“Also? On that note. Seeing Hunk run, and actually mean it, is a pretty terrifying thing. I know we joke about him being a cinnamon roll, but I’m pretty sure he could take all of us, with good enough reason.”

 

Lance laughed. “Okay, that is totally true. I’ve seen him lose his shit only once, and I still have nightmares.”

 

Keith laughed, vibrating through their connection. It hurt Lance physically, but warmed him emotionally. Keith wasn’t the most...open, about anything, so seeing him laugh was good.

 

They were nearing the kitchens, a familiar smell wafting from the room. Lance was trying to pinpoint why it was so familiar, when Hunk gasped from where he was in front of them.

 

“Is that french toast?” was all Hunk got out, before making a mad dash for the door, more garbled words following in his wake.

 

Pidge was right behind him.

 

Lance huffed “No fair! Save some for the cripple!” he shouted.

 

“Hey!” Keith said, indignant.

 

“Save some for the cripple, and his walking stick!” Lance corrected, grinning.

 

Keith elbowed him in the ribs, but said nothing.

 

As they walked through the door, the smell of French toast hit them like a wall. Both Hunk and Pidge already had a huge plateful of food in front of them, and Shiro was at the table, leaning back, hand on his stomach. Coran and Allura were busy at the stoves making more food, both grinning.

 

“Good to see you up and moving, Lance!” Allura exclaimed as she saw him enter the room.

 

Lance smiled back “I wouldn’t call this up and moving, but, baby steps.” he gestured to Keith.

 

Allura put the plate she had down, and came over to give them both a quick hug. Her hand rested of Lance’s shoulder as she looked at him, as if inspecting to make sure he was truly alright.

 

“We do what we must. “ she replied, gently squeezing his shoulder. She turned back towards the stove, busying herself with cooking.

 

“We do what we must” Lance echoed, thoughts, small wisps of understanding, formless, but vital, flittered through his mind.

 

“Wha-” Keith said, interrupting the thoughts.

 

Lance looked down at Keith, gaze burning, intense. He looked at Keith a few moments, as the thought formed, more solid, yet still unreadable.

 

“Can we have breakfast in that observation room?” he asked.

 

Keith’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “I don’t...I don’t see why not?”

 

“Good. I want to talk.”




Chapter Text

I do it all so

You won't see me hurting

When my heart it breaks

...

Keith was surprised how easily everyone agreed to let them leave for breakfast. They were usually pretty consistent when it came to meal times, in that everyone ate together-or at least, close enough. Before they were allowed to leave (with two heaping plates of more french toast than any two humans could possibly eat), Coran checked out Lance again, feeling his forehead; looking at the mostly healed cuts; and inspecting the bruising on his ribs and back. Keith hadn’t even noticed the bruising the night before, and seeing the blotchy purple and black welts across Lance’s skin made him cringe.

Keith waited patiently while the Alteans asked Lance questions, and told them their plans for the day, which consisted of improving the battle alerts for the lions, and wished him a speedy recovery. Lance took it all in stride, better than Keith would have thought, given the last interactions during battle.

Shiro was being strangely quiet, and Keith slowly realized that he had yet to apologize to Lance for his shitty ass behaviour during the battle. While Keith knew that Shiro was wrong, Lance didn’t. And wouldn’t until Shiro said something directly. Keith lowered his eyes at his mentor, and raised his eyebrow when he finally caught Shiro’s attention.

Shiro ignored him, while Lance said his farewells to the rest of the team.

“Ready?” Lance asked, leaning slightly into Keith, his breathing laboured from all the effort of standing. Keith shot Shiro one more look, and then directed the hover tray of food to follow them.

“Yea, let’s go.” Keith said, leading the way out the door, supporting Lance’s lean body.

The two paladins didn’t talk much while they made their way down the castle halls, which were quiet, their slippers making quiet whooshing noises as they walked slowly towards the observation deck.

Keith could hear and feel Lance’s breathing become more and more laboured, the exertion taking what little energy Lance had left. Still, Lance didn’t say anything, but the look on his face was of pain, a bead of sweat dripping down the side of his face.

Keith stopped, his arm around Lance pulling the other boy to a stop.

“Lance. Just...I’m going to carry you the rest of the way. You can just, like, deal.” Before Lance could say anything, Keith bent over and scooped his arm under Lance’s knees, and hoisted him up bridal style. Lance wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck, the skin on his neck faintly pink.

One of the first things Keith noticed was how hot Lance was. Like, physically temperature wise. He stopped moving, and moved his hands around Lance as best he could, given their position.

“Are...are you running a fever?” Keith asked.

“What?” Lance replied, startled. “Well, a bit. The healing pod always makes me run a fever. It’s no big deal.”

Keith just stared. Not a big deal? “How did Coran not notice?”

Lance shrugged “It didn’t start until we started walking.” He was quiet a few moments. “Seriously, it’s not a big deal. A few hours, a bit of sleep, and I’ll be good.”

Keith raised his eyebrow, but continued walking. “If you say so.” he paused “but if not, you’re going back to the medical bay for a checkup.”

Lance snorted “Fine.”

The rest of the walk to the  deck was quiet, both boys locked in their own thoughts.

...

 

Lance was both very ecstatic and very uncomfortable with the way the morning was progressing. This was NOT how he was his first morning out of the healing pod going. What with the supportive and engaged team; Coran being so emotional over his health and recovery; the french toast-like, what even the hell?; and now Keith carrying him to the observation deck for a talk. Like, maybe even a bonding talk.

It was confusing and terrifying. Lance wanted to get out of this entire thing, wanted to jump from Keith’s arm, and run as fast as he could to his room, to be alone.

To be away from the expectation. To get out of this conversation.

When Lance said he was ready, he was not. But, what Allura had said, about doing what we must, got thoughts going in Lance’s head. Good thoughts, about maybe getting past all this, once and for all. Getting past...the past. Lance knew that he needed to heal, knew that he needed to let people in, and talk, and all the things that countless therapists had told him for years...but it was just so fucking hard . And maybe it was too soon. Lance wanted to heal, but now that he was faced with talking about it, he felt his insides squeeze up, his body tense.

Lance felt his insides turn to ice when Keith entered the observation deck, the tray of food already waiting for them near the couch.

His heart started beating faster, vibrating against his chest, almost demanding an escape. He couldn’t do this. He needed more time. He needed to get away.

Lance started squirming, trying to get out of Keith’s grip, panic rising in his throat, like a trapped animal being sent to his death. He tried to push Keith away, but the grip around his legs tightened, the panic blinding Lance, body trembling.

He didn’t even hear Keith calling his name, gently at first, then more demanding, breaking through the fog clouding his mind.

“Lance!”

Lance looked at Keith, eyes wide, breathing coming in gasps, body trembling in the other paladins arms. Lance could feel himself losing it, could feel himself drowning, everything becoming just...too...much.

He felt Keith put him down on the couch, felt the others hands on his face, forcing Lance’s face to move until they were an inch apart, Keith’s violet eyes boring into his own.

“Lance. Listen to me. I won’t say that everything is going to be okay, because hearing that sort of shit is exactly why I left therapy.” Lance’s breathing was slowing, the black fog of his mind clearing, slowly. “But nothing bad is happening now. Right now” Keith looked down, forcing Lance’s head to do the same, the plates of breakfast coming into view “right now, we are going to eat. Nothing else. Just eat. Okay?”

Lance felt himself nod, his heart slowing back to normal speeds as the ticks went on. Keith kept his hands on Lance’s hot face, his hands cool and soothing.

Lance took in a shuddering breath, and exhaled. “It’s getting cold.” he said, voice hoarse.

Keith removed his hands, and then readjusted his spot on the couch, moving Lance’s long legs so he had more room. Lance watched as he moved the food trays closer to them, and pulled the little table up to the couch. Keith went about setting up the plates and cutlery slowly, looking at Lance every few ticks.

Lance had embarrassed himself. Again. He sighed, and dropped his head in his hands, the urge to cry overwhelming. He could feel his lip tremble.

Was there nothing he could do right? Was this why no one wanted him, why no one would stay? Was he so fucked up that not a single fucking person wouldn’t leave?

The first hot tear slid down his face, as he felt a hand on his knee. Lance didn’t even look up, the second tear falling.

Another fucking breakdown, in front of Keith. The best everything, even friend. The only person who was still around Lance. And of course, he has to have a goddamn panic attack, followed by a damn mental breakdown. No. He had to get it together. Lance took a deep breath in, focusing on the hand on his knee. He could do this. He had to do this. At least, he had to get through breakfast. The rest...well, that could wait.

He wiped his eyes, thankful Keith chose not to say anything.

Lance sniffed, but pulled his head up. “Sorry.”

Keith shrugged. “It happens. Don’t worry about it.” he handed Lance a fork. “Let’s eat.” He watched Keith cut a piece of the bread and shove it into his mouth, the sweet sticky sauce they had added dropping onto his chin.

“Okay” Keith said, while still chewing “But how in the hell would Allura and Coran even know about french toast? I know Hunk has talked about a lot of earth food, but I don’t think this was one of them.” he shoved another piece in his mouth “I don’t miss much about earth, but, dude, this is amazing.”

Lance smiled, watching Keith eat, and talk at the same time.

He felt the tension leave his body, exhaustion hitting him like a wall, as all that panic just...left. He slumped down further into the couch, but took the plate in front of him, and began eating the (surprisingly) still-warm french toast.

“You are not wrong there.” Lance replied, the bread melting into sweet cinnamon goodness in his mouth. “This is fantastic.”

They ate the rest of the food, mostly in silence, punctuated by exclamations of how delicious the food was. Once they were done, and the food all gone, they both settled back into the couch, looking out the windows. The stars and planets were all far off, bright colours against the inky blackness. Lance was slowly relaxing as he zoned out. He could feel Keith moving beside him, and he glanced over to see Keith taking his gloves off.

Keith noticed him looking, but concentrated on getting his gloves off. “I get that this is hard. I do. I...I understand that. I do.” Keith took a shaky breath in, finally pulling both gloves off. “I am not as okay as I let on.” he paused “Well, I’m a bit better now, but, that’s the thing about the healing process, or whatever the fuck it’s called. It’s a process. Not everything happens overnight, right?” he glanced up at Lance.

Lance nodded, but said nothing. That seed of panic was building again, but Lance was pushing it down.

Keith pulled his jacket off, placing it on the couch behind them. Slowly, he began to roll his sleeves up, face flushed, as he began speaking again, voice quiet.

“I never really knew my parents. I was abandoned by my mom, and I never knew her” he snorted “Guess we know why now.” he paused again, but continued “And my dad was never really around, and then, after I turned 5, he was just...gone. I was put in foster care, but no one wanted me too long. I was too “moody” and “maladjusted” or whatever bullshit they came up with. I went to a few dozen families, some of them better than others. At best, I was ignored. At worst, well, at least the physical scars match the mental ones. Eventually,  I was shipped off to the Garrison, where I met Shiro.”

He had finished rolling up his sleeves, and held them out to Lance, the pain on his face as he stared at the boy plain in his eyes. Keith looked vulnerable and hurt.

Keith looked down, turning his wrists over. Lance followed suit, and took a breath in. Keith’s pale wrists had deep, thick, white scars criss-crossing the skin. Lance looked up at Keith, but he continued to stare down. Lance reached his hand out, gently touching the barely raised marks, running his fingers along them, tracing them.

Keith took a breath in, and it shuddered on the way out. “When Shiro disappeared...it was like the universe decided I couldn’t really have anything. It was like having the only good thing in my life violently ripped away…” the hands in Lance’s closed into fists “It was like there was nothing I could do to just be happy.”

“Keith-”

Keith talked over Lance, hands still gripped into fists, as he stared at nothing. “We fought together. We bled together. And, sure, I’m not happy with him right now, but I would have died for him. When he disappeared...I thought I had. The only person who cared for me...just gone. Like, it didn’t matter.” Keith looked up at Lance, pain and misery etched in his face, violet eyes shiny with unshed tears, as memory was re-lived.

“I couldn’t deal with it.” the voice the came out of Keith was broken, utterly defeated. Keith looked down again, and moved his wrists, indicating the scars.

Lance waited a few minutes, to see if Keith would continue. When he didn’t, he gently said “But, you did deal. Enough to still be here. How?”

Keith smirked, face barely twitching. “Well, for one, I’m an ornery bastard, who will fight to the end. But, mostly, when I was at my worst was when I felt the energy from the desert. The only that led us to your lion.” Lance raised his eyebrows in shock, and Keith really smiled. “ I really need to thank her for that.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, but not uncomfortable. Keith kept his hands on Lance, who continued to gently trace the skin around the white scars.

Lance took a deep breath in, and closed his eyes, fingers still tracing the now-warm skin of the other boy. He had known that Keith hadn’t had the best upbringing, but, hearing that much-and doing some guesswork-Lance had a better understanding of the red paladin.

Lance took another deep breath in, and kept his eyes closed.

“I am the accident that led to my father getting a vasectomy. A fact which I have been told more times than I can count….”

 

Chapter Text

If I scream at the top of my lungs

Will you hear what I don't say?

...

Lance could feel himself become numb, and he was glad for it. Life was easier when you couldn’t feel anything. When the sharp stabbing pain of reality was dulled. When the knowledge of not being enough was lessened.  He wouldn’t be able to get through this if he could feel it all, if he had to remember it all, re-live it all. Like Keith had with his confession, Lance planned on glossing over the details.

Keith didn’t need them.

Lance couldn’t forget them.

“My accidental birth never really sat well with my father. Anything he didn’t like, or agree with, or went against his values….he took out on me. Physically, emotionally, whatever.” Lance took a breath in, and let it out slowly. He still had his eyes closed, but Keith’s hands were in his, rubbing soothing circles on his skin.

“Not all of my scars are from me. Or battle.” Keith gently squeezed his hand, but said nothing.

“As the youngest, I was expected to live up to certain family expectations. Perfect grades-which we both know are impossible, since, I’m not that smart. I needed good friends, from good families, which is hard, when you’re shy and insecure, and covering bruises most of the time. The few friends I did manage to make...well. No one ever stuck around. Ever. All my sisters left as soon as they could, even though they knew what our father did to me.”

Lance was quiet for a while, remembering. The look on his eldest sisters face when she left. She wouldn’t even say goodbye-she just apologized over and over, tears streaming down her face.  His other sisters didn’t even do that. They were just...gone. None of them ever came back.

“I suppose the one good quality about me is that I never expect anything from anyone. Just...to be as disappointed as I must make everyone else.”

“No one has really hidden how often they’re disappointed in some, or all aspects of me. I tried to hard to make my parents love me, to make my sisters love me. Hell, even my extended family never really found a use for me. I wanted to think I was adopted...I prayed some nice family would come find me, and save me. I had this recurring dream about a nice family who loved me, with siblings who actually wanted to be around me. A family, like the ones on TV. But even that dream turned into a nightmare. No one ever came for me. And so, there I was. Alone.”

Lance opened his eyes, and sat up a bit, looking at Keith, who was staring at their entwined hands.

“The first time I brought a girl home-and it was to do a group project mind you-my father accused me of fucking her in his bed, and beat me so bad I had to go to the hospital with a concussion. Because of course a 10 year old is only capable of doing that kind of thing. Because a goddamn 10 year old-” He took a shuddering breath in, but didn’t continue.

He could feel Keith’s hands gripping tight.

“The first time I brought home a boy...I was forced to go to the garrison to “straighten me up” “ Lance slowly nodded his head, and looked away from Keith, and where they were touching. “The only time they called was to tell me how I was now disowned for not becoming a fighter pilot in my first year.”

He heard Keith’s sharp intake of breath, but refused to look. He just stared off out the window, watching the streaks of stars drift by, the colours blurring in Lance’s eyes as they filled with unshed tears. He didn’t blame Keith for being better than him-who could? No. Lance blamed himself. It was his fault he couldn’t pass the flight test. His fault for everything.

He took a deep breath in, and it shuddered out.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with me, Keith. Something that must...repulse other people. Something that makes people instinctively and violently flinch away from me. Some core aspect of me that other people can’t be around.” a hot tear fell down his face, but he refused to wipe it away. Besides Keith still had his hands in a death grip. He took another deep breath in.

“Even you can’t deny it.”

“What?” Keith’s voice was hoarse as he spoke.

“It’s true.” Lance finally looked over at the boy, who looked horror struck, eyes wide, eyebrows furrowed. Hands still in a death grip around his own. Lance could feel his fever getting worse, and being sick made the whole scenario worse.

He hated being sick. No one ever noticed, or took care of him, so he would have to make his own soup, go to the store for his own medicine, still do his chores. All of which only prolonged his sickness, which made his father even more angry. Being beat was no picnic, being beat while sick was hell. Lance learned to suck it up, and force a brave face.

“When we all first met, while we...while you saved Shiro...I tried so hard to be someone else. I tried so hard to make you guys like me. I thought that being someone, anyone else, in a new place, with no one who really knew me...I thought I could finally find acceptance. I thought I could make you guys like me.” He snorted. “And we know how well that worked out.”

Lance extracted his hands from Keith’s, and tucked them under his arms. He turned to look outside again, unable to watch Keith process. He was cold, and tired, and emotionally drained. His head felt fuzzy and the only thing he wanted was to curl into a ball. Alone.

“Lance-”

"It’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it. Maybe not in the way someone else would, but, here we are.” Lance replied.

“Why do you think I’m here then?” Keith asked after a few moments of silence. He hadn’t tried to take Lance’s hands again, and he was grateful.

“Because it’s easier than leaving just Coran to pilot the ship.” Lance cocked his head to the side, while he turned to look at Keith. “Like, obviously. Allura is an amazing Paladin, better than I am, by far. But the ship needs at least two Alteans to operate properly and be of any use in battle.”

Keith lowered his eyebrows, and just glared. “Dude. Are you fucking kidding me?”

Lance moved to face Keith full on, his head spinning, blackness dancing around the edges of his vision. “What? We all know it’s true!”

Keith gripped Lance’s shoulder, jostling Lance, making his head swim even more.

“Dammit, Lance. I’m here because I genuinely-”

Lance didn’t hear any more as his head kept moving towards Keith, unbidden. The blackness that danced around his eyes overtook his vision, his last sight of Keith’s angry, violet eyes, before unconsciousness claimed him.

Chapter Text

The Show is wasted on you

...

“A fever? Why didn’t you bring him in right away?”

“Of course that piece of shit is sick!”

“Is he going back into the pod?”

“Hunk, it will be fine. Just...calm down.”

“Worthless piece of shit son, is there anything you can’t fuck up?”

“Allura, can you grab that blanket?”

“We need to get his temperature under control!”

“Should have killed you when I had the chance.”

“Dammit, Coran, do something!”

Lance was hot. He could feel his insides burning up, breath coming in gasps, trying to just...breathe. His lungs felt like something was pressing on them, suffocating. He tried to move, but couldn’t, his limbs tangled up in blankets, hands touching him.

His breath became more laboured, coming in quick, panicked gasps. He flexed his muscles, forcing his arms to move, push himself up. There was a cool hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down. He tried to push it away, tried to get away.

“Lance, please. You must lay down. You are very sick, and we are trying to make you better. Please, let us help you.”

The soothing feminine voice calmed Lance, and he lay back down. The cool hand moved away from his skin, after a small squeeze.

Lance felt a small injection in his arm, then the cool blackness overcame him again.

 

 

Keith watched Lance sink back into unconsciousness, as the others bustled around him in the medical bay. When Lance had blacked out, Keith freaked out. Initially, he’d forgotten about the fever, forgot that Lance was feeling sick at all. When he had touched Lance’s skin to try to revive him, he remembered as the skin burned his hands.

Keith felt like complete and utter shit. It was his fault Lance was in this condition, which was...not good. He’d picked Lance up and ran to the medical bay, calling for the others as he ran. Hunk, Pidge, and Coran were the first ones to hear him, and, when they saw him running with an unconscious Lance, they raced behind him. Coran had reached the medical bay first, and rushed in to get a bed ready. Keith had gently lain the boy out, and grabbed the blankets from their sleepover, throwing them over Lance.

Hunk had lost it., once he got in the room, and collapsed by the bed, holding Lance’s hand in his own. He was still there now.

Pidge had made a little sound when she touched Lance, but, pushed her glasses up, and looked at Coran. “What can I do to help?”

Coran had listed several things, and she set right to it, taking Lance’s temperature, setting up weird machines to monitor...stuff? Keith wasn’t entirely sure what everything did. He didn’t care, either, as long as Lance got better.

Shiro and Allura came running in just as Coran was injecting some liquid into an IV drip. They had both paused at the door, looking crestfallen, before rushing over to help. Allura and Coran had spoken in Altean and she bustled about, while Shiro had come over to Keith.

“You were with him...what happened?” Shiro asked, standing beside Keith, but looking at Lance, eyes worried,

Keith shook his head. “I noticed he had a bit of a fever-”

“A fever? Why didn’t you bring him in right away?” Coran yelled, briefly looking away from Lance to shoot a glare at Keith.

Keith’s eyes went wide. Okay. Yes. He should have brought Lance back, but Lance said it was fine. And Keith was looking forward to having breakfast together, regardless of how...awkward and heartbreaking the conversation was.

“He said he always got a fever after leaving the pod. He said it wasn’t a big deal.”

Coran huffed from where he was, but said nothing.

“Okay, so?” Shiro prodded.

“So we were in one of the observation rooms” Keith had never told anyone else about the room they used. There were several observation decks, all of them more used than the one they actually used. “And Lance did eat all of his food, so I assumed he was feeling better enough. We were just talking, when he went deathly pale and collapsed. Once I realized it was the fever, I picked him up and ran here.”

Shiro nodded at Keith, then looked at where Lance lay, both Coran and Allura fussing over the equipment.

“Is he going back into the pod?” he asked.

“We need to get his temperature under control before we can do that. Alteans and humans have different physiology, and the healing pod won’t fix what is wrong with him.”

Shiro moved closer to the bed, and nearly kicked Hunk, who was nearly hidden under the bed, hanging blankets, and Allura’s skirts.

“Dammit. Sorry, Hunk. You okay?” Shiro knelt down to talk.

“Of course I’m not okay! My best friend might be dying, and there’s nothing we can do!”

“Hunk, it will be fine. Just...calm down.” Allura said, looking down at the boys near her feet. “We’re going to give him some medicine, and everything should be okay. Although” she looked up at Coran thoughtfully “it may react with his system.”

Coran stroked his beard. “You’re right.” he considered a few more moments, looking at Lance fondly. “But it shouldn’t be too bad.”

“What...what’s the reaction?” Keith asked, looking between the Alteans.

Coran looked at Keith when he responded. “A bit of delirium, maybe some visions? Lock him in his mind for a bit, in a way.”

Keith’s veins turned to ice. No. No, that was a bad idea. A terrible idea. Given what Lance had just told him...this was literally the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. If Lance had to re-live all that again ...had to be trapped there again…

It was all Keith’s fault.

Hunk seemed to agree, his face having gone white, as he stood up so suddenly, he knocked both Allura and Shiro out of the way.

“No!” he shouted. “Dudes, you can’t do that to him. Is there anything else?”

“Hunk, it’s not going to kill him-”

“We need to get his temperature under control!” Pidge shouted, pointing at the monitors.

His temperature had somehow gone up, and was nearing dangerous levels. The entire group stared at the monitor.

“Dammit, Coran, do something!” Pidge shouted again, shoving him with her hand.

Coran nodded, and prepared the needle with the medicine. Hunk looked like he was going to be sick.

"Isn’t there anything else you can use?” Keith asked, chewing his lip. He didn’t want this. He couldn’t stand by and let them trap Lance in his mind. Not if there was something-anything-else they could use.

Hunk shot him a grateful look, but they were interrupted from saying anything, because Lance was trying to move. He was feebly struggling against both Allura and Coran, small whimpers coming from Lance as he tried to hard to fight.

Allura placed her hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him down.

“Lance, please. You must lay down. You are very sick, and we are trying to make you better. Please, let us help you.”

Lance slowly lay back down, another small whimper escaping.

Hunk was now holding Lance’s hand again, as he looked at Allura.

“Really, guys, you have to find another way. You can’t trap him in his mind.” Hunk looked down, and was silence a few ticks, before looking back up. “Lance hasn’t had the best childhood. Trapping him in those memories….it might destroy him.”

Hunk didn’t elaborate any further, but Keith continued to stare. So. Hunk knew. Did he know everything? Should they team up to try and stop this? Even if either of them knew only a portion-because surely Lance hadn’t told him everything-Keith suspected whatever Lance wasn’t saying was worse.

“Hunk is right guys-” Keith began, quietly.

“And done.” Coran said, triumphant. “Should be all healed in a few varga. This time, he’s staying here for observation.” Coran put the needle down on a tray, and looked to where Pidge was still monitoring Lance’s vitals.

True to their word, the medicine was already working, Lance’s temperature was going down, and his heartbeat becoming more regular. The danger had passed.

Keith ran his hand through his hair, taking a deep breath in, and letting it out slowly. Everything about this day had turned to shit. He would normally train now, to work through the issues, but, he couldn’t leave Lance. Not now. Not this time. He’d already let the boy down once today, he would be dammed if he did it again.

“Why don’t you guys go finish what you were doing?” Keith said, looking at the others. “It’s just a waiting game now, right? A few varga?” Keith shrugged nonchalantly, feeling anything but. “I was going to be with him all day anyways. I’ll make sure he stays put.”

The others all looked among them. Keith knew that Allura and Shiro had important diplomatic stuff to do, and Pidge, Hunk and Coran were still elbow deep in lion wires. Hell, Pidge still had a grease mark on her cheek.

“Okay” Coran relented first “but if anything, and I mean anything-I don’t care how small-changes, you are to call me immediately.” Coran pointed a finger at Keith to emphasize his point.

Keith nodded, and watched the others slowly move away from the bed, all placing reassuring pats on Lance as they went by.

“I’m staying too.” Hunk said, resolute. He still had Lance’s hand in his, and looked ready to maim anyone who denied his request.

“Sure. I could use the company” Keith said, interjecting before anyone else could say anything. The others all nodded, and continued out the door.,

Hunk and Keith were left alone with the unconscious Lance.

Chapter Text

The room was dark and cold. Lance has been here before, long ago. This was his room, the one his family still lived in. He hadn’t been there since being shipped off the the garrison. And he wouldn’t go back there, ever. His father had made it perfectly clear he was never to darken their doorstep again.

He knew this was a dream-this had to be a dream, but he couldn’t wake himself up. He could feel the cold pit of terror building, panic building.

He knew what was coming. And there was nothing he could do to stop it. Nothing he could do. He couldn’t escape-he never could.

The hollow pit grew and grew, and he saw it coming.

The door opened, the strip of light nearly blinding in the darkness. Lance had hidden in his room-he couldn’t remember why-but his dad found him.

He always found Lance.

Lance started backing towards the wall, hands scratching at the floor, trying to get away. He could feel the blood forming on his fingers where he’d pulled the nails back, but he didn’t care. Splinters cut into his feet, as he pushed away from the man who had fathered him.

He didn’t even notice. He just needed to get as far away as he could.

With each passing moment, his father moved closer and closer...the smell of alcohol permeated the room, making Lance feel sick. His dad was a hard man sober. Drunk...drunk he was terrifying. Drunk meant that those normal impulse controls weren’t there.

Drunk meant that Lance was going to hurt.

“I know your putrid ass is in here. What a fucking piece of cowardly shit you are. Hidin in your goddamn room. Like I wouldn’t find you.”

Lance pressed himself into the wall, terror shortening his breath, making it hard to breathe.

“What a waste. A complete fucking waste.” Lance could see his father shake his head in the light pouring in behind him from the open door.

“Dad-”

“Don’t fucking call me that! A piece of shit like you doesn’t get to claim me as your father. You are nothing to me.”

Lance didn’t reply.

“Worse than your whore sisters. Spreading their legs for any fucking one to take it for free. Fucking sluts.” his father paused, only a few feet in front of Lance. “And you. You’re no better. Except no one would ever fuck you, you fucking dog.”

Lance has heard this all before. Many times. But it didn’t hurt less.

His father crouched down, right in front of Lance, his eyes glinting in the hall light. He stared at Lance a few moments, eyes full of scorn, and judgement. Hatred.

Before Lance could move, his father’s hand were around his throat, lifting him off the floor. He couldn’t breathe. He gripped at the hands, twisting, squeezing, anything to loosen the hold.

A punch to the eye left Lance reeling, the hands ever-so-slightly releasing around his throat, giving him breathe...but only for a second. Another punch, to the gut caused him to choke.

He vaguely felt blood dripping down his face as he tried to catch his breath, the edges of his eyes going fuzzy....

“You stupid fucking waste of goddamn-

Another punch…

 

 

Hunk eyes Keith thoughtfully as he gently rubbed Lance’s hand. They had been watching Lance in silence for a few dobosh, lost in their own thoughts.

“How much did he tell you?” Hunk asked, turning to look at Lance.

The question caught Keith off guard, and he just stared “What?”

“Most people think Lance would love to be in his own mind for a while. Most people think he had this wonderful, picture perfect childhood, full of family and love.” Hunk paused, pushing some of Lance’s bangs off his clammy forehead, and look at Keith “You seem to understand how not true that is.”

Keith didn’t know  a lot about Lance’s friendship with Hunk, but did know that the friendship had spanned at least a few years before they went to the garrison. So, had Hunk seen anything? The line of questioning made Keith think yes, but, he didn’t want to say too much, just in case.

Lance had trusted him with his story. He would die before betraying that trust.

“I don’t think anyone would want to be trapped in their memories, no matter how good a past they had,” he finally replied.

Hunk nodded “True. I mean, the worst part of my childhood was some extreme neglect, but it doesn’t mean I want to go through that again.” at Keith’s raised eyebrow, Hunk continued “Okay, so, I say extreme neglect, but, really, it wasn’t that bad. I’m an only child, and my parents wanted to make sure I had everything I ever wanted. They worked all the time to make that happen, and I was alone a lot. It’s not like they beat me or anything.”

Hunk watched Keith closely when he said that, noticing the way the other looked away-just for a second. Hunk had all the confirmation he needed.

“I had a nanny for a while, and she was nice. She taught me how to cook, and how to love food. Which is more than my parents ever did.” Hunk released Lance’s hand, and grabbed a damp cloth from a table nearby, using it to gently dab at Lance’s face, which was becoming sweaty.

Keith moved closer to the bed, partly to be closer to Lance, but also to be closer to Hunk. Keith had never really heard much about the other paladins pasts-not the not awesome stuff anyways. After Shiro had clammed up about what had happened to him-at least to the others-Pidge had said she wasn’t really into backstory anyways, and no one brought up Pre-Voltron times, except in the case of funny stories.

Lance began moving in his sleep, just a few little twitches of his arms, and started sweating more. Hunk continued to  wipe his forehead and neck while he continued his story.

“I met Lance when I was, like, 8 or something. Our parents set up a playdate, I think? I can’t really remember that well, it was so long ago. See, my dad works with Lance’s mom, which is why we met. Well, actually, Lance’s mom sorta works for my dad, so it’s not like she had a lot of choice. Anyways. Somehow it came up that my parents, and Lance’s parents had kids around the same age, and then bam, playdate. I don’t remember a lot of the early ones, but there was this one...where Lance’s dad had been there.” Hunk shook his head, and a dark look crossed his face. “That man is complete asshole. Right up there with Zarkon for title of Evil Dudes.”

Hunk was interrupted by a sound from Lance. Looking down at him, it was obvious that the nightmares had begun. Lance was sweating, and twisting and pulling away from the sheets, his legs becoming tangled. Keith placed a hand on his shoulder, and held his sweaty hand.

“It’s okay, Lance. We got you. Nothing is going to happen.” Keith said softly, gently stroking Lance with his thumb.

On his other side, Hunk was stroking Lance’s other hand and arm. His face was wrecked-it genuinely killed Hunk to see his friend like this. Keith wasn’t doing much better. Lance had already been through enough-was this really necessary? He’d lived through everything once, and, as Keith was very aware, the memories were enough to kill. Being trapped in those memories?

Keith wouldn’t have survived.

But that wasn’t going to happen to Lance. Not if he and Hunk had anything to do with it.

“Isn’t there a way we can just wake him up?” Keith said, holding down an arm, as Lance’s thrashing increased.

Hunk shook his head. “No way dude. You heard Coran and Allura. We’re just going to have to ride this out, and be there for him when he wakes up.”

Lances continues to thrash about, sweat pouring down his face, small whimpers turning into almost screams. The pair held down limbs that threatened both themselves, and Lance.

“If I ever meet his father, I’m going to fucking kill him.” Keith said, narrowing missing Lance’s nails slashing his face.

“Take a number.” was Hunk’s growled reply.

It took nearly a varga, but, eventually Lance calmed down, and seemed to slip into a normal sleep. His fever had broken, but he still looked exhausted. Both Hunk and Keith continued to hold his hands, and gently stroke his skin.

“It looks like the medicine wore off. I don’t want to wake him up, but, should we?” Keith looked at Hunk as he asked. “I mean, what if he’s still having bad dreams?”

Hunk bit his lip, considering. “Yea. No, I think you’re right. He tends to do better when he knows people who actually care are around. And, he knows we care….” Hunk trailed off, eyebrow raised slightly at Keith.

“I do.” Keith confirmed. Ever since Shiro has disappeared, and Keith had assumed temporary leadership of Voltron, he had come to care for and rely on Lance, a lot. More than he wanted to admit. There was just something about Lance that Keith couldn’t get enough of, but, to admit that would be to admit things he wasn’t ready for.

“Then lets wake him up. Can you grab some water?” Hunk asked.

Keith nodded, and walked over to their makeshift sleepover area, There was still some drinks left from the previous night, and he just grabbed one of them. Hopefully, Lance-or Hunk-wouldn’t lose their shit over lukewarm water.

He made his way back to the bed, where Hunk had gotten Lance to groggily sit up, with Hunk’s help. He watched Lance look around, fear and resignation in his face, his brown eyes darting around. Keith stabbed the water pack with the straw, and held it out.

“It’s okay, Lance buddy. We got you.” Hunk said over and over, taking the water from Keith and moving the straw to Lance, who drank the water.

Keith sat down again, on the other side of Lance, and, after a second of hesitation, gently stroked the boys arm. Lance jerked away, and moved towards Hunk, before looking at Keith.

Keith tried not to feel hurt over the rejection, but, it was hard. He thought they had bonded enough for casual touch, hell, they’d slept beside each other the previous night. But, maybe Keith was wrong.

“Sorry.” Lance mumbled, taking the straw out of his mouth.

Keith shrugged “It’s okay.”

“No, I-” Lance started.

“Really, Lance. It’s fine. You’ve had a rough couple of days. I get it.” Keith said, standing up. He wasn’t going to leave, but, he needed to be away, just to clear his head. He pushed the chair out of the way, and turned towards the back of the medical bay.

Lance reached out, and gently grabbed his sleeve. Keith turned around to look, but Lance had turned back to Hunk.

“Can we-” Lance cleared his throat, face flushing “Can we all lay on the sleepover bed? Together?” Lance’s voice ws so quiet, Keith could barely make out what he was saying.

Hunk smiled, and moved to pick Lance off the bed, bridal style. “Yea, my best dude. We can. Right Keith?”

Keith felt like a deer in the headlights. “Uh...right?”

Keith followed Hunk, Lance in his arms, towards the sleepover bed, grabbing a few extra waters on his way. He watched Hunk gently lower Lance to the middle of the bed, and fuss about with the pillows and blankets, making sure Lance was comfortable, before sliding into the bed himself. Keith rubbed his neck with his hand, and took a deep breath in.

He slid into the bed on the other side of Lance, after taking off his jacket, and lay on his back. He felt Lance turn partly towards him, and Keith looked over. Lance still looked shaken, and nervous. And sick. The fever had broke, but there were dark circles under his eyes, and his skin was still clammy.

“I am sorry.” Lance whispered.

Keith shook his head “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” He looked at Lance, and offered a small smile “Just, get some rest.”

Lance nodded, and yawned. He reached over Keith’s body, grabbing his left arm, and pulled it over him, before turning towards Hunk. Keith had no choice but to roll to his side, and spoon up behind Lance, his arm tucked into Lance’s. Lance was tucked into Hunk on his other side, Hunks’s arm around Lance, completely surrounded.

 

Chapter Text

Lance woke with a start, heart racing. He tried to sit up, but couldn’t. He could feel the panic rising, the urge to move, to run, was so strong, he couldn’t fight it. Lance struggled with the weight holding him down, throwing the object off, and sat up.

His head felt fuzzy and the movement made him dizzy, but the panic that woke Lance was still there, still strong. Beads of sweat formed on his skin, cool against his hot skin. He looked around, trying to find the source.

Hunk was to his right, on his back, passed out completely. He had his arm thrown across his face, and the other was where Lance had been. Hunk had always been a heavy sleeper. But Lance had spent enough time around Hunk to know he wasn’t the source of his panic.

Lance looked around.

Keith was to his left, and was staring right at him, violet eyes concerned and searching. He was wrapped in blankets still, laying on his side, facing Lance.

He raised his eyebrow as Lance continued to stare at him, heartbeat slowing back to normal.

“Bad dream?”  Keith whispered.

“Uh” Lance started. Now that Keith mentioned it, Lance did feel the cold grip of a nightmare on his mind. Something in his memory… “Yea. Must have been.”

“Did you want to talk about it?” Keith asked, sitting up onto one elbow.

Lance shook his head. “Not now. I just….don’t want to think about it. Is that okay?” he asked, looking back to Keith.

“Of course. Whatever works for you, man.” Keith sat up, leaning his elbow on his knee. “Look, Lance. I...I’m really sorry. About everything. “ he looked down, playing with his gloves. “It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have pressed you. I should have been paying more attention..I was just...I dunno.” he sighed, frustrated. “I was listening to you, and, I guess, I just needed to know more. Or something. Whatever. I’m sorry.”

“Keith...it’s okay. Really. I...I’m happy you are here to talk to.” Lance could feel his heartbeat slowing more, and he was glad. Being around Keith made Lance feel somehow better. “And it isn’t your fault.”

Keith snorted, but didn’t respond. He was still engrossed with his gloves, and not looking at him.

Lance yawned and looked around again. He had no idea what time it was, but it was clear that no one had looked in on them since they had left, so Lance assumed it was still fairly early. He yawned again, and his eyes felt heavy. Nightmares weren’t exactly conducive to a good sleep, and Lance was exhausted.

“Keith?” Lance asked, in a small quiet voice.

Keith looked up “Yea?”

Lance lowered his eyes, but continued “I’m still tired...and...and a little depressed. Being around you...ugh. Dammit. Keith, can we cuddle again? Just until I fall asleep?” Lance hated to ask for comfort, for affection. But, being around Keith made it easier to deal with his shit, and he was just so tired. Tired in a way that needed more than just sleep. Soul tired. The kind of tired that sleep alone wouldn't cure. The kind of tired bone deep. But, one thing at a time.

To Lance’s surprise, Keith smiled, kicked his leg back out, and lay on his side. He held his arms out, like he was waiting for Lance to lay in them. Which he was. “Come on, let’s get you some more sleep.”  Keith blushed the entire time, but, who was Lance to complain? He was the one who asked for cuddles.

Lance turned on his side, facing away from Keith, and lay down. Keith wrapped his arm around Lance’s chest, and pulled him closer, so that their bodies were touching chest to knees. Lance felt his face getting warmer, and was glad Keith couldn’t see him. Once Lance was comfortable, Keith snaked his arm up around Lance, resting against his chest, and holding onto his shoulder. Keith’s other arm was being used as a pillow for Lance’s head.

As uncomfortable as the position was, Lance had never been more comfortable in his life. He could feel his eyelids drooping closed, as the sweet release of sleep was slowly claiming him.

“Keith?”

“Yea?” the voice was soft behind him.

“I’m sorry about...about flinching earlier. It was just the dreams...I have a thing about people I can’t see touching me. It wasn’t you at all...just me, and my shit.”

Keith pulled Lance a bit closer, burying his forehead into Lance’s back, between his shoulders. “It’s fine. Really. I get it.”

Lance smiled, his eyes shut. He felt warm, and happy, and, almost cared for.  “Thanks.”

Keith hummed behind him, the vibrations of his chest against Lances back luring him that last step into sleep.

 

Chapter Text

I want you to notice

...

Keith was awake long before either Hunk or Lance. He had never really slept much and, over the past few days, he’d gotten more sleep than he usually did in a week. He wanted to get up and move, but didn’t dare move. Lance was still cocooned in his arms, his body warm and relaxed, still pressed against the front of Keith, hand clutched around his own.

There was almost nothing in this galaxy that would get him to move, and may the ancients have mercy on whoever interrupted them, because Keith would have none.

Okay. So, Keith was enough of a man to admit that the little crush he’d had on Lance in the garrison was back. But, in a very different way. At the garrison, Keith had been drawn to the happy-go-lucky flirt that didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Now...Keith knew that none of that was true, none of that was real. Lance was a very different person that he had thought and, truthfully, he liked this one better. The real one.

Not that he was going to do anything about it, of course, because that would be fucking suicide. Lance was not in the position, emotionally or mentally, to be in any kind of relationship even if he did reciprocate Keith’s interest. No. Lance needed to heal and come to terms with being just him before he could be with someone else. Hell, if Keith were being really honest, his own issues were a hinderance to a relationship. He still didn’t trust this whole bond with the others on the ship to be real. He wasn’t sure the entire team wouldn’t just…leave him. Like so many others had before.

Keith sighed, his breath making Lance’s hair flutter.

He may not be able to tell Lance how he felt, but he would enjoy these moments, cherish them. They may be all they ever shared together, but, for Keith, it was enough. Lance trusted him, at least, trusted him enough.

For Keith, it was enough that Lance was by his side. It was enough.

Lance was much better after sleeping nearly the entire day. Coran and Allura had come to check in on them several times, and Hunk swapped places with Pidge, who was worried about Lance, and wanted her own cuddles. Shiro had also come in to check on them, but didn’t stay long.

Keith had stayed the entire time, watching over Lance, spooned up behind him.

“I know you’re feeling better, my boy, but I think a few more days of rest is needed. The scanner indicates a few spots that are still not quite healed, and your temperature is fluctuating more than a human’s should, apparently.” Coran had run more diagnostic tests on Lance, before he was allowed to leave the medical bay.

“Do I have to stay in bed?” Lance had asked quietly.

Coran looked at him, considering. “No. But you aren’t allowed to train or fight, if the Galra attack. Nothing too physical.”

Lance had nodded, and got up. Before he could leave, Coran had pulled him into a hug, which made Lance smile.

That had been 4 days ago.

In that time, Keith had spent a good deal of it with Lance. They spent the nights together, cuddled up together, either in Lance’s room alone, or in one of the living rooms, with Hunk and Pidge, watching movies. Apparently, sleepovers were now going to be a regular thing. Keith wasn’t complaining. It made him feel...content? Happy? Somewhere in that zone.

When Keith wasn’t with Lance, he was training or eating. When that happened, either Pidge or Hunk would come and spend time with Lance. The first time one of them came in, Lance had seemed uneasy, but, as the time went on, their visits seemed to make Lance happy. Allura had found several Altean games that were similar to board games on Earth, and there were several permanently set up in Lance’s room. Several more were in the sleepover room.

It was all almost too good to be true. Since arriving on the ship, and becoming Defenders of the Universe, the paladins hadn’t had this much leisure time. It made Keith nervous. Shiro too. They had both spent some time on the bridge together, discussing the lack of Galara attacks, either on themselves or on nearby planets.

Pidge’s Galra finder was suspiciously quiet.

Allura and Coran weren’t too worried, however. They both seemed to think that Zarkon, and Lotor, were licking their wounds and perhaps coming up with a new strategy. Allura, especially, welcomed the time off from battle and planning. They all, Allura included, still trained on the deck, but no mind melds, no lion bonding.

It was relaxing.

Keith and Lance had just finished a game of Altean Jenga when Coran walked into Lance’s room, a slight knock sounding as the door opened.

“Something wrong?” Keith asked, standing up from where he sat next to Lance on the bed.

“Oh no. It’s just time for your training Keith. I’ve come to, what do you Earthlings say? Hang out?” Coran rubbed his moustache, a small smile spreading across his face. He walked into the room, and stood near where the boys were.

Lance rolled his eyes, while Keith smiled.

“Yea. Alright.” Keith grabbed his jacket from the hook near the door, and turned back towards the two. “I’ll be back later, Lance.” he nodded “Coran.”

“Later” Lance replied. Coran had nodded back, but was looking at the game before him.

“When I was a youngling, my great grandfather used to-” the rest cut off as the door closed behind Keith. He smiled as he walked towards the training deck.

Maybe things were getting better.

Allura, Pidge, and Hunk were already training against the bots when Keith entered the room. They all welcomed him with bright smiles and waved, before calling for the next level of gladiator training.

“Get your bayard, Keith. We’re going to beat the record this time!” Hunk called, his canon on his shoulder, giving Pidge and Allura cover for their own bayards. “Could really use a short range fighter!”

Keith smirked, pulling out his sword. “On it!”

So things were definitely getting better.

 

Chapter Text

Now you've stopped looking for me

But I'm still playing hide and seek

...

Since the accident, things had been...better. Not great, but better. Lance hadn’t had as many nightmares, and was actually sleeping through most nights. Sure, having group sleepovers with the other paladins, or with Keith was probably helping a lot. But, Lance hadn’t hurt himself in that time either. Didn’t even feel the urge.

This was the longest time Lance had gone without cutting, or hurting himself since he could remember.

Lance knew he wasn’t better, or whatever, but, it was a step, right? A step to reclaiming his life, his dreams, his own self . Talking things out with Keith helped a lot, despite landing him in the nightmare zone for the first day after coming out of the pod.

He’d spent some time talking to Hunk as well, who had his own memories of Lance’s childhood.

Lance had sort of forgotten that Hunk had been there for some of the...worse moments. That is, until in the middle of Altean Jenga, Hunk turned to him.

“If I had known that your dad was like that all the time, I think I would have actually killed him.”

Lance had been startled. “What?”

Hunk stared down at the Jenga piece he had in his hand, flipping it over and over. “I was there, at your place. I don’t think you knew I had come to visit-your dad was still there.” He cleared his throat. “Your mom said something about a play date...and your dad just lost it. Mom said he was drunk, and maybe he was. But, after yelling at your mom, he went back into the house. I assumed he was leaving.” Deep breath in “And then I heard you screaming and crying. Mom took me home after that.”

Lance had just stared at his friend. He couldn’t place the particular incident Hunk saw-there had been too many like that. But, Hunk knew . THey had never really talked about it before.

“Uh.” Lance had rubbed the back of his neck “I wish I could say that was a one off, but, well, here we are.” He ran his hands through his hair “So, buddy, what made you think of that?”

“Huh? Oh. When they gave you that nightmare stuff, I figured that was something to have nightmares about.” he paused “You know, Keith was really worried about it too.”

Lance didn’t know how to respond. He could feel the spark of panic in his gut. Did they have a conversation about his issues? He didn’t think Keith was like that...and he knew that Hunk wasn’t. Despite that, the panic didn’t go away.

“Yea? Did you guys, like, talk or something?” Lance tried to laugh it off, but he could hear the tremor of fear in his own voice.

Hunk shook his head “You know both of us, bro. I told him I thought your dad was an asshole. He said no one has great childhoods. I think we can all agree there.”

“That we can.”

“You know thought, whatever you’re doing with Keith...keep doing it. He’s opening up to you, to all of us. Making him less of a loner. I like it.” Hunk put the Jenga piece he’d been playing with on top of the pile, and grinned at Lance.

“Yea, sure.”

That had been their entire conversation, but Lance remembered more times when Hunk had come to visit. Sometimes his dad was there, sometimes he wasn’t. While Lance couldn’t forget all the encounters with his dad, some of the other details were forgotten.

Lance was all healed up, and had begun training with the team again. The first few sessions had been...tense. While Shiro had said he was in the wrong about why he yelled at Lance, he hadn’t really tried to reach out otherwise. Which was weird, since Lance had always pegged Shiro for a bridge builder, or something. When they had first come to space, Shiro had all been about team building, and bonding, and acceptance. Now...he only really seemed to care about fighting Galra and Allura.

Lance thought about bringing this up with Keith, or Coran, but decided against it. Whatever the issue was, it was probably about Lance specifically, and, frankly, Lance didn’t need to be kicked while he was down. Not by the guy he considered a hero.

As Lance was healed, Allura had decided that the paladins, and Voltron, could go on more rescue missions from planets that had activated distress beacons. She made sure to choose missions with lower danger-such as those on the outer fringes of the galaxy, or on planets that were small and with less resources. They were successful in all their missions, saving several species, and suffering no casualties.

Lance was feeling pretty good. No nightmares, no healing cuts, lots of time with people he considered friends. Even Coran spent a lot of time with him. After they had spent the day together, when Coran had sent Keith away to train, the two of them had become quite close. Lance enjoyed helping Coran with the maintenance of the ship, and Coran was always willing to talk about anything and everything. He was supportive of all of Lance’s ideas, regardless of how crazy they seemed.

Hell, Coran even made a recording of Lance making a siren sound, and hooked it up to the castle.

They hadn’t gotten to use it yet, but Allura had just called the paladins for a mission, and Lance was hoping to hear his siren soon.

“We have had a distress beacon from a small planet, in the Sirian system-near where Pidge found her brother. The message stated that most of the Galra have departed, but they are in desperate need of help rebuilding and supplies. Shiro and I will coordinate on the ground, and Coran will provide air support, should that be required. Understood?”

Everyone nodded, and then headed to their lion bays. Lance was glad to be back in Blue, despite enjoying his time with Red. Sure, she was fun, but there was something about Blue that just made him feel like he was home.

She was happy to have him back, as well, and purred in his head as he sat down. He adjusted the controls, and they took off.

 

“Okay, Hunk, Lance, you two take care of grabbing those rocks and bringing them here. Pidge, see what you can do about these wires. Keith, you come with me to finish off the rest of these Galra.”

“On it” Hunk said. He met up with Lance, and they headed towards the quarry. The planet's inhabitants used a special kind of stone to make their buildings, and much of their infrastructure had been destroyed by the invading Galra.

“Did you see that?” Hunk asked through the comms.

“What? I didn’t see anything.” Lance replied. He looked around, and used his scanners to see any movement, both coming up negative. “Scanner is a negative, bro.”

“That’s weird. I would have swore…” he sighed “Well, whatever. Let’s get this done, and see about some lunch.”

“Sure buddy.” Lance replied.

They had collected lots of rock, and created several large heaps  that the planet's population were using to create new buildings. The task had taken most of the day, and both Lance and Hunk were tired. Hell, they were all tired.

“We should just about have enough rock-Lance, can you get one more load? Hunk, we need you over here to help Pidge” Shiro said.

“Sure thing.” Hunk responded.

Lance headed back to the quarry, exhaustion taking over. It had been a long day and, honestly, Lance was used to getting to take a short nap during the day, which he didn’t get to take today. It was catching up with him, but he was determined to power through the work. He was finally allowed to contribute to the team, finally being treated better. There was nothing Lance was going to do to fuck this up.

He guided Blue towards the deepest part of the pit, where the rock was, carefully avoiding the sides. He pulled up the last pile of rock, and maneuvered out of the pit.

“Headed back” he said over the mic. He wanted to ensure everyone was clear of the drop spot, so there was no accidents. The day was almost over. Everything had gone well, and soon they could all go back to the castle. Maybe have a sleepover. Maybe Keith would be up for a cuddle. He really liked Keith’s cuddles, so warm…

Lance and Blue hovered over the rock pile, checked for signs of life and, seeing none, dropped the rocks Blue carried in her hangar.

Suddenly, Lance was thrown from his seat, head hitting the top of the cockpit, as Blue was launched from the area by a giant explosion underneath him.

“What the-” Lance started. He was interrupted by Shiro.

“What in the ever living fuck are you doing, Lance? Trying to kill us all?” Shiro was nearly screaming in the mic, piercing through Lance’s skull and newly formed headache.

Lance could feel the slight trickle of blood coming from his arm, where it had hit one of the controls when he went flying.

“I don’t know what happ-”

“Can it, Lance. Get your ass down here and clean up your damn mess. I am not dealing with this shit.” Shiro continued grumbling, some of it audible, some not. None of it was complimentary.

Lance didn’t respond. He couldn’t. He didn’t know what had happened, but, whatever it was, it was his fault. Always his fault. If something went wrong, Lance was sure to be at its core. Lance hung his head, biting back the tears.

He turned his comms off after a few minutes. Shiro was still talking about the accident, and how much of a fuck up it was, and, Lance simply could not listen anymore. He pulled Blue down towards the ground, and began moving all the debris back into piles. He ignored everyone else, and left his comms off.

Lance felt like his head was static. Thoughts going around and around in his head, like a broken record he couldn’t fix. His body felt numb, and hollow.

He had been doing so much better.

Once all the rock was cleared, Lance turned Blue back towards the castle, and just...left. He still hadn’t turned his comms back on, and just didn’t care to. Lance just needed to...be away. From it all. Everything.

He landed Blue in her deck and disembarked. He didn’t even say goodbye before walking to his room.

 

“Lance? Are you in here? I’ve been looking-”

Keith had thrown open Lance’s door, barging into his room without even a knock. He now stood just inside the doorway, the door closing behind him, just staring.

Lance sat on the floor, still partially in his Paladin armor, a small razor in one hand, and blood pouring down his other arm.

“Oh, Lance.” Keith’s voice was full of pain, cracking just a bit.

“I’m sorry.”

Chapter Text

The show is wasted on you

...

Keith was furious. Straight up, dead ass furious. Not at Lance, no. That boy had done nothing wrong. Well. Not wrong. Not the best thing, but, he coped the best he could. Keith understood that. He really did.

Shiro, on the other hand, was a fucking dead man. Keith had listened to everything Shiro had said to Lance over the comms, listened and had to hold himself from using his bayard. For Lance to have heard that...would devastate anyone. For Lance…

Well, here they were.

The second Lance had apologized for hurting himself, Keith had snapped out of his own shock, and jumped into action to stop the bleeding. He had dashed to the bathroom for towels, which he pressed on the wounds, trying to be as gentle as he could.

“It’s not your fault. You have nothing to be sorry for.” Keith tried to be as supportive as he could, as he watched the blood soak through the cloth. He wanted to cry, he wanted to punch something. He wanted to fix this.

“Okay, Lance. I’m going to get the first aid kit, okay? Can you hold the towel?” Lance nodded. Lance hadn’t spoke after saying he was sorry. He hadn’t even looked at Keith after he had walked in.

Keith sighed inwardly. “Hold it tight” he said, making sure Lance did as he was told, before sprinting to his own room, that had a well stocked first aid kit. He grabbed it, and dashed back to Lance’s room.

Lance was exactly where Keith had left him.

“Alright, lets get you all patched up, okay?” Keith said, setting the kit down, and sitting beside Lance.

He took the towels away from Lance’s arm, and winced. There were several deep cuts, one of which would probably require stitches. While Keith was capable of doing the stitches, he was also a little sloppy, and would almost guarantee leaving a jagged scar.

He started with the smaller cuts, cleaning them out, covering them with gauze, and then wrapping them up tight.

“You know, Lance...Shiro was full of shit. I don’t know what made him go off like that, but, he’s wrong. About everything.”

Lance didn’t reply, but snuck a quick glance at Keith.

“Whatever happened...it was an accident. It could have happened to anyone.”

“But it didn’t. It happened to me.” Lance replied, his hand twitching.

Keith wasn’t sure how to respond to that. It was true-he had happened to Lance, and no one else.

“It was still an accident.”

Lance didn’t reply, and looked away.

Keith finished up bandaging the cuts he could, and put a dressing on the one that required stitches. He would have to get Lance into the damn healing pod again, but he knew Lance wouldn’t just go. He would need convincing, somehow.

Keith reached over, and gently cupped Lance’s face, pulling it to face him.

“Lance. It was an accident, okay? And so was this” Keith gestured down to Lance’s arm, resting on Keith’s leg. “I don’t like seeing you hurt, not like this. I want...I need you to do something you don’t want to for me.”

Lance didn’t say anything, but cocked his head to the side. Good enough.

“One of your cuts needs...more attention.” He paused, and took a breath in “You need to go into the healing pod.”

Lance’s face fell, his head leaning into Keith’s hand, eyes closing.

“But…”

Lance didn’t get to finish his sentence. The door to the room opened, and both boys jumped at the sound, turning around. Lance bolted to the bathroom, probably to hide, while Keith had his bayard ready to use.

“Woah there, buddy. It’s just me.” Hunk said, holding his hands up in surrender.

Keith lowered his bayard, and put it away in his belt.

“Since you’re here, I’m going to assume Lance is too?” Hunk asked, moving towards Keith. “Wait...what’s that?”

Keith was suddenly aware of the mess of Lance’s room. More importantly, the blood soaked towels, first aid kit, and various other medical supplies, all surrounded by pieces of Lance’s paladin armor.

Yea, okay, this did not look good.

“Uh.” Keith wasn’t the best at coming up with good lies on the spot, and he sure as hell couldn’t tell the truth. “An accident?”

Hunk ignored him as he moved closer to the discarded debris.

“Is that…”

“Yes. Hunk. That’s blood. Mine, actually.” Lance said, peeking from the bathroom door.

“Okay, apparently I missed something. What the hell happened?”

Lance didn’t respond. Keith couldn’t. How could you tell someone’s best friend they had cut themselves-had been for years? It was just something you couldn’t do. Something Keith refused to do.

Hunk held his hands up again. “Fine. We can revisit this later. For now, let's get to the healing pods.”

He moved towards Lance, where he still leaned on the bathroom door. Keith followed suit, but Hunk was a beast, and picked Lance up completely, and headed towards the door.

Keith looked around the room, at the piles of towels, bandages, and other things… “I’ll meet you guys there. Gonna clean this up real quick.”

“Alright buddy, see you there.” Hunk replied, not even turning around.

Lance peeked over Hunk’s shoulder, and offered a small smile, before the door closed, leaving Keith alone.

 

Before heading to the medical bay, Keith had one more stop. The evidence from Lance’s...lapse was cleaned up, the other two were likely almost to the medical bay. While picking up the razor from Lance’s floor, fury like no other ripped through Keith.

Lance had been doing better. Everything had been going better. The team had connected, they were bonding, really bonding, and spending time together, and then one little ignorant fuck had to ruin everything they had done. Shiro was a goddamn dead man.

Just as Keith was about to slam into Shiro’s room, bayard already drawn, he stopped at the sound of voices.  He leaned closer to the door to listen, but, it wasn’t necessary.

“If you ever talk to my son like that again, so the ancients help me, you’ll go the way of Sendak.” Coran yelled.

Keith could hear a mumbled response from Shiro, but couldn’t understand the words.

“Allura will forgive me.”

More mumbling.

“Trust me, child, Allura will always chose me.”

Keith moved away from the door as it opened, showing a red-faced, and clearly pissed off Coran. Coran was about to march off, but saw Keith first.

Keith still hadn’t closed his bayard. But Coran, when he saw it, just smirked, gave Keith a nod, and then continued on his way.

So Keith wasn’t the only one furious with Shiro. Good.

Keith opened the door to find Shiro in the middle of his room, taking his armor off. Keith knew that he and Allura often spent the night together in her rooms, but that Shiro kept his for his stuff, and for when they were too busy or on different schedules.

“Coran-” Shiro started, but stopped, when he saw it was Keith. “Oh. What’s up, Keith?”

The anger was building again, tendrils of absolute rage and fury tore through Keith. How dare Shiro act so calm and non-fucking-chalant when he nearly got Lance killed? How fucking dare he?

“You son of a bitch” was all Keith got out before lunging at Shiro.

Someone had to fight for Lance, and Keith would gladly take up that mantle.

“Woah, Keith, stop!” Shiro barely dodged Keith’s bayard, pushing it to the side with his metal arm.

Keith didn’t stop, he set up another attack. The anger made Keith sloppy, and Shiro dodged the blade again.

Keith let out an inhuman growl, switched hands with his bayard, and punched Shiro square in the face.

“Jesus christ, Keith, calm the fuck down” Shiro yelled, his words muffled and nasal from the blood.

The rage inside Keith calmed at the sight of blood. He was still angry, yes, but it wasn’t dominating, uncontrollable. He put his bayard away, wiped the blood from his knuckles, and turned to point at Shiro.

“If you ever talk to Lance like that, if you ever talk to any of us like that, Coran will be the least of your fucking worries.”

Shiro said nothing as Keith walked out the door.



Chapter Text

I want you to notice

But you just don't see

...

“So, we did some recon, and it turns out that bomb had been placed there that day, by one of the fleeing Galra soldiers. I am going to assume they saw you two heading towards the quarry, and it was a last ditch effort or something.” Pidge explained.

The paladins had been called for a meeting, and were all in the control room. Keith was with Lance, Pidge, and Hunk, while Allura and Coran hadn’t arrived yet. Shiro, on the other hand, was by himself, to the side of the room, nursing two black eyes and a broken nose. Keith and Coran had not been the only ones to visit Shiro, as it turned out. From what Keith understood, Pidge had screamed at him for nearly an hour, and trashed his room. Allura had gone to tell him that Coran was right, about everything, and that the team was more important than a childish temper tantrum.

Hunk had given him the second black eye.  

Keith wasn’t sure which of them broke his nose.

“See! I thought I saw something!” Hunk exclaimed.

Lance chuckled. “Never should have doubted you, bromigo.”

Keith smiled at the banter, but didn’t join in. The team had collectively lost their shit when they saw Lance in the damn healing pod again. Keith had told them that he had been injured from the explosion, and flying out of the seat. He was pretty sure everyone but Hunk had bought the lie, which was a relief, since Keith was shit at lies. Luckily, Lance had corroborated the story when he left the pod, so all was well.

Well. No, not all was well, but at least it was one less thing to worry about.

“Thank you for waiting, paladins!” Allura said, bursting into the room, followed by Coran. They stood together near the main controls, which was closer to Keith and the others, and farther from Shiro, which may or may not have been a coincidence.

“We” she gestured to Coran “have decided that we, as a team, are going on a trip.”

What? A trip? Keith was confused. Wasn’t the entire point of Voltron to defend the universe? Not, like, waltz around the universe on a vacation?

Allura continued before he could voice his concerns “It has come to our attention that you all, as well as the both of us, are not...in the best of health and mindspace. We’ve all had a lot to deal with, and very little time to actually process these things.” she gestured to each paladin as she spoke next “Shiro has been kidnapped by the Galra, twice now. Pidge, you had lost your family, and found your brother, but are still without them now. Keith, you’ve found out your true heritage. Lance, you’ve nearly died several times. Hunk, you have been attacked by food, and have done an admiral job of taking care of the rest of us. Even Coran and I lost our entire people, planet and cultures...as well as 10000 years.”

“Okay, but, a trip? To where? Home?” Pidge asked, pushing her glasses up. She didn’t need them anymore, but she had grown so used to them, she refused to give them up.

Allura shook her head, while Coran answered. “Not to Earth no. We’re going to the Balmera!”

“The Balmera? Why there?” Keith asked.

“Yay! Do we get to see Shay and her family?” Hunk asked at the same time.

“Yes, we can see Shay and her family. And we’re going there because of the unique properties of the actual Balmera. The planet's ability to communicate with it’s inhabitants and visitors makes it an ideal sort of therapy tool. The planet can help an individual connect with themselves-much in the same way the mind meld can connect you paladins to each other.”

“So kind of like a conscious, AI therapy planet. Neat.” Pidge said.

“In a sense, you are absolutely correct, Pidge. We’ve already been in contact with Roxa, Shay’s grandmother, and the Balmerans are expecting us. We should arrive in about two varga. Now, for the logistics…”

Keith tuned Allura out, his consciousness catching the relevant details. He wasn’t sure about this whole trip, therapy session thing, but if it would help, then Keith was willing to try anything. Allura had called this meeting barely a varga after Lance had left the healing pod, and he was still a little woozy and flushed. Apparently Lance hadn’t been kidding when he said he got sick after every time in the healing pod. His face was flushed, and he was sweating slightly.

Keith sighed.

At least Hunk was excited about seeing Shay again.

“Feel free to relax until we arrive at the Balmera. You’re free to go.”

Keith gently grabbed Lance’s arm, and leaned in close. “Okay, let’s get you to bed.”

Lance only nodded. He looked too exhausted to even reply.

Keith turned to Hunk and Pidge “I’m going to take Lance to bed….No, Pidge, not like that” he said after she raised an eyebrow. She gave him a look. Of course she knew about his gigantic crush on Lance. Perceptive little gremlin,

He ignored Pidge, and continued “We’ll meet you guys when we get to Balmera.”

“Cool. I have to finish this thing I was working on for Shay...I didn’t think I was going to see her this soon, so there’s still a lot to do. Which, reminds me. Pidge?” Hunk said, turning to Pidge.

She rolled her eyes “Yes, I can help. Yes, your relationship has my blessing. No, I will not be the interference with Rax.”

They all laughed at that, even Lance.

Keith led the way to his own bedroom, supporting Lance when he stumbled. They didn’t speak, but Keith understood that it wasn’t because of him. Lance didn’t really have any time to process anything between leaving his bedroom, going into the healing pod, and then being ushered into a meeting. He probably needed a good sleep and some downtime.

Maybe going to the Balmera was a good idea after all.

Keith opened the door to his room, and moved Lance to the bed.

“Why not my room?” Lance asked, pulling his top off.

Keith shrugged, trying not to look too closely at Lance’s body. Yes, he has seen it before, and yes, they cuddled pretty much nightly, but, Keith was still attracted to Lance, and proximity didn’t really take away from that.

“Mine was closer.” he cleared his throat “I did clean yours up though, so we can move if you want.”

“Nah.” Lance said, crawling under the blankets. “I’m more comfortable here anyways.” He let out a long yawn “Besides, this way I know you won’t leave me.”

“Oh, Lance. Of course I won’t leave you.” Keith shut the light off, and moved over to the bed. He wanted to tell Lance everything, but, he just couldn’t. Instead, he settled for curling under the blankets behind Lance, and wrapping his arms around the taller boy.

The quieting of breath, and relaxing muscles let Keith know that Lance had fallen asleep within minutes of Keith curling up behind him. Good. The poor boy needed some sleep.

...

“Okay, so this thing, it is amazing! Pidge is a genius. I never would have thought of adding that switch…”

“Bow down, and worship me, bitches!” Pidge said, going into the Peter Pan pose, a giant smile on her face.

They had finally landed the castle on the Balmera, and were in the moving capsule to get to the surface. Pidge and Hunk were telling the others about the gift for Shay, which, between the two of them, they had managed to finish before arriving.

Once they had touched down on the planet, Allura exited the  capsule first, followed by Coran. Allura introduced them as they exited, as she wanted to ensure everyone had been properly introduced. All of the previous interactions on the Balmera had been rushed, and there hadn’t been time for introductions.

“As you know, I am Princess Allura, from planet Altea.” cheers followed her words “And this is Coran, my greatest adviser, friend, and fellow Altean.” More cheers. “I think you all know Hunk, the yel-” Allura was interrupted by the cacophony of cheers, particularly from Shay and her family.

“This is Pidge, from Earth, paladin of the Green lion. Keith, paladin of the Red lion, former paladin of the Black lion. Lance, paladin of the Blue lion, former paladin of the red lion.” Polite applause and cheers from the Balmerans as each paladin exited the capsule. Keith thought it interesting that she mentioned who had piloted which lions, and made a note to ask about that.

“Finally, we have Shiro, current paladin of the Black lion, and defacto head of Voltron.”

The applause started when Shiro was introduced, but, as he moved from the capsule and touched the actual planet, the applause slowed down, and then died.

Allura looked around, both confusion and concern crossing her features, her white eyebrow raised.

“Is something the matter?” she asked.

Shay and her grandmother approached the group of paladins. Shay offered Hunk a small smile, before stepping up to Allura, her face a mask of concern.

“Princess, it is good to see you again” Roxa said, bowing to the princess “And the paladins as well. However, we are wondering who that is” she pointed to Shiro.

Allura turned to see where she was pointing, and then turned back to Roxa, eyebrows furrowed. “That’s Shiro, pala-”

Shay interrupted her “That’s not Shiro.”

Chapter Text

So I perform for me

...

“What? No. I’m sorry, Roxa. You must be mistaken. We did have a..different Shiro for a while, but we rescued…”

Allura trailed off as both Shay and Roxa shook their heads.

“We have heard of that incident, and you are not wrong that this is Shiro. However, the Balmera is telling us that there is something not right. He is not the same Shiro as was here previously.” Shay tried to explain.

“Huh?” Lance said, eyebrow raised, head to the side.

Rax looked at the group, clearly agitated “There is something wrong with that man” he pointed to Shiro, who was barely off the capsule “and Balmera tells us to hide.”

Shiro just stood there, mouth agape, trying to say something, but nothing came out. Beside Keith, Lance moved a little closer, just brushing against Keith. Keith glanced over at Lance, and noticed he looked uncomfortable. Lance was biting his lip, shooting Shiro a look.

Keith moved towards Shiro, putting himself between Shiro and Lance. “Shiro...is there something we should know? Something you remember?”

Shiro shook his head. “No, I still don’t remember anything about my time in Galra hands. I...I don’t know.” he stepped forward, towards Keith, taking a deep breath in “But, I think we should take precautions regardless.”

Keith nodded, and then looked to Allura. “Princess?” Keith had no idea what to do with Shiro, their leader. Yes, he was still mad as hell, and did not regret the black eye. But, Shiro was still a paladin, and the Black lion trusted him enough to let Shiro pilot him…

“Maybe I can run some diagnostics on his arm? Hunk and I have updated our knowledge of Galra tech, and we may be able to find something.” Pidge said, pulling out her tablet.

“Yea, after that big fight with Zarkon, and that time with Lotor, we’ve managed to increase our database almost 10 fold. It’s really quite remarkable how the Galra program certain tech.” Hunk said, moving towards Pidge. “If there is anything in his arm to know, we can find it.”

Pidge nodded her agreement.

Shay leaned over to Rax “Even now, Hunk is a hero. You cannot deny it.”

Rax hushed his sister, but not before Hunk smiled and blushed, turning away. Keith knew Hunk had a thing for Shay, but, he hadn’t seen them interact before, and it was now obvious that Shay had her own thing for Hunk. They would be good for each other.

Allura stepped up to Shiro, and took his hand. She was still mad, yes, but Keith saw underlying devotion and love.

“Let’s get you back on the ship, and see what these two can find out.”

Shiro simply nodded, and turned on his heel towards the capsule back to the ship. Allura started to follow him, but turned back.

“I’m afraid that we must deal with this issue before we can all come properly visit.” she turned to Keith and Lance “You two are, of course, free to remain here. The castle will not be departing unless there is a significant security risk.”

Keith glanced at Lance, who looked back. He wanted to see what was wrong with Shiro, and be there for the man he considered a brother (but still a dead man) but, Lance needed the therapy. Shiro would survive to the next day, the next week, and Keith wasn’t sure he could say the same for Lance. He had been doing better, and so there was hope-there was always hope. Keith just needed Lance to be more than just ‘doing better’-Keith needed them both to be doing good. Keith was self-aware enough to know that he still wasn’t okay, and finding out his entire heritage was a lie didn’t help. Besides, if both he and Lance were doing better, maybe, just maybe, Keith could talk to Lance...

“We’ll stay here, Princess.”

Allura nodded, while Roxa and Shay moved up to Keith and Lance.

“We will get them settled Princess.” Roxa said, bowing.

“Thank you, Roxa. Shay.” With that, Allura turned and headed back into the capsule. Shiro was already inside, looking troubled, Pidge beside him, inspecting his arm. Hunk, on the other hand, had sidled up to Shay, and was talking to her, before offering her a smile, and leaving for the capsule. He offered Keith and Lance a small wave, before the doors shut.

“Come, this way, young paladins.” Roxa gathered up Keith and Lance, and escorted them to the isolation rooms, which, as Roxa explained on the way, would allow them to commune with the planet at a conscious and unconscious level. Keith was pretty fuzzy on the actual details, but, the Balmerans all seemed to agree that the planet would help their consciousness find balance. Or something.

Roxa led them into the caverns beneath the surface, following several winding paths, deep, towards the centre. Most of the other Balmerans had trailed off, back to whatever they were doing before their arrival. Only Roxa, Shay, and Rax continued along with them, as well as one other elder of the village, who seemed to be the resident shaman. He explained some of the deeper and more complex things the Balmera could help with, but, Keith wasn’t really listening.

Truth be told, Keith was nervous. Dealing with his own emotions wasn’t something that he was really good at...or ever really had to do. Keith had had to deal with so much shit in his life, so much pain. Was he ready to face it all head on? Did he want to? All alone? Keith had always been alone, why would this be any different?

He glanced at Lance. Okay, well, maybe not entirely alone. But, he still wasn’t sure what the bounds of their friendship, or whatever, was. Would the Balmera tell anyone else about his crush on Lance? If the Balmera could connect to the unconscious, then obviously it would figure out the whole gay, crushing on a fellow teammate thing.

Keith waited until there was a lull in the conversation before asking “Our, er, sessions, with the Balmera are, like, private, right? And confidential?”

He saw Lance shoot him a sharp look, before turning back. Okay, weird.

“Of course!” Roxa said, patting his back gently. “If there were things we could talk to others about, then we would. Some hurts, some feelings, are just too deep, too painful to share with those you care for.”

“And sometimes there’s no one who cares.” Keith said quietly, after Roxa had continued moving again.

Was that why Keith was so fucked up? He hadn’t even had anyone to share his past with...was that what was missing? His family had abandoned him, he barely had any friends-especially not when he was younger. He wasn’t even sure who he had now. Shiro...sure, but, he hadn’t been the same since before he left for the Kerberos mission and, now something else was wrong with him.

As for the rest of the paladins...were they friends? Sure, they had sleepovers and everything, but, did that qualify as friends?

“We’re here.” the elder said, gesturing at a row of small caves. Each cave was small, with a bed of sorts, which was shaped out of the crystal, and the opening was mostly covered and concealed with crystals, so that the person inside would have a bit of privacy.

“So, we just go in and lay down, and…?” Lance asked.

Shay was nodding as he spoke “Yes, that is all. The Balmera will reach out to you. Be sure to accept the Balmera. The Balmera will still commune with you, however, the healing process is much smoother when you accept the help.”

Lance began moving towards one of the empty rooms. He seemed to change his mind, and took a few quick steps back. He reached out to Keith, and gave him a quick hug before heading to his room.

“Good luck.”

“You too” Keith replied. He walked up to the room beside Lance’s, but, before walking in, turned to Shay.

“Can you come get me if the others come back? Or if they find out what’s wrong with Shiro?”

“Of course. I will be most glad to.” she smiled.

“And, can you not wake Lance?” he cleared his throat, as Shay gave him a look “He’s been having difficulties lately...with Shiro, among other things.” Keith hoped that would be enough of an explanation.

Thankfully, Shay smiled. “I understand. I will keep you informed of any developments.”

“Thank you, Shay.” he turned and went into his own healing room, laying on the crystal bed.

He took a deep breath in, and let it out slowly. Here goes nothing.

 

 

“Keith? Are you awake?” Shay’s voice woke Keith up from a dark dream, full of bodies and red glowing beams.

“Yea, sorry. I’m awake.” he responded, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He had no idea what time it was, or how long he had been in the healing room.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but Hunk has informed me that they have determined what is wrong with Shiro and wish for both you and Lance to return to the ship immediately.”

Chapter Text

In all I know

In all I’ve done

I take you along

...

Lance was tired.

Not just the physical kind of tired, although he was that, but just tired of everything. There had been too much going on, too many emotions, just too much everything. And he was tired of it.

Now, to find out that something was actually wrong with Shiro, a person he both cared for deeply, and resented…

Lance wasn’t sure he had the capacity to deal with it.

At least Keith was still with him, beside him. Lance wasn’t sure how he would have been able to deal with, well, anything, without Keith. Truth be told, the deep hollow part inside of Lance, the part that was full of hate, and pain, and sadness, the part that spiraled the dark dark thoughts….was pretty sure Keith was the only reason Lance was still alive. Not just because Keith was around more often, but because Lance wanted to be around him, and the thought of leaving him…

Lance shook his head. Now was not the time.

Lance and Keith were following Shay through the tunnels of the Balmera, taking a path that would lead them towards the castle, where the others were still located. Shay was talking about the tunnels, and how much they had changed since the paladins had saved the being from the Galra. Lance tried to listen, but, honestly, he was just too exhausted. He was still healing from his last encounter in the healing pod, and, the time he had spent in the therapy room thing had been...less than restful.

Keith brushed up against his arm, and Lance glanced over. The physical touch had been happening more and more often, and Lance found himself craving Keith’s touch. He knew Keith was just worried about him, and that it didn’t mean anything to Keith.

But it meant everything to Lance.

Lance gave Keith a small smile, and continued plodding on towards the castle. He listened to Keith and Shay talk about the Balmera, and tried to pay attention as best he could.

“Ah, I was wondering where you two were.” Allura looked up as Lance, Keith and Shay walked into the medical bay.

Allura was with Hunk and Pidge, who had Shiro in a pod, hooked up to all kinds of wires and weird equipment. Pidge was hunched over a computer, while Hunk fiddled with a few wires coming out of the pod. Coran was behind the pod adjusting something back there.

“Sorry.” Keith said, moving to stand near Pidge. Shay moved towards Hunk, a slight blush marking her cheeks.

Lance stayed near the door, unsure of where to stand. He wasn’t really afraid of Shiro, but, he wasn’t comfortable either. He wanted distance, the more the better.

“Pidge, you can explain what you’ve found now.” Allura said, looking towards the young woman.

Pidge adjusted her glasses, looking at the others. “So, we know for sure that this is, in fact, the real Shiro, and not another weirdly accurate clone.” she looked at Keith and Lance “That’s all the others know, so you aren’t behind or anything. Now, Hunk and I have been experimenting with reverse engineering some Galra tech, and combining it with Altean devices-”

“I don’t think they care, Pidge. We can explain that after. Just tell them what we found.” Hunk said, interrupting what would have been an epic monologue of things Lance wouldn’t have been able to understand.

“Ugh. Fine. Okay, so, we ran diagnostics on Shiro’s genetic makeup, and it was all fine-which is why we know it’s the real Shiro. We then ran diagnostics on Shiro’s Galra arm.” Pidge took a breath in, before continuing.

“Shiro has a virus. Well, the arm has a virus, of sorts. We’re still decrypting the actual coding, but, from what we can gather, the virus changes some impulses within Shiro, causing him to….sort of act out.”

“Yea, and not in an obvious way, because we would have noticed anything overt. The virus specifically causes Shiro to change his behaviour, over a period of time, in relation to us.” Hunk gestured to the group . “Specifically, the blue paladin.”

Everyone looked at Lance.

Lance looked around the room, eyes darting between the others. “Me? Why me?”

Pidge shook her head “That’s part of what we’re still trying to figure out. It may have originally been directed to affect Shiro’s behaviour with Allura, but when we all switched lions again, you were the new recipient.” Pidge went back to her screen, eyebrows furrowed.

Lance didn’t know what to say. Shiro was being a dick to Lance, as what? A fluke? Just a random accident?

Should he be happy that Shiro wasn’t doing it on purpose? Or were all the things Shiro said, and did, so normal, so true that no one stopped to wonder where it all came from. Was Lance worth that little? Just a bit of collateral damage?

Lance could feel himself shutting down. His body felt numb.

He let out a small, lifeless chuckle. “Well, at least we know now.”

"Well, not entirely. We're still working on a few things. Like, here" Pidge pointed towards her screen "Look at this."

Everyone gathered around Pidge, as she started to explain some of the code. Even Shay had moved closer to see.

Lance looked at the others, his body cold, tired, and numb.

He turned around, and left the medical bay.

 

 

“Lance? Dammit. Lance?” Keith’s voice reverberated through the walls, panic laced though his voice.

Lance didn’t move from the floor, even as Keith pushed his way through the door.

“Lance?” His voice was quieter now, panic still clear.

Again, Lance didn’t respond. He was tired. Oh so tired.

He could hear Keith move closer, crouching beside him. His gloved hand reached out to Lance-it hesitated-then moved to touch Lance’s clenched hand.

“It’s okay, Lance. Everything will be okay.” Keith whispered, his voice breaking, as he gently rubbed the skin on Lance’s thumb.

“I’m so tired, Keith.” Lance whispered, head resting on his bent knee.

“I know, babe.”

Lance slowly raised his head, fighting to keep his eyes open. Exhaustion was hitting him in the face, demanding unconsciousness.

He met Keith’s worried eyes, full of pain. Slowly, he unclenched his hand, and leaned his head against the wall, as he continued to look at Keith.

“Here” Lance said, gesturing with his eyes towards his hands, which held the tiny razor blade.

Keith looked down, and then back up again, confusion crossing his features “Wha-”

Lance dropped the blade on the floor, and slowly stood up. He peeled his shirt off, and then his pants, as he moved towards the bed. He pulled down the covers, and slid into the sheets.

When he had finally gotten comfortable, Lance gave Keith, who was still crouched on the floor, a look. He cleared his throat. “Cuddles?” He hated asking, he really did.

Keith nodded, and left his boots, jacket, gloved and belt with Lance’s clothes, and crawled in behind Lance, wrapping his arm around Lance’s waist.

Lance craved this feeling. Of Keith being close, the clean smell of his soap, the roughness of his hands, but softness of the rest of his skin. The feeling of being close with someone, someone who understood and accepted, without judging.

Lance took a deep breath in, eyes closed. “I knew that you wouldn’t have wanted me to hurt myself. And, well, I guess I just wanted to be brave. For you.”

Keith stiffened at the words, “Lance, I-”

“Now, hush. I am so so tired.” Lance said, a small smile on his lips.

He was out within seconds.